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Three Times

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Original title
Zui hao de shi guang (Three Times)
Running time
139 min.
Taiwan Taiwan
Chu Tien-wen, Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Giong Lim
Pin Bing Lee
, , , , , , ,
SinoMovie / Paradis Films / Orly Films
Romance. Drama | 1960s. 1910s. Romantic Drama. Anthology Film. Pool (Game)
Synopsis / Plot
Three exquisite tales are braided together in perfect harmony in Three Times, Hou Hsiao-hsien's newest masterpiece. A film of composed, sumptuous maturity that uses epochal moments in Taiwanese history as touchstones, Hou's finely balanced creation will leave audiences with a lingering feeling of inner satisfaction. The film follows a timeless couple in love as, enacted by the same performers, they take on different identities through three separate periods.

In "A Time for Love," Chen (Chang Chen) meets May (Shu Qi) at his favourite pool hall. It is 1966 and their fleeting, dreamy romance is not defined so much by words as by the smoky atmosphere and the radio hits of the time. The Platters' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and Aphrodite's Child's "Rain and Tears" accentuate the melancholy that surfaces when passing moments instantly become cherished memories.

Moving from this musical snapshot, the film flows smoothly into a solemn drama of a concubine (Shu) and her master (Chang) in 1911. He is obsessed with his nation's freedom, yet incapable of giving liberty or emotional security to his beloved. Titled "A Time for Freedom," this subtly powerful, entirely silent second episode, is clad in rich colours and photographed in fluid long takes.

The third segment, "A Time for Youth," shifts from an era of stately quiet to chaotic, contemporary Taipei. Jing (Shu), an epileptic singer, lives through the intense disarray of her youth, sharing her love between a woman and a man (Chang). A cold, bluish light bathes the present day, silhouetting the romance against the ruins of morality and dissipating the spell of undying love.

Hou's film premiered earlier this year at the Festival de Cannes. He was forced to finish the film in a hurry in order to meet that festival's deadline, and has since gone back and reworked the film, especially the third segment. This recent work has given the film a most extraordinary new authority.

Weaving contrasting cinematic syntaxes and poignant fragments of time into a highly evocative narrative, Hou plays with the idea of reincarnation - the characters bear not only a consistent physical appearance but also the memories of other lives. Gracefully mining the depths of Taiwan's history, Three Times shines like a gem firmly set in Hou's glittering array of masterpieces.
2005: Cannes Film Festival: Nominated for Palme d'Or (Best Film)
Critics' reviews
  • "The highest of high cinematic art"
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