Quick-Thoughts: Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time is it There? (2001)

Watching someone piss into bags and bottles really is cinema at it’s finest. 

I imagine this is what Christopher Nolan did during his days of youth: selling watches on the streets, obsessing over women from different time zones, and caressing public clocks at any opportunity he got. And in spite of such oddities, we more than the latter seem to know what causes these obsessions — a family tragedy, a complete alteration in lifestyle — but why “these” obsessions in particular? Is it just because it’s the initial thing we recognize as plausibly symbolic after the incident? A first comes first serves philosophy but applied to something becoming a repeated custom from there on foreword? Is this just one of many ingredients that crafts tradition, these spontaneous yet vaguely contrived superstitions, reckoned out of unexpected, swelling pain, or is it everything we hold onto? Anything we’ve ever learned to do and redo and redo and redo and redo till the storm leaves?

Grieving is a mess in this outlook. We don’t know what we’re searching for but we search regardless. Hopefully, these times will somehow change with aimless ventures. 

But, ending on the most commendable matter to note here: only few like Tsai Ming-liang could make all this mumbo jumbo totally not overwhelming and actually pretty funny in What Time is it There? His films are so breathable and relaxed despite how deeply reflective and gloomy they are. On paper, this should be boring, but it’s so much the opposite: it’s comforting to relate this easily. 

Verdict: A-

Tsai Ming-liang Ranked

“What Time is it There?” is currently not available to stream.

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