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A Time to Live and a Time to Die


Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1985, 138 mins. 35mm. With Yu An-shun, Tien Feng, Mei Fang. The centerpiece of Hou’s coming-of-age trilogy, bracketed by A Summer at Grandpa’s and Dust in the Wind, this “delicate, haunted drama” (Richard Brody, The New Yorker) is drawn from the director’s own memories of growing up in rural Taiwan after his family’s immigration from China. A Time to Live and a Time to Die follows Hou’s on-screen alter-ego Ah-hsiao (nicknamed “Ah-ha”) from 1947 to 1965, including an early immersion in street gang culture. The film’s scope poignantly depicts the toll of time, the presence-in-absence of the left-behind mainland, and Taiwan’s gradual changing of the generational guards. “[T]his unhurried family chronicle carries an emotional force and a historical significance… an excellent introduction to [Hou’s] work as a whole.” —Jonathan Rosenbaum

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