What Time Is It There?

What Time Is It There? ★★★★

If Tsai's is a cinema of space, then the thesis of What Time Is It There? seems to be that time is just another form of space, that time is just another way for people to be (and not be) together. Hsiao-kang and his mother can't bear the absence of their respective partners, so they engage in desperate, fruitless rituals to feel closer to them, attempting to shift their place in space and time. Both characters are trying to reach outside of time in order to maintain contact with someone in a different space, Hsiao-kang into France and his mother into the afterlife. Separated in space, the only connection they feel they can make is across time.

And yet the irony here is that the physical spaces of Hsiao-kang, his mother, and Shiang-chyi, the mystery woman in France, are all crowded and claustrophobic. Everyone is constantly so close to everyone else that they never have any space to themselves, whether it's Shiang-chyi on a packed train or Hsiao-kang unable to escape his mother's incessant rituals. Everyone is oppressed by the over-proximity of the Other while also always being so terribly lonely and isolated. The tragic irony is that these overabundant physical relationships aren't rewarding: even when all three principle characters share an intimate sexual encounter, united across space and time by the magic of editing, they leave these encounters as empty as they entered them.

2001 | Tsai Ming-liang | Taiwan | Patreon

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