Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien 侯孝賢, born 1947 in Guangdong, China
Writer: Chu T'ien-wen 朱天文, born 1956 in Taipei, Taiwan
Languages: Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Japanese (shown with English subtitles)
Hou Hsiao Hsien rounds out his loose trilogy on Taiwanese history -- The Puppet Master (1993)
dealt with Japan's occupation of the island and City of Sadness (1989) focuses on Chiang Kai-shek's
bloody occupation immediately following the war -- with this mediation on the anti-Communist
campaign during the 1950s.
The story is ostensibly about the real life events of Chiang Bi-yu (Annie Shizuka Inoh), who
ventures to China with her new husband, Chung Hao-tung (Lim Giong), to join the anti-Japanese
resistance along with three other friends.
Once in China, they are immediately suspected of being Japanese spies and are almost executed.
While working with the resistance, Chiang is forced to give up her first-born child -- the call of the
motherland had no time for motherhood. When the war ends, they return to Taiwan. Chung takes a
job as the principal of a school in the south of the island and starts a Marxist journal called the
Enlightenment. As the Red Army swept down the Korean peninsula, Chiang Kai-shek instituted the
White Terror, which rooted out communists of every color. Soon Chung and Chiang are rounded up
and brutally interrogated. Chiang is eventually released to her small brood of children while Chung
is thrown against the wall and shot.
Hou complicates this narrative by layering an additional story line about an actress, Liang Ching
(also played by Annie Shizuka Inoh), who is rehearsing for a movie about the life of Chiang Bi-yu
with the title „Haonan haonü“. Still reeling from the murder of her gangster boyfriend, Ah Wei
(Jack Kao), three years previous, Liang is being faxed daily pages of her stolen diary, forcing her to
confront her past. Soon the borders between the lives of Chiang and Liang become less and less
The Taiwanese of the 1990s are haunted, albeit unconsciously, by this past. Hou stresses the
parallels between the two periods and the two women. Both Chiang Bi-yu and Liang want children
and are unable to have or keep them; both women are in love with “outlaws” who meet early and
violent deaths; and both mourn and grieve for these absent lovers.
Good Men, Good Women can be interpreted in a number of ways, as a modernist love story, a
Taiwanese melodrama, a crime drama, an historical puzzle that needs to be pieced together.
Through and beyond all that, it's a meditation on history and sadness.
Good Men, Good Women won the Golden Horse Award for best director (1995), and was shown in
the Cannes Film Festival.
Good Men, Good Women [ allmovie.com ]
FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW; A Complex Taiwan Tale Needs a Key [The New York Times; 1995 Oct 7 ]
Good Men, Good Women [ Variety Magazine ]
Good Men, Good Women [ The New Yorker ]
Good Men, Good Women [ World Socialist Web Site ]
Good Men, Good Women [ Toronto Film Critics Association ]
Good Men, Good Women [ theendofcinema.blogspot.co.at ]
Good Men, Good Women [ allmovie.com ]Darren Hughes - longpauses.com ]
Text source and photocredit: Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies