While never-ending rain and a strange disease spread by cockroaches ravage Taiwan, a plumber makes a hole between two apartments and the inhabitants of each form a unique connection, enacted in musical numbers.
Tsai Ming-liang returns with this latest entry in his Walker series, in which his monk acquires an unexpected acolyte in the form of Denis Lavant as he makes his way through the streets of a sun-dappled Marseille.
When a young street vendor with a grim home life meets a woman on her way to Paris, they forge an instant connection. He changes all the clocks in Taipei to French time; as he watches François Truffaut's "Les 400 Coups," she has a strange encounter with its now-aging star, Jean-Pierre Leaud.Written by
What Time Is It There at a first glance is a boring, frustrating and complex puzzle of broken narratives which leave the viewer struggling to stay out of a sleepy haze and focus long enough to draw some sort of cinematic conclusion to an otherwise ambiguous film. Yet once all the amateur film goers and the rest of ADHD ridden America, the true film goers can marvel at a cinematic masterpiece, so far on the spectrum of complexity that it almost goes full circle to simplicity. Full circle being the key phrase here.
Much like other Asian filmmakers, Tsai deals with alienation, loss, and a search for something. The story of the film is simple: a boy's father dies and he and his mother are forced to deal with the loss. If you look for anything, story wise beyond this, you must look harder. The film shows how these two individuals deal with loss through their own idiosyncrasies, yet they both are getting at the same thing. Reincarnation. The young man meets a woman who wants to buy his watch and after some prodding, he relinquishes it. Whether it is because of her or not, he becomes obsessed with turning back the clocks he encounters, as if he is literally trying to turn back time itself. It even becomes quite comical at times when he goes to all sorts of lengths to turn back the clock. While his mother on the other hand deals with reincarnation in the literal sense through her religion. She rigorously practices her faith in hopes of bringing back her husband. In fact she becomes so obsessed with it that she believes he is trying to contact her and won't hear otherwise. Both contrasting view points on reincarnation show the different beliefs on religion and science not fully marrying the film to one of the ideas.
The imagery that comes with these practices is astounding. Tsai has shown that he is the master of mise en scene. Each scene has the camera set up in one position and doesn't move or cut until the end of the scene. The eye is allowed to move freely about the depth of the image while finding the imagery Tsai leaves behind as clues. He uses a water wheel in a mall, a Ferris wheel, and clock faces to show the visual interpretation of turning back the clock. The final image of the film is the Ferris wheel spinning counter clockwise leaving a retrospective idea in the viewers mind.
Truly this film tackles the idea of reincarnation and the dealing with loss and alienation so masterfully that any who attempt to address the same subject matter will just feel like a weak attempt. Tsai's What Time Is It There truly is a simple story with complex themes and visuals that is unlike any film going experience that should be appreciated for its content and relevance and not its entertainment value.
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