What Time Is It There?

This 2001 feature is Tsai Ming-liang’s most exciting and original to date. The obsessive constants in all of his five featuresthe same actors playing similar roles in some of the same locations, the quirky preoccupation with water and alienationmay make him seem like a minimalist. But here he branches out beautifully by adding another city and country to his repertoryParis, France, which alternates with Taipeiwithout compromising any of his formal rigor or playfulness. In The Hole a young man and woman occupy flats on separate floors of the same building; here they occupy separate countries and time zones. They remain basically strangers, apart from fleeting encounters, but the intricate formal rhyme schemes devised by Tsai as he oscillates between the two are even more inventive than those in The Holeone of the many things evoking Jacques Tati. With Lee Kang-sheng and Chen Shiang-chyi. In French, Mandarin, and Taiwanese with subtitles. 116 min. (JR)

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