Saturday, October 22, 2011

Three Times

So part of my New Year's resolutions was to watch two movies a month. Well good luck with that. When it gets down to the wire, and it's a choice between writing, reading, or catching a movie, writing wins hands down. Reading is a close second. And movies? Well let's just say that I haven't seen a lot of movies this year.

But it's good to watch one once in a while, if only to give your brain a couple of hours to stop whirring and just zone off.

Notable movies that I've watched this year include:
  • Babae sa Septic Tank
  • Zombadings
  • Buenas Noches, EspaƱa
  • (which was so unbearable that I walked out after thirty minutes, a first for me. I never thought that I could actually walk out on a film.)
  • Paprika
  • (Just last night. It's amazing.)

And now, Three Times, by acclaimed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. To be honest, I never understood why there was such a fuss about him. I watched Flight of the Red Balloon in college and found it boring. But Three Times is an interesting triptych.

Three Times tells the story of two lovers in three eras: 1911, 1966, and 2005. The lovers, which are different characters in each era, are played by the ravishing Shu Qi* (loved her in So Close) and Chan Cheng (best known to Westerners as Zhang Zhiyi's lover in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but also to Wong Kar Wai fans for his roles in Happy Together and 2046). It is also an incisive mirror into each era: the couple in 1911 is (spoiler) an intrepid journalist and a courtesan. In 1966, they are a pool hall girl and a soldier. In 2005, they are disaffected youth.

Hou Hsiao-Hsien's genius is that he is able to slow you down to his time. Viewers used to fast paced action movies and things happening may initially find the pace of Three Times to be extremely slow, but stick with it and it will reward you. At times, he is a little heavy-handed, like the ending line in the second narrative, A Time for Freedom. But the sweetness of the first story, A Time for Love, draws the viewer in like a frothy appetizer. At 36, Shu Qi is still believable as a young girl.

For viewers who don't mind slow films, Three Times is a good movie to watch.

*I just found out that her film career started in Hong Kong's softcore porn industry. I don't care. I still love her.

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