FILM FESTVAL 2006
IN COMPETITION ~ CINEAWENIRE AWARD (CINEMA FOR PEACE AWARD)
FILM FESTIVAL 2006
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
TORONTO, PUSAN, TOKYO FILMEX, VANCOUVER, LONDON, HONG KONG,
THESSALONIKI, MONTREAL NEW CINEMA, SAO PAULO, TALLINN BLACK
NIGHTS, BANGKOK WORLD, REYKJAVIK, ROTTERDAM
CROWNED HOPE FESTIVAL 2006
NOMINATED FOR BEST DIRECTOR AND BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
IN MANDARIN & MALAY WITH ENGLISH & CHINESE SUBTITLES
Director: Tsai-Min Liang
Cast: CHEN Shiang-Chyi, LEE Kang-Sheng, Norman
ATUN, Pearly CHUA
RunTime: 1 hr 57 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Festive
Day: 5 April 2007
After being attacked and robbed in Kuala Lumpur,
the homeless Hsiao Kang is taken in by some Bangladeshi workers.
One of them, Rawang, lets Hsiao Kang sleep beside him on an
old mattress he has found. As he nurses Hsiao Kang’s
wounded body, he feels calm and contented. Is it because of
the mattress or because of Hsiao Kang? Chyi, who waits tables
in a small coffee shop, is also nursing someone: her lady
boss’s paralysed son. Chyi hates her life. When she
happens to meet Hsiao Kang, her body fills with lustful desires.
However, her difficulty in finding a place to have sex with
him brings home to her just how little freedom she has.
As Hsiao Kang slowly recovers, he finds himself caught between
Rawang and Chyi, pleading for attention like a stray cat but
equally capable of fluttering away as free as a moth. Chyi’s
lady boss also develops lustful feelings for Hsiao Kang, finding
that he resembles her paralysed son...
a heavy haze envelops the city that is so humid that it reeks
of the sweat of its multi-ethnic population. These men and
women and the old mattress lose their way in the haze, but
perhaps find each other …
I won’t pretend that I like this film. I won’t
even pretend that I understand what is happening in this 115-minute
arthouse flick. But this work by auteur Tsai Ming-Liang will
have a strange effect on us urbanites – you just need
to experience it yourself.
After mind-boggling films like What Time
Is It There? (2001) and outrageously bold ones like The Wayward
Cloud (2005), the auteeur continues to make movies that will
outrightly test your patience. This is the first time Tsai
is making a film in his homeland Malaysia, and his ninth work
tells the story of, to put it simply, urban alienation.
familiar face in Tsai’s films, Lee Kang-Sheng takes
on two roles in this story about freedom. One of them is a
homeless man taken in by a Bangladeshi worker, while the other
is a vegetable taken care by a girl who works in a coffee
auteur continues employing long takes to allow the patient
viewer to appreciate every detail in every shot. You’d
appreciate the slow-moving revolving fan, the drops of water
trickling from the tap, or simply the actor’s long stares
into space. Before you step into the cinema, calm yourself
down as the visual journey will be a draining and intensive
latecomers, rushing into the theatre won’t do you any
forlorn look works well in a genre like this because of the
perpetual disengagement in his eyes (even when he is lying
on bed as a vegetable). Theatre actresses Chen Shiang-Chyi
(who plays a girl seeking love and companionship) and Pearlly
Chua (who plays a sexually repressed coffee shop owner) put
their acting chops to good use in roles that do not talk much.
First-time actor Norman Atun (who plays the foreign worker
who nurses Lee back to health in a construction work site)
has an odd gentleness which nicely complements the otherwise
minimal lack of dialogue in this film may turn off some viewers,
but the well-framed shots and proverbial images of Kuala Lumpur
are indulgingly pleasurable to look at.
those who are looking out for social commentaries, they are
not lacking in this international film festival favourite
too. Familiar issue like the haze problem, and foreign workers
are explored, though no solution is given.
But what are these problems compared to universal issues of
loneliness, love and the need for companionship?
the film’s most painful scene, the coffee shop owner
(played by Chua) forces her worker’s (played by Chen)
hand to masturbate the vegetable (played by Lee) lying on
bed. As the scene goes on, the ache is almost indescribable.
the other hand, when the film concludes with a soothingly
calm note, accompanied by an apt oldie tune, I can’t
help but feel envy for the characters in the story –
unlike me who has just finished penning this review in the
wee hours of the morning; they don’t have to sleep alone.
(A film that requires your patience and appreciation to achieve
its full gratification effect)
by John Li