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By Rich Cline | September 14, 2004

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.

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