Fifty fillets of film, alphabetically ordered. Now I can finally get on with my life.
Posts Tagged ‘Hou Hsiao-hsien’
Just saw this on the Times’ website this morning: an article profiling the emerging class of independent Chinese filmmakers struggling to produce interesting, provocative work without the consent of the overbearing, parochial state. It’s worth noting that, as of late, the Chinese government has been a bit more laissez-faire when it comes to regulating cinematic production, which may have something to do with the critical successes of directors like Jia Zhangke, who is almost universally regarded as being one of the most important artists working in cinema today and who doesn’t shy away from grappling with some of Chinese history’s most controversial topics. Jia’s most recent features (The World, Still Life and 24 City) have been almost Fassbinderian in their critical attitude towards China’s past and present, yet all three were produced with governmental approval (though it’d be naive to believe that the approvals didn’t have a great many strings attached). Of course, the films of directors like Jia remain far more popular on the festival circuit and in American and European art-houses than they are in China, so who knows. But yeah, check out the article.
Why bother trying to introduce this quote (taken from André Bazin’s essay “William Wyler, or the Jansenist of mise en scène”) with words when Hou Hsiao-hsien can introduce it so much better with images?
“The event, in its entirety, is there all the time, demanding to be looked at; it is we who decide to choose such and such aspect, to pick this rather than that one according to the demands of action, of feeling or of reflection, but someone else would perhaps choose differently. Whatever the circumstances we are free to do our own mise en scène: there is always another possible choice which can radically modify the subjective aspect of reality. Now, the director who chooses for us, exercises, in our place, the discrimination with which we are faced in real life. We unconsciously accept his analysis because it is consistent with the laws of attention; but it deprives us of the privilege, no less grounded in psychology, which we abandon without realising it, and which is, at least virtually, the freedom to modify our method of selection at every moment.
“The resulting psychological and then aesthetic consequences are important. This technique tends in particular to exclude the immanent ambiguity of reality. It ‘subjectivizes’ the event in the extreme since each tiny fragment is a result of the director’s bias. It doesn’t only involve a dramatic choice, affective or moral, but also, and more seriously, a clear standpoint on reality as such.” (André Bazin, “William Wyler, or the Jansenist of mise en scène”)
If you’re a UW student and you’re not yet renting DVDs from Memorial and/or College Library, then, well, you’re a sucker. Both Memorial and College Library have nearly inexhaustible collections of DVDs, most of which can be checked out for several weeks at a time, and all of which are free as air. Granted, neither library has a very user-friendly browsing system. MadCat is certainly vast and exact, but in order to use it effectively, one must know precisely what one is looking for; I personally like to do searches of a director’s name + “videorecording” (so, for example, “jean renoir videorecording”). Memorial Library’s Media Center is located on the 4th floor, and it’s a valet service of sorts, so you give them the call number (which you find on MadCat) for the DVDs you’re looking for and they fetch the discs for you. It’s a very easy process once you get a handle on using MadCat.
And when I say that the two libraries have humongous collections, I’m not exaggerating. To illustrate just how invaluable their DVD collections truly are, I’ll periodically write a post about my latest haul from Memorial and/or College Library. Hopefully, you’ll be so impressed, not by my taste (iffy) but by my findings, that you’ll see the light and head to the library for the future satisfaction of your cinematic cravings.
Last week I found John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) on the 3rd floor of College Library. Currently, I have Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Puppetmaster (1993), which I got at Memorial Library’s Media Center. The Media Center also has a copy of Hou’s A City of Sadness (1989), which I rented a week ago, only to find that the menus were all in Taiwanese with no apparent way to active the DVD’s English subtitles. That was a really sucky experience. Anyway, the Media Center is stocked with tons of international DVDs (as I’ll demonstrate through these posts), so it’s definitely worth investigating.