Three Times

Indeed, you could call this 2005 romance Hou Hsiao-hsien for Dummies. Set in three different periods, this triptych about love, time, and fate encapsulates the moods and preoccupations that have inspired him throughout his career. In each chapter, Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Shu Qi (The Transporter) portray three different couples, each pair with a unique dynamic reflecting the era. Through repetitions and variations, Hou again explores how the shifting times may ripple the surface of life, but not our deeper need for bonding. Each of the three stories is a mini masterpiece in its own right, as we see innocence, doom, and desperation played out. Each segment has its own rhythm and visual vocabulary: Slow-motion for 1966, fades for 1911, and tracking shots for 2005. For those who’ve previously complained about Hou being too slow and austere, the bite-size structure helps make Three Times more digestible. It may also send viewers to their DVD players with new insight regarding Hou’s back catalog. (NR) MARTIN TSAI

Sun., March 18, 2 p.m., 2012

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