Hou Hsiao-hsien: a leading figure in New Taiwan Cinema




Chinese name
: 侯孝賢
Born: April 8, 1947
Birthplace: Guangdong Province (Republic of China)

Hou Hsiao-hsien is an important director of the New Taiwan Cinema best known for his use of long take, scenery shot, and fixed focuses in films. In 1983, his film "The Sandwich Man (兒子的大玩偶)" launched a path for New Taiwan Cinema movement. He has won the Best Director Award at the 3rd Golden Horse Film Festival and the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, as well as the Jury Prize and the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

In 1948, his whole family immigrated to Kaohsiung County of Taiwan. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Fengshan City. At that time, there were three theaters in Fengshan. Whenever a movie was released in Fengshan City, Hou would go to see it. At the same time, he also read many novels, and these childhood memories also cultivated his imagination of images and words in the future. Hou also went to the movies when he was on vacation while he was a soldier. His enthusiasm for films made him decide to work in the film industry.

Hou entered the film industry in 1973 when he served as the log keeper for director Li Xing (李行) during the filming of "The Heart with a Million Knots (心有千千結)," and slowly accumulated experience. In 1980, Hou directed his first film "Cute Girl" (就是溜溜的她). Then in 1983, he invested in the film "Growing Up (小畢的故事)" and worked as an assistant director and screenwriter, and from then, the first wave of New Taiwan Cinema trend was launched.

Compared with the mainstream commercial movies in Taiwan, Hou's aesthetic view was groundbreaking and deeply reflected traditional Chinese humanistic art and emotional expression. Hou abandoned the fragmentation in the editing of scenes in early Taiwanese films, and changed the way of shooting with long take and fixed focus to make the actors under the lens act in realistically and naturally.

Films of his that enjoyed popularity internationally include "A City of Sadness (悲情城市)," "The Puppetmaster(戲夢人生)," and "Good Men, Good Women (好男好女)." Among them, "A City of Sadness" was the first Taiwanese film to win the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival and “The Puppetmaster” won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize.

In 2015, he adapted Tang Dynasty writer Pei Xing (裴鉶)’s legendary novel "Nie Yiniang (聶隱娘)" into the film "The Assassin (刺客聶隱娘)." He went to mainland China, Taiwan and Japan to search for filming locations for the scenes in the movie, with the sole purpose of finding real beautiful scenery that no amount of computer effects can achieve. The film won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

The narration of many of Hou's works spans 50 years, especially the growth of the characters during their life in the films. His films leave the viewers with the profound realization of the changes in Taiwan's society after industrialization and urbanization, often through depictions of the different social order, value norms, and interpersonal interactions in urban and rural areas that result in significant life experiences and sharp changes in the characters. He used his lens to tell his own growth, and also portrayed the growth of Taiwanese society, taking himself and Taiwan to the world stage.