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Three Times (Unrated)

Release Date: April 26th, 2006 (IFC Center) by IFC Films.
The Cast: Shu Qi , Chang Chen.
Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien.
In Mandarin and Taiwanese with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: Three different love stories set in three different time periods.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: In the first story, “A Time for Love”, set in 1966, a young man (Chen) briefly falls in love with a young woman (Qi) at a pool-hall. He departs for the army and writes her romantic letters about how much he misses her. When he comes back for a day, he can’t find her at the pool-hall where she used to work, so he searches for her. This segment has beautiful cinematography with a well-chosen musical score and a fitting slow pace. It also happens to have the most complicated plot. Next, in “A Time for Freedom”, set in 1991, a young politically-oriented man, also played by Chang Chen, talks to a young courtesan, also played by Shu Qi. However, this time around, writer/director Hou Hsiao-hsien chooses to mute their dialogue and substitute their words as text in between scenes instead. Not much really happens in terms of plot and even character development is difficult to notice here. Nonetheless, the cinematography is, again, quite impressive. Finally, both actors also play in “A Time for Youth”, about photographer and a rock singer who fall in love in Tapei during 2005. In this segment, the pacing suddenly picks up a bit, but there’s still not much in terms of plot and character development. Its unimaginative plot feels tedious and meanders quite a bit, unlike in “A Time for Love” which is the most entertaining of the three stories.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: “A Time for Love” has the most subtle chemistry between the two young lovers and when the young soldier searches for his lover, you can feel his longing for her. Unfortunately, there’s not much emotion going on in the other two stories. It’s interesting to ponder why writer/director Hou Hsiao-hsien chose to put the stories in a non-chronological order (1966 to 1911 to 2005). Perhaps he wants to say that love is somewhat timeless or, more simply, he doesn’t want you to think that the lovers are all related in some literal way. It would have been much more thought provoking if he were to keep at least one of the characters in each story as they react to love throughout the years.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: The 2nd and 3rd love stories have weak plot and character development.


IN A NUTSHELL: Beautiful cinematography and music score, but the entertainment value simply diminishes in the 2nd and 3rd stories.


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