Good Men, Good Women ★★½

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

Despite jumping between time periods and adding a film within the film, this is just as inert as Hou ever is. I know, who would expect anything else, but his champions speak of his moving tableaus revealing the emotional undercurrents of characters, which I simply don’t see. There’s never a moment where they don’t feel subsumed by the suffocating banality. To my mind, Hou peaked with Dust in the Wind, which contains both specific, legible emotions and a productive distance from his characters without seeming impersonal. Besides the pleasure of returning to lush color after the rather forbidding black and white scenes, I didn’t find much here to engage me. I kept searching, but my only curiosity was the film poster in Liang Ching’s apartment that includes a 1982 Berlinale citation. Veronika Voss would make sense, or could it be Absence of Malice? Indeed, the tantalizing mysteries of Hou linger long after the film has ended.