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Kenji Lui
Director , Producer , Screenwriter
532,891 views| 228  Posts

The Puppetmaster 戲夢人生 - Can history be told?

I recently rewatched Hou Hsiao-hsien's Puppetmaster, it is really a good film that i highly recommend, even though it is more than 2 hours long and there are only less than 100 shots..so yeah, each shot is in average more than 1 minute long and you can tell the pacing is really very very slow...(hard to imagine how a 80~ year old man, Akira Kurosawa, could see it four times)

Certainly the long takes and the mise en scene are excellent, but i guess what makes this film extraordinary and important is the filmmaker's attempt to question history..

by "questioning history", i dont mean he doubts history itself, but that he poses the question of whether history can be told.. the film is mostly composed of talking head interview with the protagonist li tian-lu, a puppetmaster, and narrative reenactment of li's life in drama form, but what is interesting is that the drama and the interviews dont seem to sycrhonize, as if either the interviewee is giving wrong account of his life, or that the filmmaker just fails to recreate what is told...

Just like a film critic once wrote, "although it is a biography of li, after seeing the film, it seems like we don't get to know much about li's life as a puppetmaster, but just the people around him and those who are making an impact on his life"..

it seems like the movie is more about an exploration of how we generate a perspective on history rather than to just tell a story of the puppetmaster himself.. actually thinking about that, it is quite true that what we learn about history (past events, not contemporary) is mostly from text or picture materials, it is just second hand information but not true eye witness account.

So in a sense, history is more or less some texts written by some historians who are supposed to be objective, yet you have no idea of whether they are actually objective or not...Take ancient chinese history as an example, the so called  official history "信史" are usually written by court historians, that means, if the event itself contains bad things about the present ruler at that time, they're supposed to beautify it or at least cover the ugly part... so can we still call these records "history"?

 Therefore, it kinda ultimately leads to the question: can history be accurately told? it is really a question that i don't know how to answer...

over 14 years ago 0 likes  2 comments  0 shares
Kenjilui 15 blog profile
i sure need to check out her work then
over 14 years ago

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english, cantonese, mandarin
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San francisco, United States
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May 14, 2007