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NYFF: “Three Times.”

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Chang Chen and Shu QiHou.



Easily one of the best filmmakers in the world, and we’ve never had the pleasure of seeing one of his films in a theater before now (and it will likely be a while before we do again — "Three Times," like many of Hou’s films, has not secured a US distributor). We’ve heard that people were disappointed with "Three Times" when it premiered at Cannes; we can’t say yet how we’d place it in comparison to Hou’s previous work, but we liked it very much.

The film is composed of a trinity of love stories, all starring Chang Chen (Zhang Ziyi‘s bandit lover in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") and Taiwanese megastar Shu Qi — the first ("A Time for Love") is set in 1966, the second ("A Time for Freedom") in 1911, and the third ("A Time for Youth") in 2005. "A Time for Love" details the charmingly awkward romance between May, a pool-hall girl, and Chen, a young man who’s just enlisted in Taiwan’s mandatory military service. May is giggling and young, and Chen tongue-tied, and when she gets a new job he spends hours tracking her down, only to find her and not know what to talk about. That’s all right — the music, period pop songs like "Rain and Tears" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," swells up to carry them through. "A Time for Freedom" takes place in a period when Taiwan was still occupied by Japan. Mr. Chang works at revolutionary-minded paper, and spends his time with a courtesan at an upscale brothel who has hopes that he’ll take her as a concubine, though his thoughts are more devoted to politics. The section is filmed in semi-silent movie fashion, with instrumental music taking the place of any sound or dialogue — the characters mouth words, which then show up in intertitles laid over a gilded wall. "A Time for Youth" picks up where Hou’s 2001 "Millennium Mambo" left off, in a sprawling concrete Taipei throbbing to a techno beat, in which people seem to have all the freedom in the world and no idea what they want.

If this sometimes sounds like Wong Kar-wai, well, there’s a touch of that, particularly since both filmmakers seem recently consumed with a melancholy nostalgia that sweeps up from the past to encompass events as they occur. But Wong is one for grandiose, epic romanticism — Hou is a minimalist, and the love stories in "Three Times" are small, quiet things blown up large, ephemeral relationships with much left unsaid that are quintessentially more human than Wong’s gorgeous cinematic stylings. Chang and Shu aren’t in any way playing heroic lovers over time — each interlude stands alone, but, taken together, they gather force, hinting at something epochal, though what that is, we doubt Hou knows. He remains focused on depicting the intense, fleeting sweetness of the moment.

"Three Times" currently has no US distributor.

Click here for all the NY Film Festival reviews thus far.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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