Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Review - The Puppetmaster

August 18, 2007

The Puppetmaster - Taiwan, 1993

It is said that Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s films are an acquired taste. His film Three Times literally becomes a silent film for forty minutes and Flowers of Shanghai has characters that look so alike that it’s often hard to know which plotline you’re looking at. That said, I enjoyed both those films, just as I did The Puppetmaster.

The Puppetmaster tells the true story of Li Tienlu, from his father’s controversial marriage (he marries into a woman’s family and takes her last name) to his experiences as an artist in Taiwan during its years under Japanese occupation. It shows how difficult it was to be an outdoor artist after World War II began, and yet the film is not anti-Japanese. For that matter, the film is not judgmental about any of its characters. When Li decides to accept a position performing propaganda for the Japanese government, it is depicted as a logical decision because it allows him to feed and shelter his family.

Throughout the film, the viewer is treated to clips of the real Li talking about key moments in his life. They are humorous and insightful, in particular his stories of his mother and grandmother.

The film is almost two and a half hours long and at times slow, but it is certainly worth the time.

Three and a half stars

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