Hsimeng jensheng (The Puppetmaster)

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This Hou Hsiao Hsien masterpiece is a portrait of the childhood and adolescence of octogenarian Taiwanese puppet master and actor Li T'ien-lu, who narrates the film both off-screen and on-screen. In this second installment of a trilogy on Taiwanese life in the 20th century (City of Sadness is the first and Good Men, Good Women is the third), Li's development as an artist and husband plays out between 1908 and 1945 under the heavy hand of Japanese rule, paralleling the development of Taiwan's own political consciousness. The movie deftly shifts from a dramatization of Li's life, to Li speaking directly to the camera about his experiences, to his puppet performances in a semi-documentary style that recalls The Thin Blue Line (1988). Here, as in most of his films, Hou uses long takes and off-screen space to create a complex, richly layered meditation on personal, artistic, and national aspirations. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi


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