“Art snobs” and “pandering hipsters” unite! The latest incarnation of our sloberring mediocrity and displaced sense of moral and aesthetic appreciation opens today at the IFC Center in New York, and hopefully, in a lot of other places. Don’t listen to idiocy like this, with its condescending cast-off phrases with nothing to back them up but the same old fogey whipper-snapper argument. Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times is one of the most dazzling, and, yes, Armond, morally acute films to actually get a release in this country for quite some time. Critics, including Hoberman, have made two major mistakes in their myopic reviews thus far:
a) They assume that everyone has seen every Hou film, and therefore, this one can be tossed off with a limpid wave of the arm. “Been there, done that.” Truth is, regardless what you think of the film’s ultimate success, that’s an uninsightful, and fucking cowardly move. It’s the second Hou film with distribution of any kind in the U.S., so to call it “minor Hou” or “middling Hou” doesn’t just do a disservice to the genius of the filmmaker, and those viewers out there who might by chance take in a screening, it also gives the critics carte blanche to not dig too deeply into what Hou might actually be saying here.
b) They have treated each of the film’s three “times” as discrete and self-contained, as opposed to actually looking at how each one, and its sociopolitical era, might be informing the next. The final, seemingly most derided segment, as divorced as it is from the Wong Kar-wai-esque pop platitudes of the first chapter, is perhaps the most radical, and most layered, a sidelong glance at a love affair that, though it exists at a time when we feel “free” to pursue who we want romantically, remains as constricted by moral and social codes as, say, 1966 and 1911. Instead, ants-in-their-pants critics, getting their movie-boners awaiting that upcoming United 93 screening, have chosen to focus on the easiest aspects: technological dissociation, etc. But it’s about so much more.
I urge everyone to go and see this remarkable work of art. Reverse Shot will continue championing it, as we already have for months. When a Hou film hits screens, you drop everything and go. No questions asked. If you risk being called a hipster (whatever the fuck that really means), then it’s a tough burden you’ll have to carry.