A cinema of recurring shots: a video essay

September 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, the curtains were drawn on the 72nd Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia, colloquially known as the Venice Film Festival, and the murderer’s row of a jury – headed by Mexican maestro Alfonso Cuarón – ensured that Venezuelan erotic drama Desde Alla would be the first Latin American entry to take home the coveted Leone d’oro (Golden Lion) for best film in competition. Among the jury members was Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien who, 26 years ago, was handed his own Golden Lion for historical drama A City of Sadness.

In ‘reviewing’ the Taiwanese auteur’s 2001 picture Millennium Mambo, I softened my so-so reaction by suggesting that I would one day be awed by a Hou Hsiao-Hsien-directed film. Lo and behold, prior to viewing his most recent offering, the sumptuously opaque wuxia epic The Assassin, I sat myself down and proceeded to marvel at the stately yet vibrant A City of Sadness. Of the many things in this film that arrested my gaze, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s use of recurring set-ups and identical shots warranted – in my mind – a brief and modest video essay.

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