A (literal) primal scream in response to pain of urban living and labor. The premise, a shared flat with the tenants all unaware of each other, reads like comedy but plays out as tragedy. City life is rarely depicted so honestly as the cruel paradox that it is- communal space that's made us more alone than ever.
A strange little tale about three people who are unknowingly sharing a vacant apartment in Taiwan. I think I'm getting a clear message from Tsai Ming-Liang's films, and that is that we are surrounded daily by people and goings on that we hardly notice, know nothing about. We may be affected greatly but remain apathetic and self centered all the while... That shot of Yang Kwei-Mei sobbing is heart wrenching.
An attempt to retreat from a cruelly indifferent city/universe brings together three unwitting companions in despair and exposes the secret devastation in their lives. Even together they are profoundly alone. The camera isolates these individuals, deliberately examining their uniquely wrecked inner selves while never truly allowing them to escape the city that has left them in ruins.
Alone together, as they say: young people who can't afford luxury and haven't found soulmates see if they can fake both in this beautiful drama whose minimalist script sneaks up on you with gradually revealed wisdom. It's looser and less forceful than Tsai's later masterpieces (my votes are for Wayward Cloud and What Time is It There?), but his themes and style were coalescing. Lovely melancholy by any standard.
Do you think there was a decisive moment when Tsai looked at Lee Kang-sheng and knew that he'd never make another movie without him? Do you think it was when he was doing those pushups in that dress & boa? I love this film. I love these characters; if I was the type to have heroes, it'd be them. I love this early piece of what develops through Tsai's films as not just world-view but manifesto. And, gah! The beauty...