Dust in the Wind (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1986)

Dust in the Wind 1

The fourth in the series of coming-of-age films that marked Hou Hsiao-hsien’s transition from competent movie-maker to celebrated auteur, Dust in the Wind is based on the experiences of New Cinema multi-hyphenate Wu Nien-jen, most famous in the US for his starring role in Edward Yang’s Yi yiThe Boys from Fengkuei is generally not included in what has become known as Hou’s Coming of Age Trilogy, for some good reasons (it’s more fictionalized than the other three films and it is set in the present rather than the past) and some bad ones (film critics really like trilogies – quartets and quintets are confusing. Hou also has a Taiwan Trilogy and an Urban Female Youth Trilogy. And then there’s his 2005 film Three Times, which is like a trilogy all on its own). If we just take the last three in the series, we have one film each based on the memories of a single person (Chu Tien-wen for A Summer at Grandpa’s and Hou himself for The Time to Live, The Time to Die), with each focusing on the life of a young person in rural Taiwan in the 1950s-60s. The first film begins with a young girl and her brother moving from the city to the country, the third involves a young man and woman moving from the country to the city, while the middle film is set entirely in the country. The main characters age progressively as the series goes along, youngest in Summer, oldest in Dust. Taken as such, it can be seen as the history of a generation filtered through the life stories of three individuals, personal memory as cultural history.

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