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Hou Hsiao-hsien Talks About Film
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What kind of movies are people's favorite? It's a question that bewilders many film directors. 


But Hou Hsiao-hsien, a most acclaimed Taiwan director, does not think it difficult to answer. "Simple, touching and powerful movies are always most welcome."   


As an old friend of Hong Kong International Film Festival, Hou, who directed films Dust in the Wind and City of Sadness, was invited to attend a seminar Wednesday, sharing his understanding of a good film.   


"Movies are divided into two groups: good and bad. A good movie should be simple and touching, and in the meantime, it must be powerful. It's most difficult to make a powerful movie because truth is usually beyond words and images," he said.   


Some people say art films have no market because they are hard to understand. Hou, who ridiculed himself as "box-office poison", did not quite agree. "Personal style is not opposite to the market. What you shoot is life and the society. Your own experience also reflects and expresses others' experience. Why you say 'I can't understand' is just because of the habit of movie-watching is being changed."   


Hollywood movies were not so bad in the early days actually, he said. But with the development of the film industry, giant production studios started to shoot "easy movies" in order to attract audience globally, especially youngsters who are more willing to go to the movie. In those "easy movies", every single message is clearly explained, leaving no room for pondering.


When such movies become the mainstream, fewer people would be patient enough to watch a film that needs to pause and think. Though confronted with this difficult situation, Hou has kept shooting films that require audience to think all these years. He believes that such films can inject fresh blood to the movie industry and finally make an impact on the mainstream. "Since these films are of low cost, they are courageous enough to experiment and produce something creative. Hollywood movies are always ready to pick up those fresh elements," Hou said.   


To educate audience is another important way to push ahead movie industry into the right direction. Denmark sets a good example, Hou said. In that country, the government chooses all kinds of movies, from the very earliest silent movies to the most pioneering ones, for the primary and secondary school students. They are made into text book series then. The government also train the teachers at schools, who will later guide students how to appreciate the films.   


"Not only for films, so is the case for all other forms of art. This is what we call 'humane accomplishment'," Hou said.   


As Digital Video (DV) is popularly used nowadays, ordinary people can also shoot and produce a film, which sooner or later, as Hou believes, will greatly change the current movie phenomenon. But there is a trend that is really worrisome. "The films they shoot are always based on others' imagination. They are so alike to what they have watched in the theaters. They do not feel the life with their own hearts. They do not watch the society with their own eyes," Hou said.   


"It's quite easy to grasp shooting techniques, but the key point is how to observe," Hou added.  


(People's Daily April 7, 2006)

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