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October 5 - 7, 2003

Time’s Up: Three Films by Tsai Ming-Liang

Perhaps the most idiosyncratic of the filmmakers to emerge from the various new Asian cinemas of the mid-1990s, Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang has found significant critical acclaim for his spare postmodern allegories of contemporary life. His second film, Vive L'Amour, won the coveted Lion d’Or in Venice in 1994, and his next feature, The River, earned him a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. His work has drawn comparison to the existential films of Antonioni and Bresson on the one hand, and to the urban comedies of Jacques Tati on the other. His recurrent subject is the human condition, the solitary nature of individual lives, the rituals that engender survival, and the restorative powers of love.

This sampler of work by Tsai is cosponsored by the Department of East Asian Studies, and his visit has been made possible through the auspices of the Taipei Cultural Center.


October 5 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Hole (Dong)

Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang
Taiwan/France, 1998, color, 95 min.
With Yang Kuei-Mei, Lee Kang-Sheng, Miao Tien
Mandarin with English subtitles

It is just seven days to the 21st century, and the rain will not let up in Taiwan. Despite government evacuation warnings, the tenants of a run-down public housing building await the new millennium with sullen resignation. A plumber has been sent to Hsiao Kang’s apartment by a complaining downstairs neighbor. Instead of solving the problem, he leaves a sizable hole in the middle of the man’s living room through which Kang learns about his neighbor, a woman who stockpiles toilet paper. This dystopic look at the modern urban environment under siege—with uncanny musical production numbers offsetting the prevailing gloom—was the sole Asian entry in the omnibus international series The Year 2000 As Seen By..., commissioned by French broadcaster Arte.

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October 7 (Tuesday) 7 pm - Director Tsai Ming-Liang In Person

What Time Is It There? (Ni neibian jidian)

Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang
Taiwan/France, 2001, color, 116 min.
With Lee Kang-Sheng, Chen Shiang-Chyi, Lu Yi-Ching
Mandarin, French, and Taiwanese with English subtitles

Tsai’s most recent feature, What Time Is It There? is composed of long sequence shots that connect the tale of a young man grieving the death of his father in Taipei with the story of an attractive young Taiwanese woman on vacation in Paris. The two are initially brought together when she stops in the man’s makeshift skywalk stand to buy a dual-time watch in advance of her trip. The young man ends up selling her his own watch and finds his grief transformed into an obsession with the woman and the distant locale of Paris. He begins to immerse himself in French culture (including the cinema of François Truffaut) and embarks on a mission to reset all the clocks in Taipei to Paris time. Tsai elegantly intercuts the shopkeeper’s eccentric behavior back in Taiwan with the woman’s own odd encounters in Paris, including crossing paths with Jean-Pierre Leaud at a Paris cemetery.

The Skywalk Is Gone (Tien chao bu jien le)

Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang
Taiwan/France, 2002, color, 25 min.
With Chen Shang-Chyi, Lee Kang-Sheng
Mandarin with English subtitles

This small-scale urban story takes up where What Time Is It There? left off—as the Parisian traveler from the earlier film returns to Taipei and searches for the skywalk where she had purchased her watch from the grieving vendor. It is no longer there. She is forced to cross the busy city street instead, a metaphor for the disconnectedness of contemporary urban life. The absent skywalk is a symbol both for the longing of the characters and a figurative bridge between their first story and what promises to be director Tsai’s next feature.

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