Published Sep 01, 2001
Over the past decade or so, Taiwan's Tsai Ming-liang has made films that, like no one else since Antonioni, seem to define what it is to be swallowed up and lost amidst the monolith of impersonal urban spaces. In "What Time Is It There?" a young street vendor trying to sell watches ends up selling his own watch to a girl who's just about to fly off to Paris. It's only later that he realises how smitten he was with her, and in lieu of being with her physically, he tries to connect with her by watching French movies (he fixates on "The 400 Blows"), and by changing every clock in Taipei to Paris time. By turns funny, sad and hopeful, Tsai once again demonstrates his mastery of deadpan wit and his eye for achingly beautiful scenes of loneliness and longing.