A City of Sadness 悲情城市(1989)


Chinese Name:悲情城市

English Name:A City of Sadness

Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien侯孝贤

Screenwriter: Chu Tʽien-wen朱天文,Wu Nien-jen吴念真

Starring: Tony Leung Chiu-wai梁朝伟,Sung Young Chen,Jack Kao高捷,Li Tien-lu李天禄

Release Year:October 1989 (Taiwan)

Running time : 157min

A City of Sadness 悲情城市(1989)
A City of Sadness 悲情城市

Brief Introduction of A City of Sadness

“A City of Sadness” is directed by Hou Xiaoxian and starring Chen songyong, Liang Chaowei(also starring in Infernal Affairs ) and Xin Shufen.

With the February 28 Incident as the background, the film tells the experiences and lives of the four Lin family brothers.

The film was released in Taiwan on October 21, 1989. The film won the Golden Lion Award of the 46th Venice International Film Festival.

Plot of A City of Sadness

In 1945, Japan announced its unconditional surrender. Since then, Taiwan has ended the “Japanese occupation period” and returned to the embrace of the motherland. Lin Wenxiong (Chen Songyong), the eldest son of Lin Alu’s (Li Tianlu’s) family in Keelung, Taiwan, is happy to have a son. The Lin family’s Yidanjian, which was run during the Japanese occupation, has now reopened. The Lin family has four brothers. The eldest Lin Wenxiong runs a business firm.

The second brother originally opened a clinic. During the war, he was recruited to the Philippines as a doctor and his life and death are still uncertain. The third Wenliang (Gao Jie), who was recruited to Shanghai as an interpreter, was wanted as a traitor after the defeat, returned to Taiwan, and was admitted to the hospital. The old four Wenqing (Liang Chaowei), who was deaf from a fall when he was a child, ran a photo studio in the town and lived with his best friend Wu Kuanrong (Wu Yifang); He became friends with his new sister Kuanmei (Xin Shufen).

A City of Sadness 悲情城市(1989)
A City of Sadness Still

Wu Kuanrong is progressive. He and several like-minded people often gather together. When they are worried about the country, they are generous. When talking about the Kuomintang’s dishonest government and the people’s livelihood after the restoration, we can’t help singing the exile trilogy.

Wen Liang, who recovered from his illness and was discharged from the hospital, met the old Shanghai acquaintance “Shanghaiman” (Lei Ming), went to the underworld, and was involved in activities such as “stealing and printing Japanese banknotes” and “smuggling drugs”. Wen Xiong came forward to stop it. Unexpectedly, the Shanghainese colluded with the Tianliao gang and framed the two brothers with the regulations on the inspection and elimination of traitors and criminals. Wen Liang was arrested and became an idiot after he got out of prison.

A City of Sadness 悲情城市(1989)
A City of Sadness Still-2

The Taiwan authorities announced the crackdown on illicit cigarettes, triggering the February 28 Incident. Comrade Lin (Zhan Hongzhi) and Kuanyou were busy day and night to rescue the arrested martyrs. Soon, Taiwan’s chief executive Chen Yi implemented a “delaying tactic” and arrested a large number of progressives; Chiang Kai Shek mobilized the army to enforce martial law and indiscriminately kill innocent people. Kuanmei escorts her brother back to Si Jiaoting’s hometown for refuge, and Wenqing is also in prison.

After Wen Qing was released from prison, he began to engage in revolutionary activities. Kuanrong set up an anti-government organization in the mountains and lost his sister Kuanmei to Lin Wenqing. Soon Wenqing learned that his eldest brother was killed in the struggle with the old enemies of the gang, and Wenqing became the only man in the family. Wen Qing married Kuan Meicheng and got a son.

When his young son was babbling, Kuanrong sent a letter to inform the traitor that the base was suppressed and told them to escape as soon as possible. At the critical moment, Kuanmei decided to live and die with Wenqing. They finally didn’t leave and came home. Three days later, Wen Qing was arrested. The tragedy continues.

Accolades of A City of Sadness

46th Venice Film FestivalGolden LionWon
1989 Golden Horse Film FestivalBest DirectorWon
Best Leading ActorWon
1991 Mainichi Film ConcoursBest Foreign Language FilmWon
1991 Independent Spirit AwardsBest Foreign FilmNominated
1991 Political Film SocietySpecial AwardWon

Film Review of A City of Sadness

Winner (against slight competition) of the Golden Lion in Venice, this is a consummately skilful, if sometimes unengaging, exploration of the colonial residue left in Taiwan after the Japanese’s 50-year occupation.

The Guardian

One of the most powerful cinematic statements of our time.


The movie conveys the director’s intensely personal struggle at the crossroads of large-scale history and private memory.

The New Yorker

A City of Sadness (1989) Trailer

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