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His subject in "Three Times" is our yearning to love and be loved, and the way the world casually dismisses it... Hou Hsiao-hsien shows us people who could make each other happy and been happy themselves, and he watches them miss their chance.
Three Times (最好的時光) is a 2005 movie by art-house Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. It depicts the encounter of a boy and a girl (always played by Chang Chen and Shu Qi respectively) in three different historical contexts, showing how the relationship plays out in the varying circumstances.
The first one takes place in 1966: the boy is a soldier on leave, the girl a snooker hall hostess. The second one takes place in 1911: the boy is a journalist and political activist, the girl is a high-class indentured courtesan. The third one takes place in 2005: the boy is a freelance photographer, the girl is an alternative pop singer.
The film is notable for its exquisite sense of composition and its beautiful photography. Roger Ebert has observed that it is "photographed with such visual beauty that watching the movie is like holding your breath so the butterfly won't stir." It also contains an understated wistfulness about chances missed and love unfulfilled.
Not to be confused with the Rule of Three.
Contains examples of:
- Anachronic Order: The 1966 story comes before the 1911 one.
- Boy Meets Girl: Three times over.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The girl in 1911.
- Ironic Episode Title: The middle part is titled "A Time For Freedom", and depicts a woman bound in indentured service.
- Love Triangle: In 2005, the girl is bisexual and has both a boyfriend and a girlfriend.
- Playing Against Type: Before venturing into art-house cinema under Hou's direction, Shu Qi was mostly known for her roles in soft-core erotica and Hong Kong action flicks.
- Retraux Flashback: The silent movie 1911 segment.
- Silence Is Golden: The 1911 story is silent except for some music. The characters' words are conveyed via title cards.
- Together Umbrella: At the end of the first part, the boy and girl stand under the same umbrella while waiting for the bus, and their hands find one another.