What Time Is It There? review

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After the loss of his father, Taipei street vendor Hsiao-Kang (Lee Kang-Sheng) agrees to sell his own wristwatch to a young woman Shiang-Chyi (Chen Shiang-Chyi). Learning she's about to embark on a trip to Paris and finding himself deeply attracted to her, he decides to honour her memory by altering the city's clocks to French time. Meanwhile, Hsiao-Kang's widowed mother (Lu Yi-Ching) is convinced that her reincarnated husband is set to return...

Taiwanese writer-director Tsai Ming-Liang (The River, The Hole) here orchestrates another minimalist observation of urban isolation and familial dysfunctionality. Characters struggle to communicate and fail to find emotional intimacy in their fleeting sexual encounters, as the viewers are given freedom to construct their own interpretation of the film's events. Ming-Liang lets the action unwind in long, static takes, his camera lingering but never judging.

The director also displays a deadpan comic touch in a number of verbal gags, judiciously preventing things from becoming too depressing.

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