Dust in the Wind

dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien

Series - Higher Learning

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Both a heartbreaking coming-of-age tale and a quiet revolution in film style, Dust in the Wind was a crucial transitional film for Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien.

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Both a heartbreaking coming-of-age tale and a quiet revolution in film style, Dust in the Wind was a crucial transitional film for Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien: placing a seemingly small-scale coming-of-age story against a vast spatial canvas, Hou signals the exponential growth of his unique cinematic universe in the historical epics he would embark upon soon after. Dust in the Wind follows Wan (Wang Chien-wen), a studious teenager from a small mining town, who moves to Taipei with his girlfriend Huen (Xin Shufen), where they make new friends, obtain tedious employment, and pledge to get married upon Wan's return from compulsory military service — but as both discover, life's seeming certainties are always less than certain. Conveying deeply felt emotion through a reserved, observational style and a painterly appreciation of space and distance, Hou's distinctive poetics has exerted a tremendous influence upon contemporary Asian cinema, most notably in the similarly precise films of Jia Zhangke; Hou's use of Taiwan's rugged landscape — at once a source of spiritual calm and a barrier creating physical entrapment — is particularly rich. "A miracle of humane observation and compositional perfection" (James Quandt); "As studied in its compositions as Ozu, as subtle in its melodrama as Naruse" (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice).