Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Wu-sia / Wuxia
Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang
Distributor: Park Circus

Calling Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon a cult classic is still a grave understatement of how important this film really is. Besides Oscar nominations and a premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival it secured the Taiwanese filmmaker a firm spot among leading Hollywood directors. In 2000 he used US funding to make a nostalgic and revisionist take on wuxia pian epics and managed to sell it to the West. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a film encyclopaedia of sort, in which Lee summarizes dozens of external influences. The plot is based on the literary tradition of Chinese knight stories and several scenes refer explicitly to the works of another Taiwanese great, King Hu. Lee and Hu also share what film critic Jaime Rebanal calls a contemplative action. Martial arts sequences are phenomenally choreographed by legendary Yuen Woo-ping and serve primarily as a form of communication. Characters conduct dialogues with their fists and kicks lighter than air! They practically dance through space and prove that filmmakers can add completely new perspectives to conventional action scenes. All these are pretty solid reasons to revisit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on the big screen once again. After all those years it has certainly not lost any of its magic.


Without dialogue
Director: Tsai Ming-liang
Starring: Lee Kang-sheng
Distributor: Homegreen Films

In Days, director Tsai Ming-liang turns attention to the crippled body of his favourite actor Lee Kang-sheng. Kang’s desire to relieve himself of pain and his constant solitude brings him to a massage parlour with a young masseur. The trajectories of these two men with different backgrounds shortly meet in a moment filled with intense sensory experience and cause a stir in their solitary lives. After a series of films with no plot and intimate personal stories, Days see the Taiwanese director’s return to a slow-paced, delicately melodramatic narrative. It is, in the best possible way, a nurturing and hypnotising film infused with moments of unforgettable transience. Read more

Yi Yi

Drama, Romance
Mandarin, Minnan, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Edward Yang
Starring: Wu Nien-jen, Elaine Jin, Kelly Lee
Distributor: Pony Canyon

Yi Yi is the crowning achievement of director Edward Yang, a key figure of the Taiwanese New Wave. The film that received the Grand Prize at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival is a family chronicle captivating the audience with its broadness of scope, unpretentious formal sophistication, sense of characters and their life journeys. It deals with the nature of co-existence and communication in contemporary society, but it also casually asks philosophical and spiritual questions. The character of Yang-yang, a boy, may be seen as the director’s young alter ego. Read more

Execution in Autumn

Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Li Hsing
Starring: Chen Hui-lou, Chou Shao-ching
Distributor: Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute

Autumn is associated with melancholy, loneliness and hopelessness. This is why it is the season when executions are carried out. Pei Gang, stubborn and angry man convicted of a triple murder is also awaiting one. Although he claimed to have acted in self-defence, the verdict is definitive – he has one year to live. His grandmother who has been getting Pei Gang out of trouble his whole life once again intervenes and tries to revert the death sentence. At stake is not only her beloved grandson’s life, but also the future of their rich family with Pei Gang being the only heir. Apart from showing the effort to avert the irreversible, this drama about waiting to die gradually peels off hidden layers of the characters, brings out the significance of family ties and character development in the face of suffering. The audience sees the inner world of main characters through dialogues, but also through a moving camera closing in on tragic facial expressions of people afflicted by fate. Li Hsing, aka the godfather of Taiwanese film, directed a remarkable piece dealing with accepting one’s past doings and their bitter consequences.

The Green, Green Grass of Home

Mandarin and Minnan, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien
Starring: Kenny Bee, Meifeng Chen
Distributor: Cinémathèque royale de Belgique

Hou Hsiao-hsien is often regarded as a cinephile favourite and a regular guest at art festivals. But The Green, Green Grass of Home is a reminder of his earlier works, strongly influenced by a popular cycle of Taiwan romantic comedies. Hong-Kong popstar Kenny Bee portrays a town school teacher who finds himself working in a village and has to deal with a group of mischievous kids, illegal fishing and blooming love.

What Hou made is, however, not simply a commercial comedy, he is infallibly accurate in choosing beautiful compositions and thoughtful direction of movement within a frame. Apart from environmental issues he builds up a conventional romantic plot and finds inspiration in Ozu’s student films from 1930’s. The Green, Green Grass of Home is a unique experience that brings together a radical auteur with a non-traditional approach to a commercial and genre subject matter.