A City of Sadness (1989), Hsiao-hsien Hou

The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Hsiao-hsien Hou’s 1989 A City of Sadness – a movie with such a far-reaching scope – deals with the violent history of post-World War II Taiwan and its Martial Law through the sufferings and idealist activities of a family.

a-city-of-sadness-2For a film that deals with political brutality, A City of Sadness [Bēiqíng Chéngshì] presents very few episodes of actual violence. As such events are universally understood, and political repression utterly commonplace throughout the 20th Century – from fascism in Europe and McCarthyism in America through the military juntas in South America to the dictatorships of the Middle East and South East Asia – the tension can be felt and estimated by most members of the audience. It is this poignant stifling of liberty and desire that makes the movie a superb document on the human condition. Continue reading

In the Mood for Love (2000), Wong Kar-Wai

A visually imposing and thematically superlative film, Wong Kar-Wai’s 2000 In the Mood for Love, a deceptively simple story of random love, subjects viewers to a tough moral dilemma in dealing with the all too important question of how to keep one’s integrity after being hurt.

in-the-mood-for-love-2If there ever was a movie, beautiful enough to be displayed as a coffee table book, that had to be In the Mood for Love [Fa yeung nin wa]. Every single frame of Wong Kar-Wai’s film is a work of art; a poem made up of yellow, orange and red; a widescreen canvas, painted with flowering dresses and cigarette smoke. What’s most incredible about the movie is that its cinematography is not even the most significant aspect of its magnificent whole. Thematically, this masterpiece (definitively a 21st century Top 10 film) reaches unimaginable levels. Continue reading

Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Zhang Yimou

A political allegory disguised as a family melodrama, Zhang Yimou’s 1991 Raise the Red Lantern, a tale of privilege, deception and hatred, where mistresses fight for their master’s sexual attention, stands as a metaphor for human nature’s propensity towards willing submission.

raise-the-red-lantern8Is the ultimate allegorical meaning of Raise the Red Lantern [Dà Hóng Dēnglóng Gāogāo Guà] to do with archaic elements still present in modern China? Does the film hides behind its simple story of deception and betrayal a criticism of how women are still treated in this immense communist country? The near obvious is given a poignant meaning – through spectacular frames and aural delight within a maze of malice and artifice – in the story of Songlian, the fourth wife-cum-concubine of a wealthy master in 1920s China. Continue reading