Great movie, bad format
wabrit | Derbyshire | 09/27/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It's wonderful to see Hou Hsiao-hsien's films available on DVD at last, given how difficult it is too see them in theaters, and this is a fascinating and rewarding film. But FoxLorber have in their wisdom decided to present it in fullscreen only which is a big, bad mistake because (1) With DVD you'd think they'd at least offer the choice of fullscreen vs. letterbox, and (2) Isn't it likely that most people who would bother to buy this DVD would want to see the film as originally intended by the director? Very disappointing and I will stick to my PAL VHS widescreen version of this movie instead."
A long awaited disappointment
H. TAN | Connecticut USA | 10/12/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"THE PUPPETMASTER is probably the most accessible film in Hou Hsiao-Hsien's repertoire. A stunningly beautiful film based on the first 37 years of Li Tien-Lu's life in Japanese occupied Taiwan, the sophistication in the structure, cinematography, sound, and the interesting use of symbolism is hard to parallel. When I saw this film for the first time in NYC earlier this year, I was absolutely awed by the genuinely recreated atmosphere of an era that is simultaneously close and remote to me. Days, weeks, and even months after viewing, I found myself discovering more and more quality and meaning in the movie. I am glad I caught the last show of the week-long Hou Hsia-Hsien Festival at The Screening Room, because the DVD is just not the same. The full-screen cropping and the poor color rendition diminished the quality tremendously. It hurts to see a piece of great art being butchered like this. Imagine someone brought you a bad photocopy of 66% area of Van Gogh's Starry Night and said "You haven't seen this great painting, right? Here is a copy for you to enjoy." Winstar's effort to bring Hou's films to us is absolutely admirable, but unfortunately the effort is largely wasted. This comment is not meant to discourage Winstar from pursuing future projects. We just like to see a fine film being presented nicely, like FLOWERS FROM SHANGHAI."
Hou's one of the most unknown great directors
Jeremy Heilman | Brooklyn, NY USA | 09/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...Hou's "The Puppetmaster" is actually a period drama that has no special effects in it at all. It deals with the life of a puppetmaster (no, not John Malkovich)in Taiwan in the late 19th century. The film integrates documentary interviews with its real life subject and fictional recreations of moments in his life. I'm not intimately familiar with the history of Taiwan, but this film makes this man's life parallel it. Most of the film takes place during Taiwan's occupation by Japan, and the film shows the way that the Taiwanese people were forced to give up a great deal of their culture (making the oral histories that the puppetmaster tells that much more valuable.)Hou's style in this film uses a mostly static camera. He allows us to see the rhythm of Taiwanese life as it actually was. We get to see several demonstrations of the puppetmaster's talents, and we get to see "behind the scenes" as he gets his job and learns the trade. The narrator is displaced from his family by a result of his choice in career (since he needs to live with his mentor) and the film has an overall sense of both personal and national loss. It's not a film that has a great deal of action, and the average shot's length can be measured in minutes instead of seconds, so the 2 1/2 hour running time may be tough for some to swallow. Nonetheless, there are several stunning shots and an overall impact that you feel at the end of the film that make it more than worthwhile."