Archive for December 9th, 2015


 © 2015 by James Clark

      A film like Three Times (2005) comes to us as an exquisite joy and an excruciating horror. Hou Hsiao Hsien has conjured there an arresting exploration of the volatility of human presence; and with the exception of a few filmic gourmands happy to absorb the flavors and happy to stay satisfied therewith, his effort has gone unnoticed. As I proceed to illuminate the workings of this adventure, there is, over and above a metaphorical lighting of a candle, the difficult business of such a dearth of fresh air snuffing out its efficacy. Therefore, the film’s telescoping of three eras (situated, in order: 1966, 1911 and 2005) draws attention to a long and virtually frozen engagement.

You can’t say that Three Times doesn’t effectively pinpoint a percolating, passionately pursued through the ages, not only including but especially in our time. And it leads this thrust with a rich, palpable and witty musical score. It’s 1966 and those doo-wop stalwarts, The Platters, who may be done at home, submerged by the likes of “California Dreamin’,” delivered by the archly-named, Mamas and Papas, still make waves with their tight harmonies (their Enigma Variations)—in Taiwan, in and about the peripatetic business of May, a billiard hall hostess. The TNT comprising this apparently low-key glimpse must wait a bit while we come to a moment of body language in perfect confluence with the disc’s final bat flip in watching the ball clear the fence. An admirer of May, namely, Chen, a young man on leave from military service and trying to locate her current workplace, tosses his match, on lighting his smoke, spot-on the downbeat pushing the final lyric, “eyes!” In Part 3, it’s 2005 and Hou is up to his well-established genius of limning nearly deliriously bad musical and poetic talent. The culprit, Jing (even a jingle would be a relief from what she does) is a partially blind epileptic getting up in the middle of the night, for a smoke, from a bed including her Tooth Fairy photo-guy, Zhen, picking up a fluorescent lighting panel and casting it on a dark wall setting off another crescendo in the form of photos of domestic scenes disclosing attractive women—one instance of which involving a variant of Cherner chairs. The first flash on the gallery wall comes to coincide with that split second (trailing to infinity) when Chen put his all (like Bautista) into tossing that match. The geisha, Mei, in Part 2, her options dwindling, her vocalizing to zither accompaniment being tightened to a kind of death rattle, turns it all around (for how long?) in putting her long-standing, stuffed-shirt (Gerbier-like) Army of Shadows revolutionary-client’s face towel back to perfect balance with a graceful and definitive twist of her hand. Once again, the pristine downbeat coming through stormy times. (more…)

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