Three Times (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Taiwanese director Hou Hsaio-Hsien delivers three reflections on hopeless love, set in different periods and milieus, but united by the same pair of actors - a device that implies a fatalism linking these characters across time. It's a masterful piece of formalist filmmaking which, like the romance it depicts, is at once enthralling and a little out of reach.

In a small-town pool hall in 1966, lovers waver to the click of cues and The Platters' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes". In 1911, a courtesan longs in vain for her client to make her his concubine. Amid the bustling streets and clubs of present-day Taipei, a two-timing pair, again played by Chang Chen and the exquisite Shu Qi, actually consummate their love. Whether it endures, remains to be seen.

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