We are very proud to announce our two-day symposium dedicated to the work of Hou Hsiao-hsien, widely recognized as one of the greatest living filmmakers. During the symposium we will specifically deal with Hou’s film style and pay special attention to the difficult to define ‘micro-cinematic’ elements, which David Bordwell described as ‘just-noticeable differences’: texture, pace, rhythm. The symposium will be attended by the director himself, as well as his regular screenwriter Chu Tien-wen (one of the major Taiwanese writers), and offers lectures by experts David Bordwell (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA), Adrian Martin (critic, AUS), Cristina Álvarez López (critic, ESP), Richard Suchenski (Bard College, USA), Bérénice Reynaud (California Institute of the Arts, USA) and James Udden (Gettysburg College, USA). The symposium is curated by our very own Tom Paulus.
As mentioned above, the term ‘just-noticeable differences’ refers to the kind of 'micro-stylistic' elements that constitute much of the richness of what David Bordwell has termed Hou's 'cinema of constraint'. Hou's cinema, at once simplified and highly intricate, is characterized by subtly shifting cues, both at the level of his elliptical, highly detailed narratives and his distinctly serialist conception of style and structure. It is in this regard that he has influenced much of what is currently termed 'Asian minimalism.' We want to suggest that interest in Hou is also at the basis of a recent tendency in film criticism to focus on the minutiae of style.
What we have in mind is classical mise en scène criticism - the study of blocking and staging, of densely packed frames, subtle camera movements, expressive or understated elements of setting or performance - but complemented with attention to less immediately noticeable elements of rhythm, pace, mood, light, color, texture and sound (both music, effects and the pace, inflections and 'grain' of speaking voices), elements that are at the basis of Adrian Martin's recent book on Mise en Scène and Film Style. On the other hand, we want to extend our focus on the subtle intricacy of Hou's style to include the 'reticent' nature of his storytelling strategies and the delicate attention to the smallest, always concrete and specific elements that characterizes the political and historical aspects of his cinema.
We’ll announce the definitive schedule in the course of the coming weeks. Practical info can be found elsewhere on this site.
This symposium wouldn't be possible without the support of CINEMATEK. It is part of their unique retrospective on Taiwanese cinema, which will be announced shortly. We are forever grateful for their support, and would like to thank Nicola Mazzanti and Micha Pletinckx in particular.