Three Times (2005)

Another film in which not a lot happens, but in this case it happens three times. BOOM TISH!!!!! Actually, that’s being a bit unfair. Probably. Maybe. I haven’t seen anything by Hou Hsiao-Hsien before; the library used to have The Puppet Master on VHS, though I never borrowed it, and I know Millennium Mambo came out here on DVD, but otherwise he’s another director who doesn’t seem to have broken out of the festival circuit much (unless I’m wrong Flight of the Red Balloon is his only local theatrical release so far). Of course, I’ve probably missed TV showings of his films just because I didn’t know the titles; I know Hou is treasured by the cinephiles but I don’t know much more than that… I did recognise this one, though, when I saw it in the TV guide so thought I’d start rectifying my ignorance. I knew almost nothing about the film bar my dim memories of reviews saying it had three stories set in different periods and one was done like a silent film. That was about right, though I was surprised to see the “silent” segment (set in 1911) was filmed in colour like the rest of the film and the only “silent” signifiers were the score and intertitles. It was an affectation I frankly found off-putting and it pretty much helped distance me from the rest of the film (to be honest I pretty much tuned out in the contemporary closing segment)… and, really, not a lot happens three times; the first story (set in the late 60s) struck me as essentially slight and a bit aimless, though not without some degree of mild charm that I found absent from the other two stories, neither of which seemed to add any further substance. On the whole it struck me as a vague and empty exercise.

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