Freer and Sackler Galleries » Films

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The Puppetmaster

Introduction and book-signing by Richard Suchenski, director of the Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College and editor of Hou Hsiao-hsien The puppeteer Li Tien-lu (1909–1998) was one of Taiwan's official national treasures. Hou Hsiao-hsien showcased the old man's acting talents in such films as Dust in the Wind, where he played the incendiary Grandpa. In The Puppetmaster, Hou achieves a masterpiece of storytelling in recreating Li's life, which was set against tumultuous times that made art both impossible and essential. Born during the fifty-year occupation by Japan, Li honed the subtleties of his classical puppet craft amid the politics of censorship, just as he developed as an artist despite everyday pressures of family and poverty. As an intermittent narrator, Li recounts the kind of personal anecdotes from which Hou naturally builds his films, sumptuous with visual detail and, here, punctuated by stunning sequences of puppet performances. This is history filmed, to quote the moniker of Li's… Categories: Films. Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Seating for films is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Auditorium doors will open approximately 30 minutes before each show. Sunday, December 7, 2014, 2:00 PM – 4:25 PM.

Goodbye South, Goodbye

Watch a clip.  Journeying through southern Taiwan from one poorly conceived scam to another, thirty-something Kao, his teenage protégé Flathead, and their girlfriends Hsi and Pretzel are "gangsters" in name only. They spend more time falling asleep and playing Nintendo than experiencing glamorous shootouts or obscene wealth. More clueless failures than violent outcasts, they want to get rich quick but are too confused—or too human—to be any good at it. Taiwanese pop star Lim Giong (Flathead) contributes to the impressive soundtrack, but the landscape controls and frames the film. Viewed through train windows or alongside paved roads, it unveils the possibilities of routes that the characters remain hopelessly unable, or unwilling, to take. Description by Jason Sanders. (1996, 124 min. 35mm, Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles). Categories: Films. Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Seating for films is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Auditorium doors will open approximately 30 minutes before each show. Friday, December 12, 2014, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM.

Flowers of Shanghai

Watch a clip.  To say Flowers of Shanghai was well received by critics is a vast understatement. Phillip Lopate called it "perfect, and one of the most beautiful films ever made"; Chuck Stephens deemed it "one of the greatest films of all time." In a Shanghai brothel circa 1890, an intimate gambling party is going on—a continuation of last night's events and a preview of tomorrow's. Here, men with money spend time away from arranged marriages, instead fraternizing with women who are expected to love them (for a price). Hou's normally still camera languorously, almost imperceptibly moves as we observe complex relationships that play out in stolen glances and subtle gestures. Fueled by opium on one side and economic need on the other, love blossoms and withers. Particularly affecting are sad-eyed Tony Leung as Master Wang and Michiko Hada as Crimson, the courtesan from whom he seems to be drifting away. Description by Judy Bloch. (1998, 130 min. 35mm, Shanghainese and Cantonese with English subtitles). Categories: Films. Co-sponsor: New 35mm print courtesy Center for Moving Image Arts (CMIA). Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Seating for films is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Auditorium doors will open approximately 30 minutes before each show. Sunday, December 14, 2014, 2:00 PM – 4:10 PM.

Millennium Mambo

Watch the trailer.  A Taipei youth culture of raves, techno music, and Ecstasy pills is distilled into trancelike luminescence in Millennium Mambo, shot by In The Mood for Love’s acclaimed cameraman Mark Lee Ping-bin. The glamorous Shu Qi pouts her way through the city’s neon nightclubs and hostess bars, accompanied by either her jealous DJ boyfriend or a much older, somewhat wiser gangster (Jack Kao). Drugs, dancing, and lovemaking fuel the plot, as does the heroine’s search for a way out of her ever-shrinking circles of associates. “Looking at the young friends around me, I find that their life cycle and rhythm move several times faster than in my generation,” notes Hou. “Like flowers, [they] fade almost immediately upon blooming.” With long takes that linger over colors, lights, and textures, Hou and Lee turn their look at youth into an abstract painting. Description by Jason Sanders. (2001, 119 min. 35mm, Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles). Categories: Films. Venue: Freer Gallery of Art. Event Location: Meyer Auditorium. Cost: Seating for films is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Auditorium doors will open approximately 30 minutes before each show. Sunday, December 21, 2014, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM.