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January 08, 2006


The Wayward Cloud/Tian Bian Yi Duo Yu
Tsai Ming-Liang - 2005
Deltamac Region 0 DVD

Drifting Clouds/Kauas Pilvet Karkaavat
Aki Kaurismaki - 1996
Sandrew Metronome PAL Region 2 DVD

"I've looked at clouds from both sides now." - Joni Mitchell

Yesterday I saw Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice by Paul Mazursky. In the DVD supplement, Mazursky talks about how little silence there is in current American films. Bob and Carol, released in 1969, is loaded with silent moments, usually those awkward moments when the characters are not sure what to say to each other. The high point of Mazursky's film is near the end when the four title characters find themselves in bed together only to come to the realization that they are more comfortable with certain traditions regarding marriage and relationships.

I bring this point up because Tsai and Kaurismaki make extensive use of silence and scenes with lack of dialogue. There is also some similarity in their sense of the absurd, and deadpan sense of humor. I am a bit more familiar with Tsai having seen most of his films, primarily on DVD, although I did see What Time is it Over There? theatrically. I am just beginning to know Kaurismaki's films.

Tsai's films are less concerned with a dramatic arc. Lee Kang Sheng, the street vendor from Time returns as a part-time porno actor involved with two women. What makes the film memorable is not the episodic narrative, but Tsai's extreme and unanticipated imagery. The film opens with Lee, a woman, and a large half of watermelon between her legs. One of the several musical numbers combines the music of Tennessee Ernie Ford and fashion sense that Madonna might have found extreme. One very funny number could almost be called "The Umbrellas of Taipei". There are others who can discuss Tsai with greater articulation than I can. Even though I don't have the enthusiasm for Tsai's films that some other have, I still appreciate certain moments in his films that make me glad I took the time.

Kaurismaki is more conventional, but not by that much. In this and Man without a Past, we have stories of people who find themselves virtually down and out. Drifting Clouds is about a middle aged couple who find themselves unemployed. Kaurismaki's couple is expressionless, whether briefly looking at their new color television before going to bed, or realizing that what little money they had is gone after visiting a casino. At one point the husband yells for his money back in a movie theater until the cashier reminds him that he came in for free. The wife takes a job at a small restaurant where she takes the order, yells to an unseen cook, only to walk in the kitchen to do the cooking. Kaurismaki has affection for his characters, in spite of their pride and silliness. In a Kaurasmaki film, even the least photogenic of characters deserve lives with happy endings.

Posted by peter at January 8, 2006 07:36 PM


Keep up the great work on your blog. Best wishes WaltDe

Posted by: WaltDe at August 31, 2006 02:14 PM