Based on a real-life love tragedy, Good Men, Good Women continues Hou's exploration of history from the ordinary citizen's point-of-view. To this he adds his new interest, pioneered in The Puppetmaster, in exploring different perspectives and memories of the same event by making Good Men, Good Women a film within a film.
As always in Hou's films, national history is a potent off-screen force. For 1950s lovers Chiang Bi-Yu and Chung Hao-Tung, this means the White Terror. At the height of the Cold War Taiwan was caught up in right-wing paranoia. Despite having fought for their government in the 40s the couple cannot escape suspicion and tragic consequences. In the present day, actress Liang Ching is preparing to play Chiang Bi-Yu. She is also becoming obsessed with an ex-lover, a gangster in contemporary Taiwan's thriving underworld, and as the film progresses her fate and Chiang Bi Yu's merge inexorably.
A Buddhist revival has overtaken Taipei recently and Good Men. Good Women seems to allude to reincarnation. But as Taiwan's leading critic Peggy Chiao argues, the significance of Hou's films transcends Taiwan. "He stimulates questions about memory, truth and history and creates a whole cinematic aesthetic about how we see reality."