A Time to Live and a Time to Die @ Art Gallery of New South Wales


The second instalment in Hou’s groundbreaking trilogy of coming-of-age stories revisits the world of the director’s youth in the small town of Fengshan in rural Taiwan. Hou chronicles a family’s struggle to acclimate to life in Taiwan following their reluctant relocation from the mainland in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War. The elders of the family find meagre solace in unrealistic hopes, while the teenage Ah-ha (Neng), exhilarated and daunted by a new and unfamiliar world, becomes a lout with a gambling obsession. Ah-ha is haunted by the death of his father, his inner turmoil exacerbated by the threat of war which lends menace to his daily existence. The film vividly recreates time and place, with minimal stylistic flourish, and events unfold in a verité, fly-on-the-wall manner with utter frankness: gang violence, family burdens, authoritarian schooling, broken romance and abject poverty. ‘A superbly controlled piece of classical filmmaking, full of warmth and emotion’ – Derek Malcolm, The Guardian.


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