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Puppetmaster, the


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Product Details

  • Actors: Tianlu Li, Giong Lim, Ming Hwa Bai, Kuei-Chung Cheng, Chien-ru Huang
  • Directors: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
  • Writers: Tianlu Li, Nien-Jen Wu, T'ien-wen Chu
  • Producers: Fu-Sheng Chiu, Hongzhi Zhan, Hwa-kun Chang, Teng-Kuei Yang
  • Format: Color, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Cantonese Chinese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Paradox
  • Release Date: Oct. 1 2002
  • Run Time: 142 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005K9OO
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #32,073 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Based on the actual memoirs of Li Tien-lu, Taiwan's most celebrated puppeteer, The Puppetmaster tells the epic tale of one man's sturgle against seemingly insurmountable adversary. Spanning the years from Li's birth in 1909 to the end of Janpan's 50-yr occupation of Taiwan in 1945, this remarkable true story captures the puppetmaster's hardships as well as the tragic sweep of this war-torn era. The portrait that emerges reflects the complex nature of Chinese culture under Japanese rule during the first half of the 20th Century.

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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: DVD
I was profoundly disappointed and have no clue why Hou Hsiao-Hsien is so acclaimed. This film suggested a filmmaker competent enough to make good establishing shots, but little competent enough to do anything else. Li Tienlu was fascinating, and I would have rather had a steady shot of him talking the entire film rather than what Hou gives us. His characters wander in and out of the shots and without Li it would take a lot of cognition to assemble what's going on on his pretty canvases. Maybe he should start making films like Bill Viola. Whatever Village Voice reporter called him "the world's greatest narrative filmmaker" ought to have been fired--he's only good at pretty pictures. The only reason he gets respect is because of his choice of subject matter, not his competence in dealing with it. Another quote on the box referred to the film as "pure cinema," obviously having no concept of what the term means, since there is nothing cinematic in his choices whatsoever. Minimal editing, minimal camera movement, average-quality acting. Long takes in whcih nothing much happens. I guess it makes sense that it was released by a company that didn't bother to subtitle some of the conversations, or the opening credits. I honestly think Li Tianlu is the only reason to watch it.
I'm not inclined to sit through other films by this so-called "master." This filmmaker has no technique. There's more to making a film than choosing historically important subject matter. It's a shame Li died without a better version of his story filmed. While it doesn't help that the film, shot at approximately 1.66, often cuts characters out of the picture while talking while one can see an edge of them. Hou has characters wander out of the frame entirely, as one can tell by the sound.
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Format: DVD
THE PUPPETMASTER is probably the most accessible film in Hou Hsiao-Hsien's repertoire. A stunningly beautiful film based on the first 37 years of Li Tien-Lu's life in Japanese occupied Taiwan, the sophistication in the structure, cinematography, sound, and the interesting use of symbolism is hard to parallel. When I saw this film for the first time in NYC earlier this year, I was absolutely awed by the genuinely recreated atmosphere of an era that is simultaneously close and remote to me. Days, weeks, and even months after viewing, I found myself discovering more and more quality and meaning in the movie. I am glad I caught the last show of the week-long Hou Hsia-Hsien Festival at The Screening Room, because the DVD is just not the same. The full-screen cropping and the poor color rendition diminished the quality tremendously. It hurts to see a piece of great art being butchered like this. Imagine someone brought you a bad photocopy of 66% area of Van Gogh's Starry Night and said "You haven't seen this great painting, right? Here is a copy for you to enjoy." Winstar's effort to bring Hou's films to us is absolutely admirable, but unfortunately the effort is largely wasted. This comment is not meant to discourage Winstar from pursuing future projects. We just like to see a fine film being presented nicely, like FLOWERS FROM SHANGHAI.
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Format: DVD
...Hou's "The Puppetmaster" is actually a period drama that has no special effects in it at all. It deals with the life of a puppetmaster (no, not John Malkovich)in Taiwan in the late 19th century. The film integrates documentary interviews with its real life subject and fictional recreations of moments in his life. I'm not intimately familiar with the history of Taiwan, but this film makes this man's life parallel it. Most of the film takes place during Taiwan's occupation by Japan, and the film shows the way that the Taiwanese people were forced to give up a great deal of their culture (making the oral histories that the puppetmaster tells that much more valuable.)
Hou's style in this film uses a mostly static camera. He allows us to see the rhythm of Taiwanese life as it actually was. We get to see several demonstrations of the puppetmaster's talents, and we get to see "behind the scenes" as he gets his job and learns the trade. The narrator is displaced from his family by a result of his choice in career (since he needs to live with his mentor) and the film has an overall sense of both personal and national loss. It's not a film that has a great deal of action, and the average shot's length can be measured in minutes instead of seconds, so the 2 1/2 hour running time may be tough for some to swallow. Nonetheless, there are several stunning shots and an overall impact that you feel at the end of the film that make it more than worthwhile.
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By wabrit on Sept. 27 2001
Format: DVD
It's wonderful to see Hou Hsiao-hsien's films available on DVD at last, given how difficult it is too see them in theaters, and this is a fascinating and rewarding film. But FoxLorber have in their wisdom decided to present it in fullscreen only which is a big, bad mistake because (1) With DVD you'd think they'd at least offer the choice of fullscreen vs. letterbox, and (2) Isn't it likely that most people who would bother to buy this DVD would want to see the film as originally intended by the director? Very disappointing and I will stick to my PAL VHS widescreen version of this movie instead.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A long awaited disappointment Oct. 12 2001
By H. TAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
THE PUPPETMASTER is probably the most accessible film in Hou Hsiao-Hsien's repertoire. A stunningly beautiful film based on the first 37 years of Li Tien-Lu's life in Japanese occupied Taiwan, the sophistication in the structure, cinematography, sound, and the interesting use of symbolism is hard to parallel. When I saw this film for the first time in NYC earlier this year, I was absolutely awed by the genuinely recreated atmosphere of an era that is simultaneously close and remote to me. Days, weeks, and even months after viewing, I found myself discovering more and more quality and meaning in the movie. I am glad I caught the last show of the week-long Hou Hsia-Hsien Festival at The Screening Room, because the DVD is just not the same. The full-screen cropping and the poor color rendition diminished the quality tremendously. It hurts to see a piece of great art being butchered like this. Imagine someone brought you a bad photocopy of 66% area of Van Gogh's Starry Night and said "You haven't seen this great painting, right? Here is a copy for you to enjoy." Winstar's effort to bring Hou's films to us is absolutely admirable, but unfortunately the effort is largely wasted. This comment is not meant to discourage Winstar from pursuing future projects. We just like to see a fine film being presented nicely, like FLOWERS FROM SHANGHAI.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Great movie, bad format Sept. 27 2001
By wabrit - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
It's wonderful to see Hou Hsiao-hsien's films available on DVD at last, given how difficult it is too see them in theaters, and this is a fascinating and rewarding film. But FoxLorber have in their wisdom decided to present it in fullscreen only which is a big, bad mistake because (1) With DVD you'd think they'd at least offer the choice of fullscreen vs. letterbox, and (2) Isn't it likely that most people who would bother to buy this DVD would want to see the film as originally intended by the director? Very disappointing and I will stick to my PAL VHS widescreen version of this movie instead.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Hou's one of the most unknown great directors Sept. 22 2001
By Jeremy Heilman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
...Hou's "The Puppetmaster" is actually a period drama that has no special effects in it at all. It deals with the life of a puppetmaster (no, not John Malkovich)in Taiwan in the late 19th century. The film integrates documentary interviews with its real life subject and fictional recreations of moments in his life. I'm not intimately familiar with the history of Taiwan, but this film makes this man's life parallel it. Most of the film takes place during Taiwan's occupation by Japan, and the film shows the way that the Taiwanese people were forced to give up a great deal of their culture (making the oral histories that the puppetmaster tells that much more valuable.)
Hou's style in this film uses a mostly static camera. He allows us to see the rhythm of Taiwanese life as it actually was. We get to see several demonstrations of the puppetmaster's talents, and we get to see "behind the scenes" as he gets his job and learns the trade. The narrator is displaced from his family by a result of his choice in career (since he needs to live with his mentor) and the film has an overall sense of both personal and national loss. It's not a film that has a great deal of action, and the average shot's length can be measured in minutes instead of seconds, so the 2 1/2 hour running time may be tough for some to swallow. Nonetheless, there are several stunning shots and an overall impact that you feel at the end of the film that make it more than worthwhile.
xochi Nov. 28 2011
By balam - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful film. I first saw it in a theatre, then bought it in VHS, and now finally I have it on DVD. Thanks for quick service.
3 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Worth watching only for Li Tianlu Nov. 9 2002
By Scott Andrew Hutchins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
I was profoundly disappointed and have no clue why Hou Hsiao-Hsien is so acclaimed. This film suggested a filmmaker competent enough to make good establishing shots, but little competent enough to do anything else. Li Tienlu was fascinating, and I would have rather had a steady shot of him talking the entire film rather than what Hou gives us. His characters wander in and out of the shots and without Li it would take a lot of cognition to assemble what's going on on his pretty canvases. Maybe he should start making films like Bill Viola. Whatever Village Voice reporter called him "the world's greatest narrative filmmaker" ought to have been fired--he's only good at pretty pictures. The only reason he gets respect is because of his choice of subject matter, not his competence in dealing with it. Another quote on the box referred to the film as "pure cinema," obviously having no concept of what the term means, since there is nothing cinematic in his choices whatsoever. Minimal editing, minimal camera movement, average-quality acting. Long takes in whcih nothing much happens. I guess it makes sense that it was released by a company that didn't bother to subtitle some of the conversations, or the opening credits. I honestly think Li Tianlu is the only reason to watch it.
I'm not inclined to sit through other films by this so-called "master." This filmmaker has no technique. There's more to making a film than choosing historically important subject matter. It's a shame Li died without a better version of his story filmed. While it doesn't help that the film, shot at approximately 1.66, often cuts characters out of the picture while talking while one can see an edge of them. Hou has characters wander out of the frame entirely, as one can tell by the sound. He does so many shots where everything that's going on is hidden, and there doesn't appear to be a reason why. He just does. It's Ed Wood with a pictorial sense and social importance. Hardly a master filmmaker. Watch some Godard or Kurosawa instead.


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