Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s (侯孝賢) 1989 film A City of Sadness (悲情城市) was ranked 18th on BBC Culture’s list of the 100 greatest foreign-language films published on Tuesday.
Hou was not the only Taiwanese director whose works are on the list, which were based on scores derived from film choices by 209 cinema critics from 43 countries.
Edward Yang’s (楊德昌) Yi Yi (一一) was ranked No. 25 and A Brighter Summer Day (牯嶺街少年殺人事件) was 38th, while Eat Drink Man Woman (飲食男女) directed by Ang Lee (李安) placed 54th and his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (臥虎藏龍) was 78th, the BBC Culture Web site showed.
A City of Sadness is set in the 1940s after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) took control after Japanese colonial rule.
The “historical drama appears to be a chronicle of the misfortunes of the Lin family, but Hou used the Lins to put the dark history of Taiwan in the spotlight,” the Web site said.
“Mundane events experienced by the four Lin brothers illustrate the pain and struggles” of Taiwanese during the 228 Incident and subsequent White Terror era, it said.
The film won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the first from Taiwan to do so.
In August and September, BBC Culture invited the 209 critics to vote online for their favorite movies made primarily in a language other than English. Each critic was asked to list 10 films in order of preference.
The list comprised of 67 directors from 24 countries and 19 languages. French was the most common language, with 27 of the highest-rated films, followed by 12 in Chinese and 11 each in Italian and Japanese. Several languages were represented by just one film, such as Come and See (Belarusian), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romanian) and Touki Bouki (Wolof, a language used in Senegal).
Other films in Chinese were Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s (王家衛) In the Mood for Love (花樣年華, No. 9), Chungking Express (重慶森林, No. 56) and Happy Together (春光乍洩, No. 71); Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s (張藝謀) To Live (活著, No. 41) and Raise the Red Lantern (大紅燈籠高高掛, No. 93); and Chinese director Chen Kaige’s (陳凱歌) Farewell My Concubine (霸王別姬, No. 12).
At the top of the list was Seven Samurai by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, which BBC Culture said is loved by critics everywhere, except for Japan.
The six Japanese critics who voted did not nominate a single Kurosawa film, going instead for films by Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi.
However, Kurosawa’s work won the vote of critics from elsewhere, with Rashomon (No. 4), Ikiru (No. 72) and Ran (No. 79) on the list.
Bicycle Thieves, directed by Vittorio de Sica of Italy, was second and Tokyo Story by Yasujiro Ozu was third.
BBC Culture said if there was anything disappointing about the list, it was the paucity of films directed or codirected by women, with just four making the cut, despite 45 percent of the critics being female.
“It’s clear that culture isn’t bound by borders, and language needn’t be a barrier to enjoying great filmmaking,” BBC Culture said.
“While the cinema of an individual nation is inevitably tied to its unique identity and history, the language of film is universal,” it said.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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