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A CITY OF SADNESS [Beiqíng chéngshì]

A CITY OF SADNESS [Beiqíng chéngshì]

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A CITY OF SADNESS [Beiqíng chéngshì]

  • Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
  • Starring Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Shu-Fen Hsin, Sung Young Chen
  • 1989 | 152mins | Taiwan | rated (15)

On 28th February 1947, Taiwan’s people rebelled against their nationalist government. An estimated 20,000 of them were shot dead by troops, and until 1988 there was a ban on mentioning the incident. In 1989, Taiwan’s greatest director, Hou Hsiao-hsien, released this film about it.


Yet A CITY OF SADNESS is no ordinary historical film, as neither the incident nor the slaughter are depicted. One of the film’s central characters, played by Tony Leung, is a deaf photographer whose speech is intertitled. The film is about business, art, health and gangsterism, as much as the conflict itself. More than this, Hou’s film has a musical structure. Situations and camera-angles repeat. Characterisation and story are built like a mosaic. The form of this film is mesmerising. The result is as rigorous and complex as Yasujiro Ozu, whom Hou much admires. - Synopsis