What Time Is It There?

What Time Is It There? ★★★★★

Hsiao-kang speaks to his fathers ashes assuming that his ghost still clings to its edges with his celestial fingertips, giving him a much needed warning when they are about to enter a tunnel. His father is soon to be reincarnated as mice and fish and walls and maybe even time, his mother says. Hsiao-Kang pisses in bags and lackadaisically sells watches. Shiang-chyi enters the game at this point. They meet when she wants to buy a watch and he sells watches and she says she is moving to Paris and he says ok. They may have coalesced greatly but she went to Paris, France and he doesn't live there. He lives in Taipei and the time there is not the time in Paris but it is all the same time. Many people are sad and sometimes they brush against each other, unknowing, and they spiral off in tangents and the lines they spin off in are never unknown to the ghosts. This obsession with france, the time of france, becomes him, as a way to deal with loss or loneliness or misery or alienation or time. In an effort to dismantle time itself he smashes his watch rhythmically against the railing. It doesn't work, but he knew that coming in. Time is an obsession that doesn't pay, yet all mankind is fascinated with it. Their strings are loosely connected now, but always they wrestle. Within a restaurant scene lifted straight out of Tativille, she says: "the people here are strange and their shadows are eating me alive. send help." he thinks: "if i change the clocks to a different time, maybe things will be different."


In short: I don't know exactly in words how to talk about films like this. Not a lot happens but it also feels like when you're in the shower staring at slowly descending water droplets and suddenly 45 minutes have passed and it's time to abandon your steamy chamber for the real world. That's what it is like, leaving a deceptively therapeutic shower where your brain disintegrated into the aether without you ever knowing it. The Brain returns as if nothing were ever amiss and you say: "what was that all about? where were you? what were you doing?" And it says: "nothing." Like the scene where two characters are standing on opposite sides of the subway, he gets on but continues to stare into her as the train ambles off, and then the scene ends. Washes over you, really. Like the water droplet you follow but then collapses and then you find another.


It's also deathly funny, with its mistimed burps and the gay guy putting the clock on his cock and death-staring his victim into submission. 25% of the time, it works all the time. And deathly sad (throughout): the grieving wives conversation with a fish who may or may not be her husband briefly reincarnated coming to see her from the nether world. Ebert said: "one of the enigmas about Tsai's work is that it is always funny and always sad, never just one or the other." Everything hurts and time does not care. But Hsiao-kang still asks: "what time is it over there? is it different over there? is time angry over there too?"


and this feels like falling in love with film.


and then the dead man rises, and he walks into a giant clock, and we leave our showers.

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