What Time Is It There?

What Time Is It There? ★★★★★

This is a Tsai Ming-liang film in its most complete form; a consummation of his cinematic assets, made most resonant by balancing out his best ideas. Through a series of immersive compositions (his static frames have never seemed so colourful), Tsai charts the sexual complexity and existential longing that resides in his three leads. The passing of a patriarch begets darkly comic circumstances: Mother (Yi-Ching Lu)--painted as increasingly delusional--lectures her son Hsiao-kang over dinner about being wasteful of their expensive vitamins, after she prepares a plate of food for the ghost of her husband. Tsai is never critical of his characters, though. Later scenes show the mother cycling through the steps of grief--desperate and in denial--that reveal the real tragedy at the core of this family. Hsiao-kang's version of grieving appears more introverted, tiptoeing his way through the dark to the bathroom but freezing and turning back upon hearing potentially ghostly noises. Those that have lost a family member might recognize this type of behaviour-- irrational, sure, but hard to shake nonetheless. A wristwatch vendor by day, Hsiao-kang is led by his mourning to become preoccupied with turning clocks back 7 hours (to match the time in Paris). The conscious effort is made in an attempt to connect to the woman he sold his own watch to, but it also points to a greater need: To control time, or at least slow it down enough to make sense of the world. A projector's glimmering beams of light later reestablish a persisting theme in Tsai's work: Cinema as a distraction from pain; as a form of escapism that nudges forward the healing power of time.

Block or Report