Cinema and Media Studies Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Richard I. Suchenski
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0257


Hou Hsiao-hsien is the most important and influential Taiwanese filmmaker, and his sensuous, richly nuanced work is at the heart of everything that is vigorous and genuine in contemporary film culture. An heir to the great modernist legacy—with its use of elegantly staged long takes, the performance of many non-actors, and a radically, even vertiginously, elliptical mode of storytelling—Hou’s work does place unusual demands on the viewer, but its sophistication is understated and its formal innovations are irreducibly bound up with the sympathetic observation of everyday experience. By combining multiple forms of tradition with a uniquely cinematic approach to space and time, Hou has created a body of work that, through its stylistic originality and historical gravity, opens up new possibilities for the medium.

General Overviews

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s work has exerted a pronounced influence on the development of international cinema and its implications, in terms of both film style and historical representation, and his films have been the subject of active debate in several languages (from Chinese [Lin, et al. 2000] to Italian [Chiesi 2002]). Some of the books cited in this section derive from international conferences (in Nagoya, Japan [Maeno, et al. 2012], and Rennes, France [Fiant and Vasse 2013]). Others were connected to retrospectives of his films. These include the first edition of the French-language book Frodon 2005, which was connected to a 1999 retrospective at the Cinemathèque française in Paris, as well as the comprehensive English-language anthology Suchenski 2014, which was synchronized with a twenty-five city global retrospective tour that ran from 2014 through 2016.

  • Chiesi, Roberto, ed. Hou Hsiao-hsien: Cinema della memorie nel corpo del tempo. Genoa, Italy: Le Mani, 2002.

    Chiesi’s volume is the best Italian-language introduction to Hou’s films. Translated as “Hou Hsiao-hsien: Cinema of Memories in the Body of Time.”

  • Fiant, Antony, and David Vasse, eds. Le cinéma de Hou Hsiao-hsien: Espaces, temps, sons. Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013.

    This volume is the published version of fourteen presentations delivered between January 2011 and February 2012 through a partnership of the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie and Université Rennes 2. The emphasis is on Hou’s treatment of urban spaces (Taipei, Tokyo, and Paris), temporality, and sound. Translated as “The Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien: Spaces, times, sounds.”

  • Frodon, Jean-Michel, ed. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 2d ed. Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 2005.

    The standard French-language introduction (first published in 1999) to Hou’s work includes a perceptive essay by the editor, a lengthy and revealing interview with the filmmaker by Emmanuel Burdeau (expanded in the second edition), and short critical texts on Hou’s films from Cute Girl (1980) through Three Times (2005).

  • Lin, Wenchi, Shen Shiao-ying, and Jerome Chen-ya Li, eds. 戲戀人生: 侯孝賢電影硏究. Taipei: Rye Field, 2000.

    This volume is the best Chinese-language introduction to Hou’s work, with essays by a group of prominent Taiwanese critics. Translated as “Passionate detachment: Critical essays on Hou Hsiao-hsien.” See also the follow-up volume by the same editors: 戲夢時光: 侯孝賢電影的城市, 歷史, 美學 (Taipei: Taiwan Film Institute, 2014). Translated as “Dreamer of time: Hou Hsiao-hsien’s cinema; City, history, aesthetics.”

  • Lupke, Christopher. The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien: Culture, Style, Voice, and Motion. Amherst, NY: Cambria, 2016.

    Discusses the polyglot structure of Hou’s work in relation to the complexities of language, history, politics, and ethnicity in Taiwan.

  • Maeno, Michiko, Hoshino Yukiyo, Nishimura Masao, and Setsu Kagen, eds. 侯孝賢の詩学と時間のプリズム. Nagoya, Japan: Arumu, 2012.

    This Japanese-language anthology includes a series of essays written by international scholars for a symposium held in Nagoya, Japan, in June 2011. Translated as “Hou Hsiao-hsien’s prism of poetics and time.”

  • Suchenski, Richard I., ed. Hou Hsiao-hsien. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.

    The most extensive English-language resource, the book interweaves a range of perspectives through a series of interviews Suchenski conducted with the director and his collaborators, production documents, and original contributions from scholars, filmmakers, and critics in Taiwan, China, Japan, France, and North America.

  • Udden, James. No Man an Island: The Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009.

    Udden’s monograph, derived from his dissertation (“Hou Hsiao-hsien and the Aesthetics of Historical Experience,” University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2003), places special emphasis on Hou’s stylistic development and its relationship to the historical transformation of Taiwanese cinema and society.

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