Three Times is a Hou Hsiao masterpiece. A rapturous and beautiful love story set in three different eras, a pool hall in 1966, a 1911 brothel and present day Taipei. Stylistic and true to life of the times, Hou Hsiao Hsi... more »en brings to life the culture of each period as the tale unfolds. Critically acclaimed for its wisdom, cineamatic style and storytelling it is a must see for any true lover of cinema« less
"Whenever someone says a film is "a critic's movie," the charge is tantamount to the admission: "I don't care to 'think'. In fact, I'm so emotionally walled-off -- possibly as a result of exposure to our diseased American popular culture suffocating the global semiosphere 24-7 -- that I refuse to budge that single instant which might allow myself to open up to the possibilities outside of the so-called 'way movies should be', and what all the clip-packages and trailers announce I should expect and join in lauding." Would these same folks (who wear their ignorance like sham folksy wisdom, or the crust of an ersatz salt-of-the-earth set of mores) begrudge a painting for not telling a story, -- insofar as it's at odds with "'mere' illustrations"?
Hou's latest film is a masterpiece, something like his seventh consecutive one. It's a triptych of stories (which is to say, of situations, the small moments of love in blossom and struggling against circumstance -- which is all to say: of lives lived) that relates the poignance, quietude, and soul in great love's first 20-something pop. As always, Hou sets his own pace, hypnotic, charged and adrift, and shaded with a nuance that telegraphs its meaning via the mise en scène [ie, staging in the frame space] perhaps moreso than through any dialogue spoken. Here's the same couple, more or less (handsome and sly Chang Chen; Shu Qi, beaming, detached, and opiate-cool, her beauty exploding off the screen), loving each other three different times in different moments in time -- in the 1960s, 1920s, 2000s. This IS cinema mastery, you'll see it when you see it -- but not even to ALLOW oneself to respond on a visceral, never mind intellectual, level to these stories (yes, they're no less stories than those of Annie Proulx) is surely some willful abdication of humanity. In short, 'Three Times' is the languid, slow-boil romance to Wong Kar-wai's feverish romance. Yes, "romance" high and true -- that gesture Hollywood abandoned somewhere along the Gulf+Western pipeline.
A magnificent introduction to Hou Hsiao-hsien's films. Work your way backward from here -- 'Café Lumière,' 'Millennium Mambo,' 'Flowers of Shanghai,' 'Goodbye South, Goodbye,' 'Good Men, Good Women,' then skip the DVD of 'The Puppetmaster' because it's likely botched, lament the absence on DVD of 'City of Sadness' and 'Daughter of the Nile,' and finally move on to the four-film boxset from Taiwan (English subtitles included) of his first four features: 'The Boys from Fengkuei: All the Youthful Days'; 'A Summer at Grandpa's'; 'The Time to Live and the Time to Die' (supreme masterpiece); and 'Dust in the Wind' (masterpiece). This is one of the world's greatest living filmmakers -- and one of the greatest in the history of movies."
John Farr | 07/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The brilliance of Hou's magnificently gorgeous meditation on love and longing, of course, is the conceit of using the same two actors in each sequence. And you couldn't ask for better performers than Chang and Shu, who are captivating regardless of the age they're portraying, particularly in the nostalgic, near-wordless "A Time for Love" segment, steeped in a sultry `60s atmosphere. Hou's other brilliant stroke is to make the next part, which unfolds in a brothel during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, a short silent film, with hypnotic music and title cards. Taken as a whole, "Three Times" is nothing short of a rapturous, romantic masterpiece--in triplicate."
Best Foreign Film Of 2006
Jen | 01/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can understand that without certain historical knowledge and an understanding of the current culture of Taiwan, the second and the third piece could be somewhat difficult to related. But the first story is absolutely a masterpiece. It contains minimum plot (if you would call it a plot), minimum dialogue (no more than 10 words in each conversation), yet it makes you fall in love with the characters. Is it possible to blame the critics for calling it anything other than "magic"? "
Great movie, but not for everyone
Christopher R. Travers | Chelan, WA | 06/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is three independent portraits of eras and different aspects of the human condition. The first is set in 1966 and is a portrait of the search for love. The second takes place in 1911 (despite the product description, this seems like a mansion, not a brothel) and tells the story of the need for freedom from a contract of servitude. The final piece demonstrates the heartbreaks and regrets of youth.
Each portrait is a reasonable attempt to match the style of movies of the period in which it is set. For example the 1911 piece is done as a silent movie.
The movie's greatest weakness is also its greatest strength. All of the scenes have a very pedestrian feeling which takes some time to get used to. However, the same slow approach immerses the viewer in the worlds of the characters in a way which other movies do not do.
Also the movie is short on dialog and the focus of the manners and facial expressions of the characters is central.
This is a great movie, but may seem a little slow for some. The acting is superb, as is the directing, etc. But not everyone will enjoy it. However, I would still give this 5 stars. I will probably watch it again and again."
More exciting than Goodbye Dragon Inn...
E. J. Liu | 12/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Three Times is quickly becoming my favorite film, with each viewing I find a new favorite segment. At first it was the third, then the first, now the middle....and those were five viewings ago. In addition to picking a favorite segment, another difficult task is coming up with an overarching theme that connects the three pieces aside from the same two main characters. As a Taiwanese American, I'm partial to Hou's films, but I admit that they are not always easy to understand, or appreciate. Ultimately, it comes down to if the movie strikes a cord with you. For me it did, but I can understand why for some it is only less boring than watching paint dry.
There are so many wonderful moments in the film for me that I can easily fall in love with this film without having to cohere the three different stories. Whether it is the familiar roadsigns that distinguish the drab, nondescript little towns from one another on Chang's quest to find Shu in "A Time for Love," which remind me so much of my own frantic drives on the highway in anticipation of seeing a loved one, or the heartbreaking piano score that picks up its pace as Shu ponders the lamentable fate the little girl is about to enter in "A Time for Freedom," which can be heard on the trailer for the film on youtube by the way, this film immerses and tugs at you surreptitiously and from all directions.
The more I watch the film, the more I struggle to find Hou's message for this film. Is he trying to say that love is eternal, unapologetic and transcends time or that it is cruel, ever-changing and subject to interpretation? This film merits repeated viewing. Give it a chance, and another one, perhaps a third, and decide for yourself. Dare I say it, you don't have to be a fan of Hou's aestheticism and narrative style to enjoy this film."