The three episodes of Hou Hsiao-hsien's exquisite 2005 feature, his best in many years, are set achronologically in Taiwan, in 1966, 1911, and 2005; each is about 40 minutes long and stars Chang Chen and Shu Qi. The structure may make the film sound like Hou's greatest hits, echoing not only his trilogy about Taiwan in the 20th century (City of Sadness, The Puppet Master, and Good Men, Good Women) but the nostalgia about adolescence in A Time to Live and a Time to Die, the ritzy period bordello in Flowers of Shanghai, and the contemporary club scene in Millennium Mambo (which also starred Shu). But it's the intricate formal and thematic relation of the three parts that defines the film's beauty and makes it such a passionate meditation on youth, love, and freedom in relation to history. The ironic Chinese title translates as "The Best of Times." In Mandarin and Taiwanese with subtitles. 135 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Music Box.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ed Lederman.