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aka - Ni Neibian Jidian
Taiwan 2001
Directed by
Tsai Ming-Liang
116 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

What Time Is It There?

Few directors do the pathos of urban isolation like Tsai Ming-Liang, who handles his characters with both affection and irony but never wavers from his bleak view of modern life, at least as the Taiwanese know it.

This film, with its superb mirroring of simplicity of subject and simplicity of treatment, tells the parallel stories of a street vendor and the girl he sells a watch to shortly before she departs Taiwan for Paris. Constructed as series of single scene master shots with little action that are held for almost painful periods of time, it’s a beautifully-composed film (director of photography Benoît Delhomme, who here complements Tsai as Chris Doyle does for Wong Kar-Wai, also shot  Anh Hung Tran’s The Scent of Green Papaya) that well exemplifies the less-is-more principle in film.

Whilst what is, in a sense, classifiable as a black comedy will not be for all tastes, anyone who appreciates the film of Aki Kaurismaki or, to some extent, those of Jim Jarmusch, is likely to find this compelling viewing whilst film buffs will also appreciate the nod to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and the cameo appearance by its now aging star, Jean-Pierre Leaud.




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