Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tien Feng, Mei Fang, Tang Ju-yun, Hsiao Ai, Yu An-shun, Wu Su-ying, Chen Shu-fang
Written by: Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chu Tien-wen
Directed by: Hou Hsiao-hsien
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Mandarin, with English subtitles
Running Time: 138
Date: 03/18/2013

A Time to Live and a Time to Die (1985)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Time's Up

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Hou Hsiao-hsien's first great achievement is A Time to Live and a Time to Die (1985). It represents an intensely personal turn for the young artist, who, for the first time, committed to filmmaking as a career. It reminded me of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973), not because of its violence or cinematic invention, but in its acutely detailed look at its characters: a Taiwanese family exiled in China during the war, unable to return home. To put a point to it, the difference between this film and Hou's Flowers of Shanghai mirrors the difference between Mean Streets and Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993). By attending every film in this 2000 Hou retrospective, viewers can have a rare glimpse not only at Hou's work, but at his immense growth as an artist.
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