Good Men, Good Women
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Liang Jing's diary is stolen and the pages re faxed back to her forcing her to review this difficult period in her life. The pain of 2 generations are visited upon her: she is preparing to play the part of an anti-Japanese guerrilla in 1940's China in a movie entitled "Good Men, Good Women" and the pages from her diary evoke her past as a drug-addicted barmaid involved with a gangster.
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Good Men Good Women is one of Hou's more ambitious films. It, like the Puppetmaster, attempts to meld the lives of its main character to the history of the period of Taiwan in which that character lived. In this film, Hou examines the life of an actress in the present day as she prepares for her next role as an anti-Japanese freedom fighter who was of some national acclaim in the 1940's and 1950's. The film freely changes time periods between the modern day actress's life, the life of the freedom fighter she's playing, the actress's own past, and the actress's conception of her role in outtakes from the film she's to shoot. This is somewhat confusing, as the film expects you to put it all together yourself, but the answers are all there for you to find.
The film's acting and pacing are similar to other films by Hou, but the film is shorter than most of his others, which might make it a great introduction to his work. I'd reccomend it highly to anyone though, as it proves challenging, artistic, politically bold films are still being made.
The final chapter of Hou Hsiao-hsien's trilogy on Taiwanese history (that also includes A City of Sadness and The Puppetmaster), Good Men, Good Women provides a poignant, harrowing, and thematically complex portrait of postwar and contemporary Taiwan. By presenting the temporal confluence of three separate historically and personally relevant time periods, Hou not only reveals Liang's behavioral pattern of anonymous affairs, emotional isolation, and inner turmoil, but also parallels her self-destructive behavior with the national crisis of identity, hedonism, and cultural disconnection in contemporary Taiwan. In essence, Liang's betrayal of Ah Wei's memory is a modern day, personal manifestation of a national, historical event: the seemingly random persecution of Taiwanese people by their own government during the White Terror. Inevitably, like the nation, Liang is forced to reconcile with her own culpability and ignominious past in order to find closure and inner peace.
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