The BFI is delighted to announce that one of the leading figures of the Taiwanese New Wave, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, whose latest film The Assassin won best director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, will make a very rare visit to the UK to take part in an In Conversation event at BFI Southbank. The event, which takes place on Monday 14 September, is part of Also Life Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, a major retrospective celebrating Hou’s work, which takes place from 2 Sept – 6 Oct 2015 at BFI Southbank.
Hou-Hsiao-Hsien has helped put Taiwanese cinema on the international map with work that explores the island’s rapidly changing present as well as its turbulent, often bloody past, and is one of the best examples in world cinema of a director who found his own distinctive style and voice while working on the job.
The season will kick off with Cute Girl (1980), Cheerful Wind (1981) and The Green Green Grass of Home (1982), all starring Hong Kong pop star Kenny Bee; these early films offer a mixture of comedy and romance and begin to show Hou’s interest in Taiwan’s regional differences, a key theme of his later films. Hou’s other early films such as The Sandwich Man (1983) and The Boys from Fengkuei (1983) dramatised engaging life stories – including his own in The Time to Live and the Time to Die (1985).
By this mid-point in his career, Hou had begun to gain an international reputation for his style, often compared to Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, and he won the Venice Golden Lion for A City of Sadness (1989) and a Cannes prize for The Puppetmaster (1993). Also screening will be Hou’s most complex, but emotionally direct film Good Men, Good Women (1995) and Flowers of Shanghai (1998), which explores the manners and customs of the ‘flower houses’ or brothels of late-19th century Shanghai.
Moving into the latter part of his career, the season will include Millennium Mambo (2001) starring Shu Qi (the star of this year’s The Assassin) as a frequenter of the Taipei rave scene, who finds herself struggling to break free of an overly-possessive boyfriend; Café Lumière (2003), a hallucinatory picture of young singletons in Tokyo, made as an homage to Yasujirō Ozu in his centenary year; and Hou’s tribute to Albert Lamorisse’s classic The Red Balloon, Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), shot in Paris with a largely French cast including Juliette Binoche as a puppeteer working on a Chinese play. The season will also include introductory talks from season curator Richard I Suchenski (Bard College, NY) and film critic Tony Rayns.