Bei qing cheng shi (A City of Sadness) (1989)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Bei qing cheng shi (A City of Sadness) Photos

Movie Info

Seen through the prism of the Lin family, this complex family drama from Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao Hsien details a brief but crucial moment in Taiwanese history between 1945, when 50 years of Japanese colonial rule came to an end, and 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Kuomintang forces established a government-in-exile after the Communist army captured mainland China. The film opens with the reedy voice of Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan's surrender as the eldest of the Lin clan's four sons awaits the birth of his child in a coastal town not far from Taipei. Soon afterward, he changes the name of his Japanese decorated bar to "Little Shanghai" and begins trading in the post-war black market. The second son has died in Philippines during the war. The third son, who had a nervous breakdown in Shanghai, starts to consort with Shanghaiese drug dealers upon his return to Taiwan. Once the eldest learns of the third's dealings, he forces him to stop. In retaliation, the Shanghaiese mob arranges for the third son to be imprisoned on trumped up charges of collaboration with the Japanese. The youngest son, Wen-ching, is a gentle deaf-mute photographer who has leftist leanings. The film climaxes with the notorious Incident of February 28, 1947, a Tiananmen Square-style massacre of native Taiwanese committed by Kuomintang troops resulting in between 18,000 to 28,000 causalities. The wounded pour into the neighbor clinic as Wen-ching and his friend Hinoe get arrested. After his release, Hinoe heads for the mountains to join the leftist guerillas while Wen-ching promises to look after his friend's sister Hinomi. Soon after, Wen-ching and Hinomi marry. Just as she is about to bear a child, however, the Kuomintang arrests Wen-ching for his involvement with the guerillas. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
In Theaters:
 wide
Runtime:

Critic Reviews for Bei qing cheng shi (A City of Sadness)

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (5)

The movie conveys the director's intensely personal struggle at the crossroads of large-scale history and private memory; with understatedly bitter irony, he depicts the birth of a nation at the price of a family's dissolution.

Full Review… | October 5, 2014
New Yorker
Top Critic

A City of Sadness is a great film, one that will be watched as long as there are people who care about the movies as an art.

Full Review… | May 20, 2014
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Hou turns in a masterpiece of small gestures and massive resonance; once you surrender to its spell, the obscurities vanish.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It is worth the long wait for the resonance of 'A City of Sadness to emerge.

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Beautiful family saga by the great Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien.

Full Review… | December 12, 2002
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Hou Hsiao-Hsien's subtle compositions and meticulous pacing draw the viewer into the heart of the drama.

Full Review… | May 20, 2014
Radio Times

Audience Reviews for Bei qing cheng shi (A City of Sadness)

This strong and resonant historical drama of unhurried pacing is careful to take its time to shape what it wants to say and find a focus, but the waiting is more than worth it and the result, a work of rich significance, even if it may be hard for the viewers to follow its intricate narrative.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

This is the film that put Taiwan on the map of films. It's one of the best films ever made.

Jojo Shek
Jojo Shek

Super Reviewer

The Godfather of Taiwanese cinema. Hou Hsiao Hsien's masterpiece documents the political and social chaos during the birth of the nation through the Lin family, ran by the old patriarch and his three surviving sons. Hou's film builds an elaborate set of relationships between almost a dozen major characters grounded in a volatile social-political environment. Hou's trademark style uses detached long takes and oblique narrative ellipses to make transitions between cuts almost unnoticeable. The repetition of shots works to slowly build up a devastating emotional impact. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2Hq1AAkiVI

X. T. C.
X. T. C.

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