What Time Is it There?
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
halfway around the world Examining urban angst with typically Taiwanese black humour, director-cowriter Tsai creates memorable characters linked only by the briefest of encounters. Hsiao-Kang (Lee) has just buried his father (Miao) and is starting to worry about his mother (Lu) and her increasingly obsessive superstitious beliefs. He sells wristwatches outside Taipei's main station, and when Shiang-Chyi (Chen) buys a watch from him just before flying off to Paris on holiday, he becomes obsessed himself ... wondering about her and what she's up to. He roams around Taipei changing all the clocks to Paris time! Meanwhile in France, Shiang-Chyi is having a rather bleak time herself, struggling with the language and meeting several perplexing locals (including Yip and Leaud).

Make no mistake: This is an art film, full of those trademark long, quiet passages in which nothing much happens. And it's not remotely easy to spot the connections between the characters and events, if there is any. Instead, we merely watch these two very loosely linked young people cope with the curiosities that urban life throws at them. Hsiao-Kang's increasing frustration is palpable and real--even though we don't understand his clock fixation, we can understand his pain at losing a father ... and apparently his mother as well. And anyone who has travelled alone in a strange place can easily identify with Shiang-Chyi's escalating desperation. Where these characters connect with the people around them is surprising and ultimately the source of this intriguing film's meaning.

themes, language, sex 29.May.02

dir Tsai Ming-Liang
scr Tsai Ming-Liang, Yang Pi-Ying
with Lee Kang-Sheng, Chen Shiang-Chyi, Lu Yi-Ching, Miao Tien, Cicilia Yip, Jean Pierre Leaud, Chen Chao-Jung Tsai Guei, Arthur Nauzyciel, David Ganansia
release UK 21.Jun.02
01/Taiwan 1h56

Couch potato. Hsiao-Kang becomes obsessed with French cinema...
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
halfway around the world send your review to Shadows... "Tsai provides a wallop of a punch by creating a wrenching twist of alienation and bizarre psychological edginess in this intense and irreverent comedy. The film solidifies the emotional angst that drives this stimulating art house piece to the point of engaging forethought. Inherently caustic and oddly whimsical, it chimes in on the grieving process and strangely draws the audience into the unexplainable pain and eccentricities that are attached to the concept of loss. Tsai's cinematic presentation is gloriously immersed in an austere style of filmmaking that suggests we become as intimate and as affecting as his tortured protagonists. It's a profoundly soulful and exhilarating exorcise in offbeat humanistic behavior. The usage of time and its essential impact is cleverly referred to because it places the importance of the extreme belief that none of us can control our existence or the existence of others that we care about. Basically, we're all here in this world on borrowed time. All we can do is dictate where our destiny may place us; we cannot determine the destiny of time. This is nothing more that an elaborate, gleeful exploration of desperation and nonsensical wishful thinking that toys around with the idealistic belief of an everlasting human bond meant to test the hands of time. **** (out of 4)." --Frank Ochieng, Massachusetts 22.Aug.02
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall