Thursday 7 August 2014

Good Men, Good Women [1995]

Good Men, Good Women, the concluding chapter in Hou’s acclaimed trilogy on Taiwan’s checkered history during and after WWII, was the least formally demanding vis-à-vis A City of Sadness and The Puppetmaster, though not short of defining formal elements. This was a poignant, enthralling and loosely structured film that seamlessly traversed across two chronologically disparate narrative lines, with past and present, life and death, reality and dreams, turmoil both without and within, intermingling to provide a rich tapestry on the complexity of understanding historical events and the ripple effects they create. The ‘present’ deals with a beautiful, emotionally disturbed actress (Annie Shizuka Inoh), who’s been offered the role in a film on the turbulent White Terror days, being sent intimate entries from her personal diary by an anonymous stalker which brings back memories of her drug-addiction days and her volatile relationship with a now deceased gangster (Jack Kao); the ‘past’ chronicles episodes from the life of Chiang Bi-yu (also played by Inoh), her venture into mainland China with her Leftist intellectual husband Chung Hao-tung (Lim Giong) and their friends in order to join the Resistance against Japan, their almost getting killed on charges of being Japanese spies, and later, after the end of WWII, their return to Taiwan only to face the political purges upon enactment of martial law during the White Terror, their arrest for their political affiliations, and Chung’s execution by the State. The rambling present was brilliant juxtaposed by the tighter past, and the result was tragic yet beautiful, as the personal became indistinguishable from the political. The ravishing use of closed spaces, lighting, long-takes, moments of silence alternated with haunting score, made this aesthetically stunning as well.

Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Political Drama
Language: Taiwanese/Mandarin/Japanese/Cantonese
Country: Taiwan

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