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.
From Film Journal International:
By Ethan Alter
When you spend as much time in movie theatres as film critics and serious movie buffs do, you can’t help but wonder whether those spaces possess an inner life. What happens after the last show when the lights are turned off, the doors are locked and everybody goes home? Particularly in an older theatre, it’s easy to imagine a ghostly audience materializing in the empty auditorium as the projector flickers to life. That’s the setting evoked in Tsai Ming-liang’s latest curiosity, Goodbye, Dragon Inn. Unfolding entirely in a rundown movie theatre that’s closing its doors following the evening’s final show, the film is a slow, almost annoyingly deliberate piece of work that nevertheless lingers in your mind long after the credits roll. Continue reading
Plot: The film focuses on three city folks who unknowingly share the same apartment: Mei, a real estate agent who uses it for her sexual affairs; Ah-jung, her current lover; and Hsiao-ang, who’s stolen the key and uses the apartment as a retreat.
(From Allmovie Guide)
“At the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, this Taiwanese-French drama won a FIPRESCI Award, given by international critics. Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang previously won top awards for his 1994 Vive l’amour (at Venice) and 1996 The River (at Berlin). High strangeness is evident in the tale, originally initiated as part of the French TV series of one-hour end-of-millennium dramas. As an epidemic spreads through Taipei, virus victims display odd symptoms. A man (Lee Kang-sheng) who runs a food store with few customers lives in a shabby building in a quarantined section, and a woman (Yang Kuei-mei) in the same building has a withdrawn existence. A plumber, checking a leak, makes a hole in the man’s floor and leaves; the man then observes his neighbors through the hole. The film features four musical fantasy sequences that recall Hong Kong musical films of the ’50s.” — Bhob Stewart Continue reading
The face of an exhausted man breathing deeply, his face agitated and, nearby, the sea. A Buddhist monk walks barefoot and incredibly slowly through Marseille – so slowly, that his progress is barely perceptible and he becomes a calming influence in the midst of the town’s goings-on.
More like a performance or installation art project than an ‘art film’, “Le Voyage en Occident” (Xi you) is a follow-up to the 2012 short “Walker” or a kind of second segment, set in Marseille (South France – French Mediterranean coast).
Consisting of only 14 shots of varying lengths – from very brief to a centrepiece of approximately 20 minutes – the film shows two men, narratively unconnected, who finally come together in a sequence that shows off both actors’ physical skills and sense of timing.
Lee Kang-sheng, who features in all Tsai Ming-liang’s films, plays the monk with impressive energy. His uniform slow motion footsteps and devoted posture turn his performance into a veritable tour de force as he unswervingly makes his way from the coast to the market in Noailles (popular market with mixed communities people), like an illusion in his bright red robe. Xi You represents another edition of the director’s series of short films that expand Lee Kang-sheng’s thirty minute slow walking performance at Taipei’s National Theatre into a ‘slow walking expedition’. Unusual, brilliantly chosen camera angles provide a collage of various districts in Marseille, creating a hypnotic space in which this meditative peregrination becomes a surprising journey of discovery. Continue reading
Tsai Ming-liang’s delightfully shot film Walker, which could also work as a gallery installation, takes an unusual look at the bustling streets of Hong Kong as its features a series of stunningly shot scenes with at the centre a red-robed monk who walks at a snail’s pace. With traffic and pedestrians speeding around him the man (head intensely bowed, bare feet and holding a bread roll in one hand and a plastic bag in the other) walks only a step every minute. Continue reading