From today I’m gonna run a new series called “double bill”,in this series I will try to find and emphasize the connections between two films,the connection could be virtually anything,directors,styles,themes,mise-en-scenes,you name it.
Today I’m gonna recommend two films directed by Taiwan auteur Tsai Ming-liang,whose most famous work Vive L’Amour won him a Golden Lion award in Venice Festival 1996. This is a director I recently discovered and his unique cinema is the very reason for my impulse to write this post,I can’t wait to watch more of his films and write an auteur post for him.
Introduction to the two films
The most famous shot of the film
Dragon Inn is a 1966 martial arts classic directed by Hong Kong auteur King Hu,it was a huge success in box office at that time and was remade by another Hong Kong director Tsui Hark in 1992 which was also a hit in box-office.The title suggests Tsai’s affection towards this old film and its era,the film is played over and over again in a big theater,but there are only few audiences,which is a dramatic comparison to the best era of the film.
The hole in The Hole
The story is set in a fictional background,in the end of the 20th century,a kind of deadly Taiwan virus is spread all over Taiwan,two young people who live upstairs and downstairs are trapped in their home by the heavy rain outside and the shortage of water,there is a hole between two floors,their love and despair are connected and separated by this hole.
The old theater
Both films present strong feelings of Nostalgia.Goodbye,Dragon Inn is all about Nostalgia,the theater is old,the movie is old,even some of the audiences are old.Tsai recalls his memories of his childhood in an interview,he says when he was young,there are like a hundred martial arts films played in theater every year,and Dragon Inn is something different and so unique that it still has strong impression on his mind.But now,the ideology has changed,the audience also changes,the film is the same film,but people don’t watch this kind of old films anymore.
Isn’t this something that is happening to classic cinema all around the world nowadays?
When the two old actors meet each other at the hall of the theater after watching the film they acted in,I felt it,I felt the sadness Tsai wants to convey.The song that ends the film is perfectly chosen,the name of the song is called Liu Lian,which means Nostalgia in English,the exact theme of the film.
Though it’s a more futuristic film,it’s theme is still about the old times.Tsai says in an interview that he is very pessimistic about the future of human-beings,he thinks that as human race make tremendous progress on modern technology,we also lose a lot of things,the lack of communication is essential in this film.He enlarges this Nostalgic feeling by a very expressive way,the musical.The songs in the musical parts are all sang by the same singer,Grace Chang,who was a very popular singing star in Taiwan at that time,and her gentle voices left Tsai lots of beautiful memories.
Simply put,Tsai’s mise-en-scene is incredible,any other directors can’t make films out of such simple stories and character settings,you can also say that Tsai can make a film out of a feeling or idea,his cinema doesn’t depend on plot or performance but only cinema itself.
Dragon Inn played on big screen
There is actually no main character in this film,the theater can be called one if there is any,that’s all because of the way Tsai shot it.The big close-ups of the screen that appear so many times throughout the film look stunning,just like the shot of the face of Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc.The way he shoots its corridors,ticket office and even bathroom,all gave me a feeling that he was shooting a person.
There is a particular scene which I loved a lot,it is a pillow shot of the 100 empty seats in the theater after the film is over,and the shot lasts like 5 minutes,without any movement in the frame and any voice-over.For a guy like me who isn’t too familiar with his cinema,the first judgement is checking if the player is broken or not! Well,it’s not,but why? Tsai explains in a interview that when he shot this scene,he just didn’t want to end it,he asked the cameraman to run the film as long as he could,so this scene lasts a long time until the film was ran out.
Have a taste of the musicals!
Some of most entertaining parts in this film are these music numbers.It’s extremely funny to watch because of the choreography and the sets.All the numbers take place in the building where both leading characters live,in fact they dance in the elevator,the staircase and the corridor and eventually the room. The dance moves are hilarious,but match perfectly with the tone of the songs.If you ever feel bored watching this film,these musical parts will save you.
Love and Sex
As a director from the East,Tsai’s expressions of love and sex are typical Oriental,which means the way he tackles the love and sex scenes are not that open and expressive.
The saleswoman walks back alone in the rain
There is something more about this film than Nostalgia,which is the love between the projectionist and the ticket saleswoman.They don’t have conversations together in the film,they don’t even appear in the same frame once! But from the ending we can guess that the saleswoman loves the man but he doesn’t love her back,and we don’t know the exact reasons.Anyway,it’s not the main theme here,but the love affair is quite impressive.
The obscure love
The relationship between the two main characters is more obscure in this film.Do they want to make love to each other? It appears so,but it’s only guesses,their sexual desire is restricted throughout the film,the director keeps us waiting for something to happen,but nothing substantial happens.
I’ve never imagined I could enjoy and appreciate Tsai’s cinema so much,that’s why I hope to bring this feeling to you,my dear readers.I will explore more of his works and report back here ASAP,just stay tuned.
You can watch The Hole on Youtube below
For those who have watched Tsai’s films,please let me know your feelings.