To begin with, designed as a one-director anthology film, it picks up and disposes of various narrative threads rather than staying with the same plotline or plotlines (or absence of plot) throughout. Secondly, it depends almost not at all on real-time duration to fill itself out.
While there are many aspects binding Transit to Barbara and Phoenix (including an oppressive system, embodied here by the vagaries of international migration in wartime), Petzold is working in a slightly different register; it is at once more rigorously conceptual and less sociopolitically specific than its predecessors.
3 Faces is the most freeform and expansive of the cycle of movies that has come to define the latter part of his filmography, and, crucially, it is the film that brings him back to the feminist concerns that fueled so many of his definitive earlier works.
Clips culled from cinema and reportage flicker and transform before our eyes in a barrage of changing aspect ratios, contrast levels, and color saturation intensities; gnomic pronouncements and aphorisms (some translated, others not) boom and crackle over a detailed 7.1 sound mix.
In exploring love, sex, death, and adultery this way, screenwriters Garrel and legendary screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere adequately probe the meandering contours of relationships and commitment, as well as the elusive nature of monogamy and desire.
This might seem to suggest a bit of a creative about-face, for Happy Hour, running a bit over five hours, was not precisely a commercial proposition, but in fact Asako I & II, in the space of two incident-heavy hours, works in every bit as much feeling and active intelligence as its predecessor.
There is nothing metaphorical about the connection between a fractured China and one fractured family unit in A Family Tour. Attuned to the rhythms of often stilted conversations played out against the banal, sunny backdrop of public spaces in contemporary Taiwan, A Family Tour does not have much truck with symbols.
There is some satisfaction that comes in seeing motifs and symbols established within the first part of the film as they re-emerge in the galvanizing high-wire act performance of the second, though I am unconvinced that the seeding of these symmetries can entirely justify the moribund experience of what has preceded.