The Wayward Cloud Tsai Ming-Liang

Not even Ken Russell went so far as to stage a musical number with a man dressed as a penis, but Tsai Ming-Liang is a man without shame, hence its inclusion in The Wayward Cloud. There are many such musical numbers punctuating his antics-laden narrative, which covers much the same territory as his other quasi-musical, The Hole. This time, there's a drought instead of a downpour, and our distant male/female couple have no idea of each other's careers. Hers is not elucidated, but he's a porn actor, making a movie (several movies?) in the drab apartment complex where she lives. Watermelons figure heavily in the background, with melon juice having replaced bottled water and one hugely outrageous sex scene starting things off, but though there's much more frivolous content here it's not a frivolous movie. Rather, it's a deepening of his interest in alienation to include the real pleasures that such feelings suppress. Those musical numbers are a lot of fun, with splashy colours and loony designs pitched right at the edge of ridiculousness, and they're the right counterpoint to his traditional portraits of people living alone and failing to connect. Alas, you'll be sideswiped by the hugely upsetting ending, which knocked me off my feet and re-contextualised everything - you may not like where he goes with his previously gentle incursion into the physical-erotic realm. But that's par for the course with this director, one of the reasons he's one of the great directors of the last 20 years, and his latest and most curious effort demands a second viewing. (Arena/Homegreen/Arte France)