A City of Sadness
Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1989, 157 mins. 35mm. With Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Hsin Shu-fen, Li Tien-lu, Jack Kao. “[Hou’s] most ambitious, and most noteworthy, film.” (Olivier Assayas). Winner of the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, A City of Sadness announced Hou’s arrival as a world-class filmmaker and foremost recorder of his nation’s troubled past. This intimate epic chronicles the tragedies that befall the three Lin brothers—a gangster, a translator for the Japanese administration, and a photographer—and those around them during a chaotic period in Taiwan’s national history, between the end of Japanese Imperial rule (1945) and the secession from Mainland China and creation of martial law (1949-1987). The film was groundbreaking in its depiction of the “February 28 Incident” of 1947, when thousands of native Taiwanese were killed in protests against the Nationalist government.
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