Astonishingly, the master Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien and the brain-dead American comic Dane Cook now have only one degree of separation between them. Juliette Binoche jumped from her role opposite Cook in the awful Dan in Real Life to a starring role in Hou's new film, the wonderful, whimsical Flight of the Red Balloon. In 1999, the Village Voice critics' poll chose Hou as the director of the decade, and three of his films placed in the decade's top 100: Flowers of Shanghai (#3), The Puppetmaster (#16) and Goodbye South, Goodbye (#61). That same year, a touring retrospective of Hou's work had the critical community all abuzz, and apparently sold a great many tickets. But Hou's films never found U.S. theatrical distribution until 2004, when his Millennium Mambo opened, with little fanfare, three years after it was made. And then, it was probably due more to beautiful star Shu Qi (The Transporter) than to Hou. Yet I somehow doubt Hou's new brush with fame will help him become any less obscure.