Taiwan / France, 2001 (MIFF 2002, Regional Focus)
Director: Tsai Ming-Liang
The latest from Tsai Ming-liang - a dynamo on the Taiwanese film scene - is a poignant, frequently amusing and whimsical, journey through the human conditions of memory and yearning, filtered through an illuminating, at times cinematically referenced, humour. Hsiao-Kang sells watches on the streets of Taipei. When his father dies suddenly, his mother becomes obsessed with his 'return'. Hsiao-Kang soon meets Shiang-Chyi, a beautiful woman who happens to be moving to Paris. Fixated on their brief encounter, he starts to set every watch in Taipei to Paris time. Meanwhile in Paris, Shiang-Chyi confronts mysterious events that seem to connect the two of them.
"Forbidden by his mother to use the toilet for fear of startling his father's soul, Hsiao-kang is compelled to urinate into a plastic bag. Activities have an almost Warholian lack of affect. Hsiao-kang squats by his stand idly trying to smash the crystal of an unbreakable watch by swatting it against the metal guard-rail. What Time Is It There? is filled with purposeful, if absurd, activity rendered gravely hilarious through Tsai's deadpan, distanced representation of extreme behaviour." - Village Voice
Tsai Ming-Liang (born in Malaysia, 1957) moved to Taiwan in 1977 and graduated from the drama department of the Chinese Cultural University in 1981, then worked in theatre and television before moving to film. His previous films include Rebels of the Neon God (1992), Vive l'amour (1994), The River (1996) and The Hole (1998).