Saturday, 8 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 334: Tue Dec 2

Stray Dogs (Ming-liang, 2013): Westfield Vue Cinema, 7.30pm




Here is the A Nos Amours Film Club preview of tonight's special screening which will feature an introduction by Jonathan Romney:
Read Romney's Film Comment review
here - he has some reservations, but says the film is mesmerising. It is after all the mature work of a great film maker.

A father and his two children wander the margins of modern day Taipei, from the woods and rivers of the outskirts to the rain streaked streets of the city. By day the father scrapes out a meager income as a human billboard for luxury apartments, while his young son and daughter roam the supermarkets and malls surviving off free food samples. Each night the family takes shelter in an abandoned building. The father is strangely affected by a hypnotic mural adorning the wall of this makeshift home. On the day of the father's birthday the family is joined by a woman - might she be the key to unlocking the buried emotions that linger from the past?

Time Out review:
Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang, whose last feature was 2009’s underrated French fantasia Face, returns to familiar territory, or so it initially seems. For a good hour or more, the rigorous and demanding Stray Dogs plays like a greatest-hits package. (Newbies shouldn’t start here.) The writer-director’s usual star, Lee Kang-sheng, is a homeless Taipei man who by day holds up advertising placards along a busy city roadway and by night squats in an abandoned building with his two children. It’s a tough and tedious life punctuated by doses of the surreal comedy that fans have come to expect from the filmmaker. In one lengthy scene, Lee devours a head of cabbage that his daughter uses as a doll—an encounter that plays both like a sex-film parody and a tragedy-tinged howl from the void.
Such sequences are mesmerizing in their way, but Tsai’s done this sort of thing with greater potency in movies like 2005’s porn-world musical The Wayward Cloud (there, a watermelon was the object of affection). Stray Dogs really starts to come alive in its second half, when the action switches to a decrepit apartment out of a J-horror film and the family-of-outcasts narrative tips completely into the slippery realm of the avant-garde. It’s at this point that you understand Tsai’s disorienting choice to have the lead female character (a grocery-store manager who takes a motherly interest in Lee’s kids) played by three different performers. Everything that came before is reoriented through a newly nightmarish prism, and the lengthy final two shots (each running more than ten minutes) rank among the best work this inimitable artist has ever done.
Keith Uhlich

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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