Three Times

Last updated
Three Times
Three times.jpg
Theatrical Poster
Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
Produced by Chang Hua-fu
Written by Hou Hsiao-hsien,
Chu T’ien-wen
Starring Shu Qi,
Chang Chen
Cinematography Mark Lee Ping Bin
Edited byLiao Ching-song
Distributed byFirst Distributors
Release date
  • May 20, 2005 (2005-05-20)(Cannes)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryTaiwan
Language Min Nan
Mandarin

Three Times (Chinese: 最好的時光; Zuìhǎo de shíguāng; lit. 'Best of Times') is a 2005 Taiwanese film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien. It consists of three separate stories of romance, set in different eras, using the same lead actors, Shu Qi and Chang Chen. In "A Time for Love," set in 1966, a soldier (Chang) meets an alluring pool-hall hostess (Shu). "A Time for Freedom," set in 1911, focuses on a courtesan's relationship with a freedom fighter during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. In "A Time for Youth," set in 2005, a singer forsakes her female lover for a photographer with whom she's having an affair.

Contents

The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, [1] won the Golden Apricot for Best Feature Film at the 2006 Yerevan International Film Festival, and received positive reviews. In 2017 The New York Times listed it as one of the 25 best films of the 21st century. [2] It has been praised for its topical themes of communication, romance and relationships, with each linked symbolically to the era it takes place in.

Plot

A Time for Love

(Chinese: 戀愛夢; pinyin: liàn ài mèng) Set in Kaohsiung in 1966 (the year of the Cultural Revolution in mainland China and consequently a time of great freedom in Taiwan) with dialogue in Taiwanese Hokkien, the first story follows a young soldier, Chen, who is awaiting deployment to his station, and his encounter with a young woman, May, who works in a poolhall. Chen and May meet while playing pool together and often exchange glances while trying to remain discreet about their mutual attraction. As May begins to close the hall for the night, Chen promises to write to her before departing and she is flattered.

Three months later, May receives a letter from Chen in which he writes that he hopes to see her soon. After working at the poolhall for a few months, she decides to return to Chiayi, where she had previously worked.

One day, while off duty, Chen gets a chance to visit the Kaohsiung poolhall only to discover that May no longer works there. He begins to follow her trail, finally tracking her down at a different pool hall in Huwei. They spend some time together before heading to the train station so that he may return to his post, but arrive too late, missing the departure. She suggests they wait for the next bus and as they stand at the stop, he takes her hand and they huddle together underneath their umbrella.

A Time for Freedom

(Chinese: 自由夢; pinyin: zì yóu mèng) Set in Dadaocheng in 1911 (when Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese), with dialogue presented only through on-screen titles (as in a silent film), the second segment follows a singing courtesan living in a brothel who wants to be freed by becoming a concubine to Mr. Chang, a customer whose occupation as a traveling writer and political freedom fighter keeps him away for months at a time. When he visits her, he often shares stories of his travels and she sings to him (the only times we hear a voice during the segment). Despite being fond of her, he denies her the opportunity of freedom because he disagrees with the system of concubinage and is overcommitted to the political cause of fighting the Japanese through diplomacy.

When her younger sister, Ah Mei, who also works as a courtesan, is impregnated by a customer who can't afford to buy her out, Mr. Chang decides to help buy the younger sister's freedom. After being bought, Ah Mei goes to speak with her sister and they say their farewells.

One month later, Mr. Chang returns to the brothel to visit the courtesan. She tells him that she has been asked by her Madame to remain until Ah Mei's position is replaced and hopefully glances at him. Mr. Chang doesn't respond.

A few days later, the new courtesan is brought in and speaks with her. She asks her age; the girl says she is ten. After Ah Mei comes to visit, the courtesan asks Mr. Chang if he has any plans to make her his concubine. He remains silent and she begins to cry.

Three months later, the courtesan listens to the new girl's singing lessons when she receives a letter from Mr. Chang. In it, he writes of a poem that reflects on the sorrow that may befall Taiwan after being liberated by its captors. After reading the poem, the courtesan wipes her tears away.

A Time for Youth

(Chinese: 青春夢; pinyin: qīng chūn mèng) Set in Taipei in 2005, with dialogue in Mandarin, the third segment begins with Jing, an epileptic club singer in a lesbian relationship, who has a sexual encounter with a photographer, Zhen, in his apartment and begins an affair. During one of her performances, he comes onstage to photograph her up close, prompting other photographers to follow suit, all while her girlfriend watches from the crowd. After Jing begins to interact with Zhen on stage, his girlfriend (presumably) walks out on the performance. Back at his apartment, Zhen finds Jing's badge with instructions on what to do in case of an epileptic episode. Before he goes to return it, he spots his girlfriend down the street and tries to embrace her, but she rejects his advances.

Later, at a club, Jing and her girlfriend argue over Jing's failure to respond to her calls. Jing calms her down with a hug and promises to wait for her to perform. After they arrive at their apartment, Jing receives a text from Zhen to meet the following day so he can give her the photos as well as her misplaced badge. Jing's girlfriend tries to speak with her, but she remains distant. When her girlfriend leaves to bathe, Jing starts writing lyrics inspired by her experience with Zhen.

The following morning, Jing works on recording the music to the song she wrote the night before. She meets up with Zhen and asks him to take her to his place, where they continue their affair. Back at the apartment, Jing's girlfriend wakes up to find Jing absent. After finding Jing's phone left behind, she types Jing a message in which she writes that she's tired of waiting to be loved back and that she'll kill herself like Jing's previous girlfriend.

Jing returns home and finds the message. She reads it and lies down on the bed. The song she wrote begins to play. We see her riding with Zhen on his motorbike along the freeway.

Production

Three Times was originally meant to be an omnibus collection of short films, with Hou directing only one of the segments. But the producers were unable to obtain the financing to hire three directors, so Hou took over the whole production. Hou cast Shu Qi for the female lead roles, marking his second collaboration with her, after 2001's Millennium Mambo. For the male lead roles, Hou cast Chang Chen, adding to Chen's list of collaborations with notable Chinese and Taiwanese directors, including Edward Yang, Wong Kar Wai, Ang Lee and Jeffrey Lau. He and Shu reunited with Hou in his 2015 wuxia film The Assassin.

The film's Chinese title is best translated as "Our Best Moments", and Hou has said the stories are somewhat inspired by his memories. He has said, "It seems to me that by contrasting love stories from three different times, we can feel how people's behavior is circumscribed by the times and places they live in. [...] I'm pushing sixty, and these things have been hanging around for so long it seems like they're part of me. Maybe the only way I can discharge my debt to them is to film them."

Discussing Three Times in an interview for Artificial Eye’s UK DVD edition, Hou said:

I feel that every era has its own distinctive sense. These eras will never come again. Time keeps moving forward. One’s environment and one’s thoughts keep changing as well. They’ll never come again. It’s not that they’re good times, it’s because we’re recalling them that we call them good times.

It has been reported that there was not enough time for the actors to learn their dialogue for the second segment, so Hou chose to use inter-titles instead.

Critical reception

Three Times received generally positive reviews when it was released in North America. It holds an 86% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Most critics agreed that the opening segment, A Time for Love (which is often likened to the works of Wong Kar-Wai), was the most successful, and that the final segment, A Time for Youth (which was compared to Hou's 2001 film Millennium Mambo ) was the least, but it was still praised. Response to the second segment, A Time for Freedom, was in between, with many critics comparing it to Hou's 1997 film Flowers of Shanghai .

Roger Ebert, who championed the film at Cannes, gave it four stars out of four in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times :

"Three stories about a man and a woman, all three using the same actors. Three years: 1966, 1911, 2005. Three varieties of love: unfulfilled, mercenary, meaningless. All photographed with such visual beauty that watching the movie is like holding your breath so the butterfly won’t stir."

Kay Weissberg in Variety wrote:

"Synthesizing Hou Hsiao-hsien's ambivalent relationship with time and memory, Three Times forms a handy connecting arc between the Taiwanese helmer's earlier work and the increasingly fragmentary direction of his recent films. Best appreciated by those familiar with his slow rhythms and pessimistic take on contempo life, pic presents three stories using the same leads set in three time periods to explore love and how the present circumscribes lives."

Stephen Whitty of the Star-Ledger wrote:

"According to one American critic, Three Times is 'why cinema exists.' Only if you think that cinema has no higher calling than presenting a long series of gorgeously lit close-ups of beautiful actresses are you likely to agree."

Independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch wrote:

"Hou Hsiao-hsien is not only the crowning jewel of contemporary Taiwanese cinema, but an international treasure. His films are, for me, among the most inspiring of the past thirty years, and his grace and subtlety as a filmmaker remain unrivaled. Film after film, Hou Hsiao-hsien is able to adeptly balance a historical and cultural overview with the smallest, most quiet and intimate details of individual interactions. His narratives can appear offhand and non-dramatic, and yet the structures of the films themselves are all about storytelling and the beauty of its variations. And Hou's camera placement is never less than exquisite.

His newest film, THREE TIMES, is also his newest masterpiece. A trilogy of three love stories, Chang Chen and Shu Qi beautifully portray Taiwanese lovers in three distinct time periods: 1966, 1911 and 2005. The first section (in 1966), just on its own, is one of the most perfect pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen. The second, set in a brothel in 1911, remarkably explores dialogue and verbal exchange by almost completely eliminating sound itself (!), while the final piece leaves us in present-day Taipei—a city of rapidly changing social and physical landscapes where technology has a harsh effect on delicate interpersonal communication. The resonance of these combined stories, their differences and similarities, their quietness and seeming simplicity, left me in a near dream-state—something that only happens to me after the most striking cinematic experiences.

Now, for the first time, one of Hou Hsiao-hsien's films is finally being properly released (by IFC) in the U.S. And this makes me, as a true fan, very, very happy." [3]

Box office & Distribution

Three Times was released in the United States on April 26, 2006, and was only the second of Hou's films to receive theatrical distribution in the USA (the first was Millennium Mambo ). In its opening weekend on three screens, it grossed $14,197 ($4,732 per screen). Never playing at more than five theaters at any point during its theatrical run, it eventually grossed $151,922.

The film was released on a region 1 DVD in the United States by IFC Films in 2006. It is also available on digital for rent and for purchase on Amazon Prime Video.

Awards and nominations

Related Research Articles

<i>2046</i> (film) 2004 Hong Kong film directed by Wong Kar-Wai

2046 is a 2004 Hong Kong romantic drama film written and directed by Wong Kar-wai. It is a loose sequel to Wong's films Days of Being Wild (1990) and In the Mood for Love (2000). It follows the aftermath of Chow Mo-wan's unconsummated affair with Su Li-zhen in 1960s Hong Kong but also includes some science fiction elements and makes frequent references to the date of December 24 or Christmas Eve, on which many significant events in the film occur.

Chang Chen Taiwanese actor

Chang Chen, sometimes credited as Chen Chang according to Western name order, is a Taiwanese actor. His father Chang Kuo-chu and his brother Hans Chang are also actors.

Shu Qi Taiwanese actress and model

Lin Li-hui, better known by her stage name Shu Qi, is a Taiwanese-Hong Kong actress and model. As of 2014, she was among the highest paid actresses in Taiwan.

Hou Hsiao-hsien Taiwanese film director, screenwriter, actor and film producer

Hou Hsiao-hsien is a Taiwanese film director, screenwriter, producer and actor. He is a leading figure in world cinema and in Taiwan's New Wave cinema movement. He won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1989 for his film A City of Sadness (1989), and the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 for The Assassin (2015). Other highly regarded works of his include The Puppetmaster (1993) and Flowers of Shanghai (1998).

<i>Flowers of Shanghai</i> 1998 film by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Flowers of Shanghai is a 1998 Taiwanese film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien and starring Tony Leung, Hada Michiko, Annie Shizuka Inoh, Shuan Fang, Jack Kao, Carina Lau, Rebecca Pan, Michelle Reis and Vicky Wei. It was voted the third best film of the 1990s in the 1999 Village Voice Film Poll. The film was selected as the Taiwanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 71st Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.

<i>Good Men, Good Women</i> 1995 film by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Good Men, Good Women is a 1995 Taiwanese film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, starring Annie Yi, Lim Giong, and Jack Kao. It is the last installment in the trilogy that began with A City of Sadness (1989) and continued with The Puppetmaster (1993). Like its predecessors, it deals with the complicated issues of Taiwanese history and national identity.

<i>A City of Sadness</i> 1989 film by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

A City of Sadness is a 1989 Taiwanese historical drama film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien. It tells the story of a family embroiled in the "White Terror" that was wrought on the Taiwanese people by the Kuomintang government (KMT) after their arrival from mainland China in the late 1940s, during which thousands of Taiwanese and recent emigres from the Mainland were rounded up, shot, and/or sent to prison. The film was the first to deal openly with the KMT's authoritarian misdeeds after its 1945 takeover of Taiwan, which had been restored to China following Japan's defeat in World War II, and the first to depict the February 28 Incident of 1947, in which thousands of people were massacred by the KMT.

Edward Yang was a Taiwanese filmmaker. Yang, along with fellow auteurs Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang, was one of the leading film-makers of the Taiwanese New Wave and Taiwanese Cinema. He won the Best Director Award at Cannes for his 2000 film Yi Yi.

Wu Nien-jen Taiwanese scriptwriter, film director and author

Wu Nien-jen is a scriptwriter, director, and author. He is one of the most prolific and highly regarded scriptwriters in Taiwan and a leading member of the New Taiwanese Cinema, although he has also acted in a number of films. He starred in Edward Yang's 2000 film Yi Yi. Wu is a well-known supporter of the Democratic Progressive Party and has filmed commercials for the party.

<i>Flight of the Red Balloon</i> 2007 film directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Flight of the Red Balloon is a 2007 French-Taiwanese film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien. It is the first part in a new series of films produced by Musée d'Orsay, and tells the story of a French family as seen through the eyes of a Chinese student. The film was shot in August and September 2006 on location in Paris. This is Hou Hsiao-hsien's first non-Asian film. It references the classic 1956 French short The Red Balloon directed by Albert Lamorisse.

<i>Millennium Mambo</i> 2001 film by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Millennium Mambo is a 2001 Taiwanese romantic drama film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien.

Lei Chen Taiwanese activist

Lei Chen was an early leading figure in the movement to bring fuller democracy to the government of the Republic of China.

<i>The Time to Live and the Time to Die</i> 1985 film by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

The Time to Live and the Time to Die, also known as A Time to Live, A Time to Die is a 1985 film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien. This film is inspired by screenwriter-turned-director Hou's own coming-of-age story.

<i>Taipei Story</i> 1985 film directed by Edward Yang

Taipei Story is a 1985 Taiwanese film directed, scored, and co-written by filmmaker Edward Yang — his second full-length feature film and third overall. The film stars Yang's fellow filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien, and singer Tsai Chin, whom Yang subsequently married. It is one of the earliest films of the New Taiwanese Cinema.

Daughter of the Nile is a 1987 film by Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien.

<i>Dust of Angels</i> 1992 film

Dust of Angels is a 1992 Taiwanese crime film directed by Hsu Hsiao-ming, executive produced by Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien. It was entered into Directors' Fortnight at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. "An lah" (安啦) is a Taiwanese Hokkien colloquialism; the title in full roughly translates to "take it easy, lad" or "cool it, kid."

<i>The Assassin</i> (2015 film) 2015 film by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

The Assassin is a 2015 wuxia film directed by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien. A Taiwan/China/Hong Kong co-production, it was an official selection in the main competition section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes, Hou won the award for Best Director. It was released in China and Hong Kong on 27 August, and a day later in Taiwan on 28 August 2015. It was selected as the Taiwanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards but it was not nominated.

Chang Tso-chi Taiwanese film director

Chang Tso-chi is a Taiwanese film director. His 2002 film The Best Of Times was entered into the 59th Venice International Film Festival. His films won Golden Horse Award for Best Feature Film two times, for The Best of Times (2002) and When Love Comes (2010).

Hsiao Ya-chuan Film director from Taiwan

Hsiao Ya-chuan is a Taiwanese film director.

Chang Li-shan Taiwanese politician

Chang Li-shan is a Taiwanese politician. She served on the Legislative Yuan from 2005 to 2008, and again from 2016 to 2018, when she was elected magistrate of Yunlin County.

References

  1. 1 2 "Festival de Cannes: Three Times". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
  2. Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott (9 June 2017). "The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century". NY Times. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  3. Jim Jarmusch - NYC - March 2006