When I was 12, I caught a film on TV.
The film follows the lives of a group of elementary school students and their teacher. I was initially interested because the children were my age, and the teacher in the film was dedicated, like the teacher I was having then, Teacher Thor (that's her family name, yeah, but we all call her "Tu Lao Shi", which means Teacher Thor in Chinese).
But I was slightly surprised when there were a few time skips in the film. The children suddenly became teenagers, and there was a class reunion with their teacher (that led to tragedy).
They then became adults, and had another reunion, this time for a wedding. I remember that one of the main boys was in love with the bride.
I didn't exactly finish the film, but a few of these scenes remained vivid until this very day (the teacher's fiancee sacrificing himself to save a drowning student during one of the class reunions, and also the aforementioned wedding). Perhaps the film was mesmerizing to me because it seemed to suggest what things are like in this journey of life, when I were to move to my teens, and then my adulthood.
When I returned to school the next day, I was surprised that my teacher, Tu Lao Shi, was talking excitedly about the film too, along with a few classmates of mine.
Yet I never knew what the film title was. It was possibly my very first exposure to a Taiwanese film.
Until 18 years later, after I've made the journey through my teens and to adulthood, after I myself got to experience some things that were not dissimilar from the scenes of the film.
Today, I was at the Hong Kong Film Archive library, reading the book "NO MAN AN ISLAND: THE CINEMA OF HOU HSIAO HSIEN" by James Udden.
A 1986 film called REUNION 我們都是這樣長大的 was mentioned as another (great) example of Taiwanese New Cinema (it came out the same year as HHH's DUST IN THE WIND and a year after Edward Yang's TAIPEI STORY). A few scenes were described, and I realized, with excitement, that this might be the very same film that I watched on TV all these years ago!!
(I never got to finish the film then, but now I can finish it!)
I was also pleasantly surprised that James Udden's book mentioned James Lee's THE BEAUTIFUL WASHING MACHINE as a film and filmmaker indirectly influenced by Hou Hsiao Hsien!!!!!! I wish James Udden would get the opportunity to watch James Lee's new short film SECOND LIFE, which came out on Youtube yesterday. He'll be excited that James and HHH are both doing... martial arts films?)
(BTW: The director of this film, Ko I-Chen 柯一正, is the father of actor Lawrence Ko 柯宇綸, whom I had the pleasure to meet two years ago. Lawrence Ko is an important actor in Taiwanese cinema. He got to play the sympathetic protagonist and Virginie Ledoyen's love interest in Edward Yang's MAHJONG, and, er, the guy who took Tang Wei's virginity in Ang Lee's LUST CAUTION.)
An 18-year-old mystery. Solved!