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A Time to Live and a Time to Die

A reflective autobiographical film about director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s youth in the late 1940s and early ’50s. Largely filmed in the same places in Taiwan where the events originally happened, this unhurried family chronicle carries an emotional force and a historical significance that may not be immediately apparent. Working in long takes and wide-screen, with deep focus compositions that frame the characters from a discreet distance, Hou allows the locations to seep into our own memories and experiences, so that we come to know them almost as intimately as touchstones in our own lives. Yet paradoxically, the unseen Chinese mainland carries as much weight in the film as the landscape of Taiwan: Hou’s Christian family left in 1948, and the revolution that followed made it impossible for them to return.
Taiwan, 1985. English subtitles. Colour. Anamorphic. 137 mins.

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