Apichatpong Weerasethakul will introduce the screening.

The life of an 84-year-old puppeteer serves as a map of the first half of the 20th century in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s 1993 masterpiece. Li Tien-lu (who appears as himself) recounts his life, as the film dances between scenes of his youth, his entry into the marionette profession, and the period when his skills were much in demand by the Japanese imperial government occupying Taiwan during World War II. Li is a witness to history who himself becomes swept up in its convolutions, and the consummately atmospheric The Puppetmaster uses his biography to evoke the often melancholy consequences of time’s march forward, chronicling the rise and fall of political regimes and cultural traditions from the oblique perspective of a single man adrift on the tides. An NYFF31 Main Slate selection.

This is one of a few films that I consider to be the peak of my film-watching experience. I abandoned my quest for understanding and recognized that the film was very simple. A man’s recollection is accompanied by vignettes of window frames, doors, and stages bathed in sunlight. Hou’s films always bring back memories of youth. They treat the audience with respect. Nowadays, I rarely come across delicate cinema like this. —Apichatpong Weerasethakul