When I watched the film ‘Three Times’ by Taiwanese director Hsiao Hsien Hou, it occurred to me how clothes could play an emotional part in a film. The film is about experiencing love in three different time periods, 1911, 1966 and 2005 and in each period, the clothes that the character Shu Qi plays seems to convey and give clues to what she is feeling, what she is going through. Shu Qi and Chang Chen play three pairs of lovers in three eras. Overall, the film was so beautifully shot and so thoughtfully put together in terms of appearances, that scenery, music and costume had to contribute in a big way and was felt so intensely. Dialogue was sparse (in fact, the part set in 1911 is filmed like a silent movie), the pace so languid, you felt everything acutely and the clothes definitely played a part. The way Ah Mei in 1911 smooths down her cheong sam top and straightens her sleeves, as a hapless gesture of control, whilst fighting back the tears because she has fallen in love with her client, Mr Chang (she was a concubine) and realised the helplessness of the situation. The coquettish manner in which May in 1966 wears a puff sleeve blouse and giggles when she finds out Chen, the guy she had a semi-crush on had found her after searching through village after village. In 2005, Jing, a grungey bisexual pulls at a uniform baggy grey cardigan, as if it were a security blanket, protecting her against the demons in her head about cheating on her girlfriend with Zhen (played by Chang Chen), her band’s photographer. When one argues that they are just clothes to cover your body, I have to hold my hands up and say after seeing this film that ‘No, we feel things in them, we fall in love in them and I will always remember that moment when I was walking along the Thames at night with that special someone wearing my purple washed silk dress and playing with the sleeves and playfully skipping along in my gold sequin ballet flats and feeling like I was pretty and wanted.’
Oh and endnote: Please pick up this film on DVD or catch it at your local arthouse cinema if you can!
UPDATE: The Yes Asia link I posted is for people who have Region 3 DVD players. If you’re in North America, you’ll have to wait until September 26th for the Region 1 DVD and if you’re in Europe, well tough cookies, you’ll have to wait until November 13th for the Region 2 DVD.