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Hou Hsiao-Hsien

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Title: Hou Hsiao-Hsien  
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Subject: List of Taiwanese films, Three Times, Edward Yang, 20th Busan International Film Festival, Cahiers du Cinéma's Top Ten Films
Collection: 1947 Births, 20Th-Century Taiwanese Male Actors, Akira Kurosawa Award Winners, Asian Film Producers, Chinese Film Directors, Film Directors from Guangdong, Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize Winners, Living People, Male Actors from Guangdong, Musicians from Guangdong, People from Mei County, Guangdong, People from Meixian District, Taiwanese Film Directors, Taiwanese Film Producers, Taiwanese Hakka People, Taiwanese Male Film Actors, Taiwanese Male Singers, Taiwanese Male Television Actors, Taiwanese Screenwriters, Television Actors from Guangdong
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Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Chinese name 侯孝賢 (traditional)
Chinese name 侯孝贤 (simplified)
Pinyin Hóu Xiàoxián (Mandarin)
Born (1947-04-08) 8 April 1947
Mei County, Guangdong, Republic of China
Occupation Film director

Hou Hsiao-hsien (born 8 April 1947) is a Taiwanese film director, screenwriter, producer, singer and actor. He is a leading figure in world cinema and in Taiwan's New Wave cinema movement. He won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1989 for his film A City of Sadness (1989), and the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 for The Assassin (2015).

Hou was voted "Director of the Decade" for the 1990s in a poll of American and international critics put together by The Village Voice and Film Comment. In a 1998 worldwide critics' poll, Hou was named "one of the three directors most crucial to the future of cinema." In the British Film Institute's 2012 Sight & Sound poll, fourteen critics and two directors named A City of Sadness (1989) one of the ten greatest films ever made, placing it at #117 in the overall critics' poll.


  • Biography 1
  • Filmography 2
    • As director 2.1
    • As producer 2.2
    • As actor / Himself 2.3
  • Further reading 3
  • See also 4
  • External links 5


A Hakka, Hou Hsiao-Hsien was born in Mei County, Guangdong province (China) in 1947. He and his family fled the Chinese Civil War to Taiwan the following year. Hou was educated at the National Taiwan Academy of the Arts.

Internationally, Hou is known for his austere and aesthetically rigorous dramas dealing with the upheavals of Taiwanese (and occasionally larger Chinese) history of the past century by viewing its impacts on individuals or small groups of characters. A City of Sadness (1989), for example, portrays a family caught in conflicts between the local Taiwanese and the newly arrived Chinese Nationalist government after World War II. It was groundbreaking for broaching the long-taboo February 28 Incident and ensuing White Terror. It became a major critical and commercial success, and garnered the Golden Lion award at the 1989 Venice Film Festival, making it the first Taiwanese film to win the top prize at the prestigious international film festival.

His storytelling is elliptical and his style marked by extreme long takes with minimal camera movement but intricate choreography of actors and space within the frame. He uses extensive improvisation to arrive at the final shape of his scenes and the low-key, naturalistic acting of his performers. His compositions are decentered, and links between shots do not adhere to an obvious temporal or causal narrative logic. Without abandoning his famous austerity, his imagery has developed a sensual beauty during the 1990s, partly under the influence of his collaboration with cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bin. Hou's consistent screenwriting collaborator since the mid-1980s has been the renowned author Chu Tien-Wen, a collaboration that began with the screenplay for Chen Kunhou's 1983 film, Growing Up. He has also cast revered puppeteer Li Tian-lu as an actor in several of his movies, most notably The Puppetmaster (1993), which is based on Li's life.

Hou's films have been awarded top prizes from prestigious international festivals such as the Venice Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival and the Nantes Three Continents Festival. Six of his films to date have been nominated for the Palme d'Or (best film award) at the Cannes Film Festival. Hou was voted "Director of the Decade" for the 1990s in a poll of American and international critics put together by The Village Voice and Film Comment.

He directed the Japanese film Café Lumière (2003) for the Shochiku studio as an homage to Yasujirō Ozu; the film premiered at a festival commemorating the centenary of Ozu's birth. The film deals with themes reminiscent of Ozu - tensions between parents and children and between tradition and modernity - in Hou's typically indirect manner. In 2005 his film Three Times - which features three stories of love set in 1911, 1966 and 2005 using the same actors, Shu Qi and Chang Chen.

In August 2006, Hou embarked on his first Western project. Filmed and financed entirely in France, Flight of the Red Balloon (2007) is the story of a French family as seen through the eyes of a Chinese student. The film is the first part in a series of films sponsored by the Musee d'Orsay and stars Juliette Binoche. In 2010, Hou directed the 3D short film for Taipei Pavilion in Expo 2010 Shanghai China.

Hou has also had some acting experience, appearing as the lead in fellow Taiwanese New Wave auteur Edward Yang's 1984 film, Taipei Story. Hou starred as Lung, a former Minor League baseball star who is stuck operating an old-style fabric business, longing for his past days of glory. Lung becomes alienated from his girlfriend and tries to find his way in the city of Taipei.

He had a brief role in the 2013 Chinese comedy-drama film Young Style, about a group of teenagers in high school.

Hou is also a singer, having contributed two songs to the 1992 soundtrack of Dust of Angels, a movie he also produced.


As director

Year English Title Original Title Notes
1980 Cute Girl 就是溜溜的她 First full-length feature film
1981 Cheerful Wind 風兒踢踏踩
1982 The Green, Green Grass of Home 在那河畔青草青
1983 The Sandwich Man 兒子的大玩偶 Directed with Wan Jen and Tseng chuang-hsiang
1983 The Boys From Fengkuei 風櫃來的人 Golden Montgolfiere at the 1984 Three Continents Festival
1984 A Summer at Grandpa's 冬冬的假期 Golden Montgolfiere at the 1985 Three Continents Festival
1985 A Time to Live, A Time to Die 童年往事 FIPRESCI Prize at the 1986 Berlin International Film Festival
1986 Dust in the Wind 戀戀風塵 Entered into the 1985 Three Continents Festival
1987 Daughter of the Nile 尼羅河的女兒 Entered into Directors' Fortnight at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival
1989 A City of Sadness 悲情城市 Golden Lion at the 1989 Venice Film Festival
1993 The Puppetmaster 戲夢人生 Jury Prize at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival
1995 Good Men, Good Women 好男好女 Best Feature Film at the 1995 Hawaii International Film Festival
1996 Goodbye South, Goodbye 南國再見,南國 Entered into the 1996 Cannes Film Festival
1998 Flowers of Shanghai 海上花 Entered into the 1998 Cannes Film Festival
2001 Millennium Mambo 千禧曼波 Technical Grand Prize at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival
2003 Café Lumière 咖啡時光 Japanese production, Entered into the 2004 Venice Film Festival
2005 Three Times 最好的時光 Entered into the 2005 Cannes Film Festival
2007 The Electric Princess House 電姬館 Segment of the anthology film To Each His Own Cinema
2008 Flight of the Red Balloon Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge (紅氣球的旅行) French production
2011 La Belle Epoque 黃金之弦 Segment of the anthology film 10+10
2015 The Assassin 聶隱娘 Best Director Award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival

As producer

Year English Title Original Title Director
1991 Raise the Red Lantern 大紅燈籠高高掛 Zhang Yimou
1992 Dust of Angels 少年吔,安啦 Hsu Hsiao-ming
1993 Treasure Island 只要為你活一天 Chen Kuo-Fu
1994 A Borrowed Life 多桑 Wu Nien-jen
1995 Heartbreak Island 去年冬天 Hsu Hsiao-ming
2000 Mirror Image 命帶追逐 Hsiao Ya-chuan
2007 Reflection 愛麗絲的鏡子 Yao hung-I
2010 One Day 有一天 Hou Ji-ran
2010 Taipei Exchanges 第36個故事 Hsiao Ya-chuan
2010 Return Ticket 到阜陽六百里 Teng Yung-Shing
2011 Hometown Boy 金城小子 Yao hung-I
2013 Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above 看見台灣 Chi Po-lin

As actor / Himself

Year English Title Original Title Director
1983 The Boys From Fengkuei 風櫃來的人 Himself
1984 I Love Mary 我愛瑪莉 Ko I-Chen
1985 Taipei Story 青梅竹馬 Edward Yang
1986 Soul 老娘夠騷 Shu Kei
1996 Yang±Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema 男生女相 Stanley Kwan
1997 HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-Hsien HHH - Un portrait de Hou Hsiao-Hsien Olivier Assayas
2010 I Wish I Knew 海上傳奇 Jia Zhangke
2013 Young Style 青春派 Jie Liu

Further reading

  • Berenice Reynaud, A City of Sadness, British Film Institute 2002
  • James Udden, No Man an Island: The Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Hong Kong University Press, 2009. [1]

See also

External links

  • Hou Hsiao-Hsien at the Internet Movie Database
  • Director of the Decade: Hou Hsiao-Hsien at Camera-Stylo
  • Hou Hsiao-Hsien at Strictly Film School
  • Cinema with a Roof Over Its Head: Kent Jones (Film Comment) on the Latterday Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien
  • Tribute to Hou Hsiao-Hsien at Cinemaya
  • Style and Meaning in the films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien - podcast of a lecture by Prof. John Orr, University of Edinburgh
  • Parametric Narration and Optical Transition Devices: Hou Hsiao-hsien and Robert Bresson in Comparison, Senses of Cinema article on the style of Flowers of Shanghai by Colin Burnett
  • Hou Hsiao-Hsien, a Reverse Shot symposium
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