What Time Is It There?

What Time Is It There? ★★★★★

What a feat. Loneliness is definitely displayed here; not in the loud and melancholic way à la Wong Kar Wai, but rather in the soft, quiet and genuinely realistic way that Tsai frames his films and creates his worlds. The characters in Tsai's worlds have always been lost souls, knowingly searching for something but not really knowing what they are searching for; an eternal existential crisis till an eventual death. But in What Time Is It There, loneliness isn't just displayed as in many of his films, it's communicated; a literal transportation of the loneliness of Tsai's dreadfully dull Taipei and Paris from the screen towards ourselves.

"小康? 小康?"

What Time Is It There isn't exactly about loneliness due to self-exile or circumstances, rather it's about not being able to let go to something. Not being able to let go of a partner, a father; escaping to another country only to realise that you are only more lost than you were before leaving; constantly wandering streets and cemeteries trying to find meaning in life and yet the answer is nowhere. All the while the world - all with its extremely bustling pace - leaving us all behind and all we are left to do is drag ourselves along with it reluctantly, but now constantly alone and away from the pack. It's the way we cope with pain, with loss, with grief; at times with extreme sadness and then with extreme attempts at humour, but with delights that can only last for as long as the joke has been told. Tsai's world may seem depressing, almost nihilistic in nature at times, but perhaps that is the world we live in when we're unable to catch up with the bustling affair of life and are left behind in the dust, and all that's left is this quietly devastating silence to mourn. Tsai's literal brilliance at being able to tear down our world's intricacies and unnecessary distractions and leaving us with only the bare minimum while yet still being able to communicate so much, if not everything about loneliness and the human condition speaks so much to his skill at filmmaking and his understanding of the state of loneliness itself. Because in our world, it doesn't matter what time it is: morning, afternoon, evening, night; loneliness and sorrow is all the same, whether we're in a small apartment in Taipei or wandering the cafes and cemeteries of Paris. Pain still lingers; it is all the same.

[Tsai Ming-liang - Ranked]

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