Good Men, Good Women

Like its predecessors, the concluding and entirely self-sufficient feature in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s trilogy about 20th century Taiwan focuses on a specific period (in this case 1949 to the present) and specific art form (cinema itself). In the present, an actress prepares to play a real-life anti-Japanese guerrilla in 40s China arrested as a subversive after returning to Taiwan in the 50s. Images evoked by her past as a drug-addicted barmaid alternate with her imaginative projections of the film about to be shot. Despite the complexity of the haunting structure, which suggests three interwoven tensespresent, past, and a curious blend of future conditional and speculative pastthis is the shortest (108 minutes) and most direct film of the trilogy, and the visual mastery is stunning. Reproaching contemporary Taiwan politically by praising the courage of an earlier generation, this film has been controversial in its home country, but it’s probably the most artistically accomplished feature I saw in 1995. In Mandarin with subtitles. (JR)

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