Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Puppetmaster

  • Yvonne Ng


ESSENCE AND ELLIPSIS IN HOU HSIAO HSIEN'S THE PUPPETMASTER THE Puppetmaster (Hsimeng Rensheng, 1993), about the life of veteran puppeteer Li Tienlu, is a groundbreaking film by one of Taiwan's foremost director Hou Hsiao-hsien. The biographical film portrays Li's early life from his birth in 1909 until 1945, when fifty years of Japanese rule on the island came to end. Li, whom the director calls "a living encyclopaedia of Chinese tradition"(1) is seemly regarded as a "national treasure." No stranger to Hou's films, Li has appeared in several of the director's works since Dust in the Wind (1986). Hou's themes are rooted in the daily lives of the Taiwanese, particularly rural life. His films have a nostalgic look to them but at the same time, an unmistakable feel of authenticity and originality born from a realist approach executed in a surprisingly stylized manner. In the film, Li Tienlu's...