The Puppetmaster. 1993. Taiwan. Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. With Li Tien-Lu, Lim Giong. 35mm. In Taiwanese; English subtitles. 142 min.
The first Taiwanese film to enter competition at Cannes (where it won the Jury Prize), The Puppetmaster tells the true story of Li Tien-Lu, a celebrated hand-puppeteer who lived through tumultuous times of the 20th century, including Taiwan’s long occupation by Japan (1895–1945). Scenes from Li’s childhood and early adulthood are intercut with puppet performances and with Li himself sitting charmingly in front of the camera, recounting a life filled with suffering, death, survival, and humor. The complex narrative is masterfully constructed to tell the tale of an exceptionally talented and charismatic man swept up in the tidal wave of history.