Three Times (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2005)
Still catching up on notable 2006 releases before the end of the year (this is another foreign film that made it to the U.S. in 2006.) Hou is thought by many critics and cinephiles to be the world's greatest living filmmaker, but his films have barely been released in the U.S. (this one didn't make it to Vegas, or to most other cities in the country). Essentially three linked short films, each about 40 minutes, this is a mixed bag that I found alternately moving and frustrating. The three segments are each love stories of sorts, with main characters played by the same two actors, set in three different time periods in the director's home of Taiwan. The first story, set in 1966, is the most effective, a sweet and touchingly simple piece about two very shy people slowly finding a connection. All three stories are told with a minimum of dialogue (the second, set in 1911, is shot as a silent film and thus has no dialogue at all, just title cards), which means that the actors have to convey a lot of emotion with facial expressions and body language, which they do very well. Shu Qi, as the female half of each pair, is incredible (not to mention incredibly beautiful). Hou also does a lot to convey emotion with the camera. The third sequence, set in the present day, is too confusing and aloof for me, but the overall effect is still quite powerful.