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What Time Is It There? (2001)

Cast: Lee Kang-Sheng, Lee Kang-Sheng, Chen Shiang-Chyi, more...
Director: Tsai Ming-Liang, Tsai Ming-Liang
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Fox Lorber
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Taiwan
Running Time: 116 min.
Languages: French, Mandarin
Subtitles: English
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Master Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang directs this look at three people looking for human connection. Hsiao-kang (Tsai regular Lee Kang-sheng) is a young man who sells watches from a briefcase in front of Taipei's train station. When his father (Mio Tien) suddenly dies at the beginning of the film, it sends Hsiao-kang and his mother, Lu, on two radically different trajectories. His grieving mother becomes obsessed with the return of her dead husband's spirit. Hsiao-kang starts to urinate into plastic bags and bottles rather than risk bumping into his father's ghost in the middle of the night. Around that same time, Hsiao-kang encounters an aggressive, though beautiful, lass named Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) who is travelling in a couple of days to Paris. Entranced by the girl, he reluctantly sells her his own watch even though he believes that item has some connection to his father. The encounter leaves with Hsiao-kang with a fixation that Paris is in another time. Soon, he is changing each and every clock he can find back seven hours to Parisian time, forging an obscure connection to Shiang-chyi. Shiang-chyi herself finds Paris to be little different from Taipei in terms of alienation and isolation. Though she has run ins with several people, including an irate Frenchman in the middle of a lover's tiff and none other than Jean-Pierre Leaud in a cemetery, she only finds some comfort when she meets a woman from Hong Kong (Cecila Yip) who generously shares her hotel room with her. This film was screened at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival. ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Way Too Late by talltale May 9, 2007 - 4:19 PM PDT
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
As a nearly-pure example of the chasm that exists between critics and mainstream moviegoers, look no farther than this film from Taiwan. Several critics chose it among their "best of the year." Ostensibly about the difficulties of connecting with other people (at least, I think that's the point), it treats the viewer to extraordinarily prolonged shots of scenes like these: traffic reflected in the windows of a high-rise; a woman, viewed from the rear, vomiting into a toilet; a young man, also seen from the rear, urinating into (I think) a bottle. This latter scene went on so long that I actually thought the DVD was defective and had come to a standstill. But, no.

I don't choose these examples (vomit, urination) to be prudish. It's just that the camera lingers and lingers and LINGERS until there is no more knowledge or understanding to be gained from continued viewing. Yes, the photography's good and the color palette here is gorgeous. There is very little dialog (of course, this is an enormous help with the "non-connections" being made) and most of the characters appear to be in dire need of psychiatric help yet completely unaware of this need. It can be fascinating--if boring--to learn what certain critics call "art," and while I think of myself as having eclectic taste (and have enjoyed at least one other movie by Tsai: Vive l'Amour), WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? tried my patience as have few other films.

poetic even in fast fwd... by cruzer October 6, 2004 - 3:44 AM PDT
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful
This film is not for the faint at heart.
With word density of less then 1 sentence per 10 minutes,
and looong static shots of depressed individuals stumping about...
I caved in after a while and watched the remainder on
fast forward. It was still poetic, and I made it to
the (fun!) ending.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.41)
112 Votes
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Cannes Film Festival & More - 2001
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.
2001: Jonathan Rosenbaum's recommendations
Top 2001 Movies from Jonathan Rosenbaum's article in Chicago Reader. I compiled these lists with the aim of one daying viewing them all. The comments below, if any are mine.

see all lists

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