billhsu has written 13 reviews for films rated ★★★★½ .

  • Parting Glances

    Parting Glances

    ★★★★½

    This old favorite is a great way to start 2021.

  • Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker

    Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker

    ★★★★½

    Much of this rich and engaging documentary was assembled from Wojnarowicz's tape archives, contact sheets and artwork. I thought the manipulations and juxtapositions were very much in the spirit of Wojnarowicz's work, though I wouldn't be surprised if purists might complain here and there. I enjoyed Marion Scemama's earlier Wojnarowicz doc as well, but I think this is a much more accessible approach to presenting his spoken word pieces and visual ephemera. I'm a huge Wojnarowicz fan, but I would also recommend this for people who are not familiar with his work.

    Streamable here for a few more days:
    www.docnyc.net/film/wojnarowicz/

  • The Hole

    The Hole

    ★★★★½

    I can't remember my detailed impressions of this when it first came out. But when revisiting The Hole in 2020, it's impossible not to draw parallels with our current situation. The opening titles immediately come with a fake newscast about an epidemic with flu-like symptoms (called "Taiwan Fever"), and enforcing quarantines. The two main characters (Tsai regulars Lee Kang-Sheng as "The Man Upstairs" and Yang Kuei-Mei as "The Woman Downstairs") live alone in their apartments in isolation, unlike the claustrophobic…

  • Parting Glances

    Parting Glances

    ★★★★½

    Younger letterboxd users seem unenthusiastic about this, but it's probably my favorite LGBTQ film of that era. This was the first movie I can remember that depicted a slice of life in those dark and complex years, in a matter-of-fact way, with a lot of charm and thoughtfulness. Michael is a familiar type, played perfectly by Richard Ganoung. And I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was ready to propose marriage to Steve Buscemi's Nick.

    I saw this when…

  • The River

    The River

    ★★★★½

    When I first saw The River in the late 90s, I'd just recovered from a bout of intense neck cramps. Watching Lee Kang-Sheng hold his neck just about triggered a relapse. (Fortunately, my neck holds up pretty well 20 years later.)

    By this point, Tsai had an ensemble of regulars: Lee Kang-Sheng of course, Miao Tien (as the distant, inscrutable, but supportive father), Lu Yi-Ching (the mother), and Chen Chao-jung (oddly omitted from the imdb credits, but he plays his…

  • Vive L'Amour

    Vive L'Amour

    ★★★★½

    One of my favorite Tsai Ming-Liang films. I remember how radical this seemed for Asian cinema in the mid-90s, with no dialog for the first 20-odd minutes, all the surreptitious voyeurism, that initial extended cruising scene, the hints of gay desire from Hsiao-kang for Ah-jung (note the character names are derived from the actors' names), and the long static shots of tense situations, broken up by the occasional (almost slapstick-y) humorous gestures. My cheap DVD transfer is not the best (the soundtrack could use some cleaning up, for instance), but this dates very well.

  • Desolation Center

    Desolation Center

    ★★★★½

    Obviously I loved seeing the small but incredible lineup of 80s bands in their (often pale, skinny) heyday. Swezey keeps up a cracking pace, interweaving skillfully old footage and photos, and good stories and remarks from the talking heads, past and present. Blixa Bargeld is hilariously droll, we've hung out with Mike Watt plenty in We Jam Econo, but it's good to see him tell stories while driving around in the van again.

  • This Is Not Berlin

    This Is Not Berlin

    ★★★★½

    This is easy for me to love: a movie about teens pulling away from mainstream society, discovering the 80s new wave club/art scene, exploring their sexuality, and generally getting into trouble. But this is really well done, with well-acted and affecting characters who develop in non-obvious ways, some nice cinematography of urban nightscapes, and a few lovely tracking shots in a crowded club.

    There's not a lot of information on imdb on the soundtrack, obviously an essential part of the…

  • The Silence of the Lambs

    The Silence of the Lambs

    ★★★★½

    Revisited. For the most part, this holds up quite well. Anthony Hopkins' performance is still impressive.

  • Tale of Tales

    Tale of Tales

    ★★★★½

    Simply gorgeous. Love the textured painterly look, the lighting effects, the amazingly 3D-like layering, the beautiful organic movement. And especially the natural way the wolf character switches from a profile face to a full frontal face. Wow.

  • The Duke of Burgundy

    The Duke of Burgundy

    ★★★★½

    Being a sound geek of sorts, I can't help but love Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio. This also has gorgeous sound design (though with a totally different team). Nic Knowland's visuals are similarly gorgeous, with the references to Rollin (and maybe Pierre Molinier?) I have to score a copy of In Fabric.

  • Berberian Sound Studio

    Berberian Sound Studio

    ★★★★½

    Like a Robert Aickman or Brian Evenson story set in an Italian recording studio. What more can I ask for? What's wrong with not having much of a "story"? Be brave.

    The sound design is exquisite. And the "Berberian" in the title is probably a reference to the divine Cathy, I hope.