Hsiao-kang shares an apartment in Taipei with his parents, but the three of them lead very separate lives. His mother works as an elevator attendant in a restaurant and is having an affair with a man who pirates porno vidotapes. Hsiao-kang is drifting through life without a job, while his father, a pensioner, pursues a solitary quest for illicit pleasures in the city’s gay saunas. As an extra in a film, Hsiao-kang plays a body adrift in the heavily polluted Tamsui River. He begins to suffer a terrible pain in his neck, but no one seems to able to cure him. In desperation, Hsiao-kang travels with his father to Taichung, to visit a faith healer. While waiting to see him, the father gets bored and decides to visit a local men’s sauna. Coincidentally, Hsiao-kang has the same idea… Life is like a river: there will always be some dark, deep, damp corners. —Thessaloniki Film Festival
Along with Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang became one of Taiwan’s most prominent directors during the 1990s. His films regularly appeared in festivals around the globe and he received lavish praise from film critics worldwide. Born in Malaysia in 1957, Tsai moved to Taiwan and graduated from the Chinese Cultural University in 1982. For the next ten years, he worked in theater and writing screenplays for films and television. He directed his first feature in 1992, Rebels of the Neon God, which, with its tough but tender depictions of disaffected youth, earned him comparisons to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. In addition to Fassbinder, Tsai was also influenced by François Truffaut, to whom he was exposed as a student. His style differed from his idol Truffaut’s, however, like his countrymen Yang and Hou, Tsai preferred long takes, few close-ups, and sparse dialogue. And like another of his influences, Michelangelo Antonioni, he displayed a genius for placing the camera at… read more
The first half is brisk comedy, and though the rest feels like a protracted hesitation before coming to a more or less foreseeable conclusion, the effect is still stunning, all the more so for Tsai's objectivity. These are non-individuals in the birth pangs of individual selves, represented by Tsai's trademark metonymy of porous surfaces and holes. I liked the characters without always understanding them.