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Taiwanese Director Hou Hsiao-hsien Retiring Due to Dementia

Hou Hsiao-hsien, the acclaimed Taiwanese film auteur, is withdrawing from future work due to Alzheimers-related dementia. He will leave unfinished his Shulan River film, which has been in development in recent years. The director’s retirement was revealed earlier this week by film scholar Tony Rayns, who revealed the news at a London screening of Hou’s 1985 film A Time to Live and a Time to Die.

A statement issued later by Hou’s family noted that, before his diagnosis, “he often told us that he found that his love for movies became more and more pure… He has now fully returned to family life and is resting peacefully.”

The statement went on to acknowledge that Hou’s works “have received a lot of recognition at home and abroad in the past, and he has also left many classic works. Not only will he not be forgotten in the torrents of time, his attitude and spirit towards movies will also be preserved by his comrades and fans. Thank you all again.”

Hou’s most recent film, The Assassin, was released in 2015. In a career spanning four decades, the 76-year-old filmmaker directed acclaimed works such as A City of Sadness, The Puppetmaster, Flowers of Shanghai, Millennium Mambo, and Flight of the Red Balloon.

Born in mainland China, Hou and his family moved to Taiwan after the establishment of Maoist rule in Beijing. As a young filmmaker, he became part of Taiwan’s so-called New Wave movement that, in the 1980s, propelled the island into cinematic prominence. Hou’s A City of Sadness, about tensions between native Taiwanese and mainland exiles, won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 1989. His final film, The Assassin, won him the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. Hou also appeared as an actor in several movies, including Taipei Story, a 1985 film by his fellow Taiwanese director Edward Yang.

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Edward Moran
Edward Moran
Edward Moran began his journalistic career many decades ago as a theater and cinema reviewer for Show Business and the New York Theater Review. More recently he contributed film reviews to and Movie Sleuth. His writings have appeared in publications as diverse as the Times Literary Supplement, Publishers Weekly, the Paris Review, and the Massachusetts Review. Moran also edited a memoir by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Christine Choy. He served as literary advisor to her film Hyam Plutzik: American Poet, which was the keynote film in the American Perspectives series at the 2007 Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin.


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