(aka "In the Hands of the Puppetmaster" or "Hsimeng jensheng")


Taiwan 1993

Hou Hsiao-hsien's masterpiece about the childhood and early adulthood of octogenerian Taiwanese puppet master and actor Li Tien-lu. This is the second part of a trilogy about Taiwanese life in the 20th century, covering all but the first few years of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945). Hou's preference for filming entire scenes in long takes from fixed camera angles and for eschewing close-ups has never been as masterfully employed and modulated as it is here--some of the landscape shots are breathtaking. The film alternates between re-created scenes from Li's life, Li speaking directly to the camera about his past, and extracts from his puppet and stage performances, creating a layered density in the narrative that does full justice to the complexity and poetry of Hou's investigation.

from a capsule by Jonathan Rosenbaum found at the Chicago Reader's website HERE


Theatrical Release: September 13th, 1993 at the Toronto Film Festival

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DVD Review: Fox Lorber Film - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Adam for the Review!

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Fox Lorber Film

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 2.22.59

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Audio Stereo
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Fox Lorber Film

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Director Filmography
• Character Family Trees
• Film Background Notes
• Flowers of Shanghai trailer

DVD Release Date: September 25th, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 16



Comments Not a very good disc by any means. There is minor combing evident, the audio is a bit weak, but overall, I’m concerned with the contrast levels. At times, some of the images are so dark that you can hardly make out any characters in the frame. Hou is known for his play with light, but the washed out nature of this print seems to exaggerate what was obviously an artistic decision, into something that hinders the viewing of the film. Even the exteriors look awful. out of

NOTE: But I'd also like to point out that I think this DVD suffers from another very significant problem; the PAL Video tape I have of this film is I think 1:1.85 aspect ratio. The Fox Lorber DVD crops this severely to 1:1.33, and it looks to me like a complete disaster as the framing on the DVD ruins the director's original composition. (Thanks Alan!)

 - Adam Lemke



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Region 1 - NTSC


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