Sunday I spent as a “Brent Day” meaning I stayed in and watched NFL Football all afternoon and caught up on two movies I have been wanting to see.
Three Times (aka Zui hao de shi guang)
Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou, Three Times tells three stories of love/longing in 1966, 1911 and 2005. The stories are not connected except by the two stars playing the lead characters in each segment – Qi She and Chen Chang.
Hou’s direction is breathtaking (he and Wong Kar-wai approach film in a similar way). Each frame is gorgeous; with plenty – in a minimalist way – going on.
I felt the first story, entitled “A Time For Love” worked the best of the three. It is a wonderful homage to first love and the ends we’ll go to find the person who sets our hearts aflutter. Hou plays out this story in a pool hall with not more than 100 words total during its 35-odd minute playing time. Storytelling with so few words and the Platter’s lovely “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” music setting the tone was worth the rental alone.
In the second story, “A Time for Freedom”, set in 1911 Hou takes a silent movie approach showing the characters dialogue on screen in the manner of a Keystone Cops flick. It works, I thought, and on the whole the story of a political activist and his concubine is good. The key moment coming near the end when she asks what his intentions are for her (i.e., freedom from concubineness). The answer, of course, is silence and we see she knows what life she is forever destined for … despite the kindness of her master. The piano music in this segment is excellent.
In the last story, set in a grimy 2004 Taipei and entitled “A Time for Youth” we see Qi, now playing the role of a bisexual, as she maneuvers through drugs, sex, premature birth and emails while Chang wanders about looking for her … and food. This segment did little for me. I think it captures what Hou was after though … a statement on the lives we now live but I did not like it.
Three Times is poignant, visually magnificent, and will for some brief moments remind you of the pain/joy of love. Hou’s film connects you with your own personal love history. And that is rare film-making. Bravo Hou! My rating 8 out of 10.