The most audacious film to date from visionary director Tsai Ming-liang, The Wayward Cloud is about a porn actor and the museum tour guide who enters into a strange relationship with him, unaware of his profession. Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng) is the same alienated youth whose chance encounter with Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) provided the spark that fueled Tsai’s earlier films. Once again, these two lost souls cross paths—he now works as an actor in no-budget porn films, and she wanders around Taipei, hoarding bottles of water because of a serious drought. In fact, the government is recommending that people eat watermelons to hydrate themselves. This fruit sets in motion a perverse (and often hilarious) symbolic theme throughout much of the film. As in his earlier film The Hole (SFIFF 1999), Tsai adds trashy, campy musical numbers into the narrative. These sequences play against the raw sex scenes, creating a bizarre, existential chaos. The filmmaker has created a perfectly realized alternative universe in his ongoing exploration of sex, bodies, and loneliness. His stationary camera perfectly illustrates the isolation and exploitation the characters are trapped in—yet the film is as funny as it is emotionally tortured. Tsai’s characters are indeed wayward clouds, drifting through life without purpose, in a world without water. And prepare yourself for the film’s unbelievable final scene (no spoilers here), which manages to be both weirdly erotic and profoundly disturbing. —Joel Shepard, BAM/PFA
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
Funny, endearing, full of naive scenes between Hsiao-kang and Shiang-chyi that overshadowed by the critique of porn industry. Plus, never did a simple question like "Still selling watches?" leave me lamenting like this...
Francois Truffaut, Tsai Ming-liang, and the “reverberation, ambiguity and suggestiveness” of the cinephiliac writerly impulse of “the move.”
Tsai offers both an intensified take on his brand of voyeurism and a sweet valentine to his cast of regulars.