WHO is he?
Taiwanese filmmaker working since the 1980s, considered a spearhead of the Taiwanese New Wave movement, who won the top prize at Venice Film Festival for his multi-generational drama A City of Sadness. Hou’s family migrated from the mainland to Taiwan during the Chiang Kai-Shek era — a significant event that leaves its imprint on many of his films.
WHY is he of interest?
The noted film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once called Hou the greatest Asian filmmaker working today, alongside Abbas Kiarostami. More than the undeniable cultural value of Hou’s body of work as a Taiwanese voice distinct from Chinese cinema, it is the contemplative, sedate and rarefied nature of his aesthetic that has drawn such praise and influenced contemporaries. The manner in which Hou’s cinema withdraws from what would generally be considered central and important is unconventional, to say the least.
WHERE to discover him?
A film with an immense historical sweep and arguably Hou’s finest work, The Puppetmaster (1994) centres on real life puppet master Li Tien-lu and consists of a mixture of direct interviews with Li and fictional recreation of events from his life. Hou’s measured yet sprawling film is an examination of how the puppet master himself became a puppet in the hands of the Japanese rulers and, in general, how individual lives are shaped by institutions much larger than them.