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The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien: Culture, Style, Voice, and Motion By Christo ...

Chapter 1:  The Odyssey of Hou Hsiao-hsien
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The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien:

in Taiwan and other East Asian regions formally colonized by Japan. And as someone who became a transcriber of historical reality, Hou has occasionally portrayed Shanghainese and Cantonese in his films. This multivalent, highly fraught turf is what I would call “Sinophonic.”

The subtitle to the book—Culture, Style, Voice, and Motion—pertains to various characteristics of Hou’s oeuvre. These four elements are all important in his work. Hou is always concerned with cultural identity, as complicated, multifaceted and problematic as it is. If there is one aspect of Hou’s work that more people have remarked upon than any other, it would have to be his style. Thus, in this book, I deal liberally with the issues of culture and style. These two dimensions infuse all other questions of his work. Hou Hsiao-hsien is also frequently intrigued by the issue of voice. From his early film Summer at Grandpa’s, through his films A Time to Live, A Time to Die and A City of Sadness, and beyond, voiceover is utilized to establish a narrative coherence. At the beginning of Daughter of the Nile, the protagonist Xiaoyang (Yang Lin) addresses the camera directly. The Puppetmaster is embodied by the narrator Li Tianlu, interspersing his recountings between the sequencing of the various scenes of the film. In later films, such as Millennium Mambo, Hou remains dedicated to this device, although in this case the image of Vicky (Shu Qi) on the screen is in “real time” while the third-person voiceover (spoken by Shu Qi) is cast in past tense, forming a retrospective for the visual narrative. Voice is critical to his cinematic art. Finally, there is also no question that in a variety of ways motion is integral to the cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien. Motion is something that occurs (and does not occur) in the action (or inaction) of his films; however, it also is something inherent in the perception of the action, the phenomenology of film, the way the lens absorbs the action of the film. Hou Hsiao-hsien loves the stationary camera, but he also has a passion for the slow pan. His way of creating shots with a stationary or slow-moving camera eye, combined with the focus on what is conventionally considered to be the inessential details of a given film’s story, are matters that concern motion. The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien: Culture, Style, Voice,