Hou Hsiao-hsien’s City of Sadness opens with Emperor Hirohito’s radio announcement renouncing his divinity going unremarked by a Taiwanese family as they gather around a newborn son, establishing both the distance of power from the everyday and its invisible pervasiveness. Hou’s tactic is not simply a clever way of handling a tale of people caught up in the world historic, a clichéd notion which simultaneously aggrandizes the individual’s tragedy while subordinating him to the seeming untouchability of historic forces. The oblique scenes in which Hou depicts Taiwan’s White Terror are truths in themselves, not cryptograms to be decoded for the historical answers they contain, not mere indicators of something beyond the limits of the frame.
It is one of our more damaging and persistent fictions that identifies power with truth—as opposed to honesty, which almost no one would accept—because it spawns the further fiction that those who hold the former possess the keys to the latter. Click here to read the rest of Andrew Tracy’s review of The Sun.