On a raining evening at a nondescript telephone booth in Taipei, two petty criminals, Ah-tze (Chen Chao-jung) and his friend Ah-ping (Jen Chang-bin) drill through the lock of the public telephone and steal the contents of the collection box. In another part of the city, an unmotivated and distracted student named Hsiao-Kang (Lee Kang-sheng) encounters a cockroach in his room, stabs the insect with the point of his compass, and tosses its dead carcass into the turbulent wind, only to find the seemingly tenacious vermin resurface on the other side of his window. In a quintessential, understatedly amusing scene, Hsiao-Kang unsuccessfully attempts to swat the insect, crashes his palm through the window, and calmly walks into the bathroom to dress his injured hand, amidst the perplexed and inquisitive gaze of his father (Tien Miao) and mother (Lu Hsiao-Ling). Continue reading
This year, the Viennale has once again succeeded in garnering a great director of world cinema for the creation of the traditional festival trailer. At the Viennale’s invitation, the Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang, known through works such as REBELS OF THE NEON GOD, THE RIVER, THE HOLE and WAYWARD CLOUD, created a short, approximately two-minute homage to Lee Kang-sheng – the actor who has appeared in almost all of Tsai Ming-liang’s films over the past thirty years and significantly influenced his entire oeuvre.
The film XIAO KANG shows Lee Kang-sheng roaming through a bamboo forest in a succession of simultaneously mysterious and unintentional movements. These again are alienated by the projection of silent black-and-white footage, accompanied only by the sound of a projector. It’s a fine, minimalist work, oscillating between dream and memory and kept entirely in the style of Tsai Ming-liang’s great films. Continue reading
A single father makes his meager living holding up an advertising placard on a traffic island in the middle of a busy highway. His children wait out their days in supermarkets before they eat with their father and go to sleep in an abandoned building. As the father starts to come apart, a woman in the supermarket takes the children under her wing. There are real stray dogs to be fed in Tsai’s everyday apocalypse, but the title also refers to its principal characters, living the cruelest of existences on the ragged edges of the modern world.
Stray Dogs is many things at once: minimal in its narrative content and syntax, as visually powerful as it is emotionally overwhelming, and bracingly pure in both its anger and its compassion. One of the finest works of an extraordinary artist. Continue reading
No No Sleep’ sees Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang revisiting Lee Kang Sheng’s walking monk, this time in Tokyo. But rather than spend all his time on the city streets, Tsai eventually transplants the anonymous monk to a Japanese ‘onsen’ (a public bathhouse), where he’s joined by an equally anonymous Japanese man. Continue reading
Plot Synopsis by Jason Buchanan (allmovie.com)
A homeless Chinese itinerant is attacked by thugs in Kuala Lampur, only to fall in with a group of kind but curious Bangladeshi men and other fascinating denizens of the smog-soaked city in director Tsai Ming-liang’s minimalist mediation on contemporary life in the Malaysian capitol. Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng) has been injured in a brutal street attack, and after being brought to the crumpling abode of a group of Bangladeshi men, he is nursed back to help on the musty mattress of his benevolent rescuer Rawang (Norman Bin Atun). Upon gaining the strength to venture out on his own, Hsaio-kang makes the acquaintance of pretty Chinatown waitress Chyi (Chen Siang-chyi) – who currently works and lives with her female boss (Pearlly Chua). In another part of the city, a paralyzed man (also played by Lee) is tended to by a team of nurses before being moved from the hospital to the women’s tenement. When a toxic fog descends upon the city and the citizens are sent running for cover, Hsaio-kang finds his already complicated relationship with his three new acquaintances taking on a whole new, and decidedly surreal, dimension Continue reading
Defying by his parents, Hsiao Kang drops out of the local crammer to head for the bright lights of downtown Taipei. He falls in with Ah Tze, a pretty hood and their relationships is a confused mixture of hero-worship and rivalry that soon leads to trouble.
Tsai Ming-Liang follows his trademark ‘pondering static camera’ (“Rebels of the Neon God”, “The River”, “The Hole” and “Vive L’Amour” ) with his fifth feature film, “What Time is it There?”. His unconventional style will deter many cinema goers who might envisage something more easily penetrable, perhaps requiring less speculation. In a pure minimalist vein, Tsai uses no music (aside from “The 400 Blows” theme played sparingly). There is no cinematographic panning shots… no camera movement for each take. Each scene is a single static shot. There are almost no close-ups. There are extremely long stretches without any dialogue. Hopefully, this does not send you running in the other direction because it is indeed a wonderful viewing experience touching upon many important modern emotional themes.