What Time Is It There?

What Time Is It There? ★★★★

Tsai-heads know the drill, I'm sure. Static camera, minimal dialogue, aimless and alienated characters, bodily fluids etc. As someone fairly new to his films I am still searching for the best way to engage with his work further than just letting it wash over me, but that really does seem to be the key. Or rather, letting myself soak in it.

Absence and loss are communicated extremely quietly - essentially silently - but this silence carries emotion with complete clarity. Tsai's continual emphasis on characters in their surroundings, the way they are framed, the way things move around them, conveys all the feeling we need. It may seem like nothing is happening, but there is in fact not a single wasted moment; every shot is beautifully, carefully constructed - look no further than the distant wide shot of Lee Kang-sheng adjusting the clock on the side of a building from a rooftop, which is hilarious, but also contextualises his actions with his environment, magnifying his grief but keeping him minuscule when considered with the huge city around him. This is an obvious example, but all the composition in this film works the same way, shots full of life and shape and energy, even in stasis.

I found the emotional progression of the film disarming; the scenes don't flow together so much as gently stack up against each other, and the sensation becomes one of release, but also of revelation, that the mix of warmth and sadness (both restrained) isn't giving way to something else but instead building towards the inevitable culmination of these two factors and the mood that has been consistently established.

It feels wrong not to mention that today I found out my granddad passed away, on the other side of the world. My dad is over there currently, and I can't help but feel a small part of me is there with him. I'm not wracked with grief or anything - I was not particularly close with my granddad due to the geographical distance, but when I visited recently without the rest of my family, I understood it may well have been the last time I saw him and took the opportunity to bond with him in a way I hadn't previously been able to - but still I feel this played a part in informing my emotional experience with this film. The idea of a part of your family - and, by extension, some intangible part of your identity - being cut off from you and lost, separated by distance and time, is something I feel will always resonate with me to some degree, but perhaps especially so right now.

Block or Report

Shea liked these reviews