Tsai Ming-liang Capsule Reviews

Tsai Ming-liang Capsule Reviews

Walker (2012) — October 4, 2012

Walker is Tsai Ming-liang’s first film since Visage, which I saw back at VIFF 2009 (and which my wife almost walked out of due to both boredom and extreme dislike). It’s been awhile since then and I don’t quite remember how it ends, but apparently Lee Kang-sheng, the star and main character of all Tsai’s films, is now a monk, and this film is the chronicle of his walking, very, very, verrrrrry slowly through the city. It starts with him exiting, one minute movement at a time, from a stone staircase out of the past and into the bustling sidewalk. There follows a series of still shots (Tsai of course doesn’t move the camera) with Lee seemingly in slow motion while the city moves on around him. It’s like the shot in Chungking Express where Tony Leung and Faye Wong are in slow motion at the lunch counter while the passersby move in blurs around them. At first, people don’t seem to be paying much attention to the monk, there’s a scene in a square with a woman pounding something and chanting while passersby take her photograph and ignore the monk in their midst. Later though, there’s a long shot of the monk moving down the street while crowds gather and watch him and, more interestingly to them apparently, photograph Tsai’s camera crew. The space around the monk is open, the crowds keeping their distance as he forms an oasis of stillness in the middle of the city. Later an ice cream truck plays a tinkly version of a Strauss waltz as the monk walks by, decidedly out of time with the tune. One overhead shot includes an apartment window filled with an aquarium, much like the one in Lee’s parents’ apartment in Tsai’s other movies. He’s glimpsed in the space between buses; he moves out of focus past a giant crystal clear advertisement. Occasionally it can be hard to pick him out of a long shot until you realize that he’s the thing that’s not moving. It is, perversely enough, Tsai’s fastest-paced film, the editing more rapid than anything I’ve seen from him before (though the shots are still much longer than a typical movie). Eventually, Lee comes to a stop, his path has lead him to a door that prominently declares “No Entry”. Finally he slowly raises his head and slowly takes a bite of the Egg McMuffin (it’s actually some kind of a bun, but it looks like an Egg McMuffin) he’s been slowly carrying for a day a night and another day. It looks like it tasted great.

No No Sleep (2015) — January 11, 2016

There’s a shot in here, out from a window of an elevated train whooshing through the city at night, blurs of blues and reds and electric whites under a green cloud sky, that ranks as the first or second most beautiful shot of 2015.

The rest of the movie’s pretty good too.

Days (2020) — October 23, 2020