Imbued with mystery, sly humour and an enormous heart, the latest film from visionary director Tsai Ming-liang links together a series of sumptuously composed scenes that tell the story of a broken family living on the margins of Taipei society.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
I share with this film maker a love for neglected/derelict buildings, and the spirits, both dead and alive, that haunt them. My favorite film of his is GOODBYE, DRAGON INN, filmed in a decaying movie theater. The family in this film is also neglected by civilization, but it is Miss Cabbage-Head who suffers the most.
I found this movie inspiring. I'll just talk about 1 little aspect of the last scene. It's a continuation of the mesmerizing scene with the woman with the red bag. You see the woman going through a wide variety of emotions and the man waiting. Then he has his turn, and then finally the viewer has their turn. Absolutely amazing how so little becomes almost infinite.
Time is a powerful distillery. Made up of long takes of largely motionless subjects, with the passage of time marked by the world going by, Stray Dogs is the shrinking of individual agency down to its real-world size, & a staredown to which yielding means empathizing. The starkness is likely best understood in the context of Tsai's directorial trajectory - his own refinement over time. And maybe the richness is, too.
4,5. The construction of time is still one of the most unusual predicates of this filmmaker and the final two scenes are, at that level, exemplary: as in the end of "Vive l'Amour", the total sense of the previous drifts is build up and complement by a formal endurance that is, simultaneously, philosophical and existencial in its duration, through and made by it. An extraordinary plasticity of "image-time".
Even for Tsai this was depressing as fuck, and easily his bleakest. Farwell Tsai.. I really hope this isn't the end of what it is most likely the most impressive catalogue of work in contemplative/narrative cinema. So little words, so many emotions, so many feelings, and so many special states of being whilst seeing your films.. Thank you. Cinema will not the be same without you.
If you find and tap into the emotional current of Tsai's long takes, they can be mesmerizing, illuminating and rapturous; if you don't, they can be a curious Rorschach test. Still, for a long take to be powerful, it needs to begin and end at exactly the right moments, and Tsai's mostly do.
Gone is the dry humour and fashionable ennui which has been the trademark of Tsai's oeuvre. We just have to accept that Tsai no longer cares about film, neither does he want you to care about film... And the audience is left to stare at nothing but himself.
The cinema that i watched this in played the first 40 minutes in the wrong aspect ratio with only half the subtitles and then started it from the beginning again in the correct format without saying anything to anyone. That aside, those last two shots will stay with me forever- this is definitely Tsai's most haunting film.