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Three Times
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Two of the times from Three Times. With Chang Chen and Shu Qi.
Chinese: 最好的時光
Year: 2005
Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Producer: Chu Tien-Wen, Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Writer: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Cast: Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Di Mei, Liao Su-Jen, Mei Fang
  The Skinny: Those with short attention spans had best skip Three Times, as it lacks solid exposition, a ticking clock and all the stuff ADD-afflicted moviegoers require. However, discerning audiences may find Three Times a rare and rewarding experience.
by Kozo:

As could be expected with any art film, Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Three Times is not for everyone. Three Times presents three forty-minute stories that take place in three separate time periods, each one featuring a pair of lovers played by Shu Qi and Chang Chen. Each story concerns itself with different times and social conventions, and each finds a different level of success.

In the first segment, "A Time for Love", the two are innocent budding lovers. Set in 1966, the segment features a young soldier (Chang), who frequents a billiard hall. The soldier is attracted to one of the young pool hall girls who works there, but his love letter never reaches his intended. Instead, it's intercepted by a newer pool hall girl named May (Shu), who slowly becomes the object of his affection. Times being what they are, the relationship progresses with slow, awkward steps, interrupted by such things as May moving from pool hall to pool hall, and the soldier tracking her down with the honest enthusiasm of a young man smitten. Nearly wordless, but possessing of quiet, affecting moments and an irresistibly nostalgic soundtrack (Hou leans heavily on "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", by the Platters), "A Time for Love" is beguiling and lovely in its earnest simplicity.

The second segment, titled "A Time for Freedom", is set in 1911, and details the relationship between a courtesan named Ah Mei (Shu), and her frequent visitor Mr. Chang (Chang). With the Wuchang Uprising and the birth of the Republic of China just around the corner, Mr. Chang is consumed with the turbulence of the times, but he still makes time to visit his favorite courtesan, plus engage in minor philanthropy like arranging for the freedom of a fellow courtesan of Ah Mei's. However, his kindness never truly extends to Ah Mei, who seems fated to remain at the brothel long after other courtesans - and Mr. Chang himself - have long departed. Hou chooses to tell "A Time for Freedom" like a silent film, shooting on a single set depicting the brothel, and eschewing spoken dialogue for intertitles. However, the communication between the characters is handled indirectly, and through the minute details of Shu's performance. While the segment never explains itself verbally, the actors and situations reveal more than enough to compensate.

The third segment, called "A Time for Youth", moves us to modern day Taipei in the year 2005. Shu is an epileptic rock singer named Jing, who's engaged in an affair with wannabe art photographer Zhen (Chang). Both are involved in other affairs - Jing's being of the homosexual variety - and their lack of communication and brazen self-centered behavior only leads to potential bad times and a general hollow existence. Whereas the previous two segments presented characters trapped by the times, the characters in "A Time for Youth" seem trapped by themselves. Hou seems to be saying that this sort of personal isolation is indeed a product of the times, but the details of the final segment are more obvious than effective in their post-modernist commentary. It's questionable what comes out of "A Time for Youth", and finding meaning in the segment may ultimately depend on who's watching.

Individually and together, the segments of Three Times do succeed at presenting an involving look at how our lives are affected and even changed by the times we live in. At the same time, the film is told in a slow, abstruse manner that's bound to frustrate even converts to the cult of Wong Kar-Wai. Hou experiments with different styles for Three Times, and the result can easily frustrate and alienate the uninitiated. Still, those who come prepared for Hou's slow, unrevealing style may find much to like. The film doesn't succeed on all accounts, but hidden in its experimental storytelling, naturalistic performances, and near-aimless narratives is an affecting commentary on our changing times, and recognizable glimmers of genuine emotion. (Kozo 2005)


42nd Golden Horse Awards
• Winner - Best Actress (Shu Qi)
• Winner - Best Taiwanese Film
• Winner - Best Taiwanese Director (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
Nomination - Best Picture
• Nomination - Best Director (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
• Nomination - Best Actor (Chang Chen)
• Nomination - Best Original Screenplay (Chu Tien-Wen, Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
• Nomination - Best Cinematography (Mark Lee Ping-Ban)
• Nomination - Best Editing (Liao Ching-Song, Hsiao Ru-Kuan)
• Nomination - Best Art Direction (Hwarng Wern-Ying, Wang Chih-Cheng)
• Nomination - Best Make-up and Costume Design (Hwarng Wern-Ying, Liao Su-Jen, Ms Gin Oy, Wang Kuan-Yi)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
CN Entertainment
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
images courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen