The acclaimed filmmaker of the masterpiece Flowers of Shanghai, Hou Hsiao-hsien has been called "the figure of the decade" by critics such as J. Hoberman and Amy Taubin, and is considered by many to be the greatest Taiwanese filmmaker of all time.
Does he consider himself a Taiwanese or a Chinese film director? Examining the questions of identity and "native land," Hou Hsiao-hsien returns to the setting of his youth to talk to childhood friends and discuss his films. His work, like the films A Time to Live and a Time to Die (1985) and The Puppetmaster (1993), is inseparably linked with the recent history of Taiwan, and to his own evolution.
Hou Hsiao-hsien's generation was born in Taiwan, or at a young age immigrated there, after the liberalization of the government following the 1975 death of Chiang Kai-shek. It is to this generation that the question of a Taiwanese identity is posed.
Hou Hsiao-hsien's body of work, and the emergence of the Taiwanese 'Nouvelle Vague,' must be located within the context of an intellectual movement that united Taiwanese writers, journalists and filmmakers at the end of the 1970's. This movement became possible only with the end of censorship, a prerequisite for free discussions, through film and literature, about Taiwan's society.
Olivier Assayas, the director of HHH - A PORTRAIT OF HOU HSIAO-HSIEN, whose most recent film Demonlover has just been released, was an early champion of the now world-renowned Hou Hsiao-hsien. Like many of the filmmakers from the generation before him, Assayas began his career as a film critic for Cahiers du Cinema. A film fanatic, he was instrumental in dissecting such genres as American Horror, Hong Kong Cinema and the new Tiawanese cinema. After writing screenplays for fellow Cahiers critic Andre Techine, Assayas pursued his own directing career, most notably with Irma Vep."
In HHH - A PORTRAIT OF HOU HSIAO-HSIEN, another installment in the Cinema, Of Our Time series (distributed by First Run / Icarus Films), two equals discuss the art of filmmaking.
"The 21st century belongs to Asia, and Hou is its historian, its prophet, and its poet laureate."—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
2003 Association for Asian Studies Conference Film Festival
"Highly recommended for inclusion in film and popular culture studies collections, this video provides a fascinating look at both an industry and an individual."—Educational Media Reviews Online
"A successful work. This is extremely valuable information that should interest not only critics and fans of Hou's films, but also film historians who wish to trace the development of Taiwanese cinema or find patterns shared by independent filmmaking with distinctive regional or national identities. [The film] helps us understand the autobiographical elements in... his early films, as well as the melancholy yearning, hidden beneath the childhood innocence, for a home and nation forever lost."—Professor Gang Gary Xu, University of Illinois at Urbana, for the Asian Educational Media Services 'News and Reviews'