It’s only natural that Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day begins with a shot of a barely-lit light bulb. On the set of a movie, a director reprimands an actress for harping on the color of her dress. “This is a black and white film,” he says, one of many references to the symbolic darkness that overshadows the milieu of the film. A Brighter Summer Day is itself in color, but it may as well be monochrome. Much of the film’s action takes place at night or inside dimly lit interiors, and it’s not unusual for the characters to be confronted by light and its almost political implications. Some of the best images in the film (young boys staring at a rehearsal from a theater’s rooftop; a basketball bouncing out of a darkened alleyway) pit light against dark—a fascinating dialectic meant to symbolize a distinctly Taiwanese struggle between past and present. From weapons to watches, objects similarly speak to the present. Like the light, these objects are constant reminders that the past can’t be ignored and must be used to negotiate the present. Continue reading
Seen through the prism of the Lin family, this complex family drama from Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao Hsien details a brief but crucial moment in Taiwanese history between 1945, when 50 years of Japanese colonial rule came to an end, and 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Kuomintang forces established a government-in-exile after the Communist army captured mainland China. 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.
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