I think this may be like the prequel to What Time Is It There? First thing a Tsai initiate will notice is the patience. Wow. Like in Jia Zhangke’s films, people just don’t seem to be in too big of a rush, and when I say people, I also mean the film itself. Maybe it’s a style thing, or maybe it’s desolation or perhaps (I wouldn’t know) that’s just how it is in some places (China? Or just the world of directors like Tsai and Jia Zhangke, where people sit and eat, and do laundry, and ride scooters, and pee). This film is just so easy to watch (even when it’s not). “Here, have some watermelon.” The post-coital scene with the orange towel “glowing” amidst tunnel-fadeout darkness [~14:00, 52:55, 57:00] recalls the visual tactics of Kobayashi’s Kwaidan. Oh yeah I said it. In fact, by the end, the young boy even reminds me a little of Hoichi from the same film, troubled, sympathetic, and real slow-walker. The shot of him riding the moped with his father holding his neck is awesome. Careful and thoughtful handling of themes like the effects of (probably societally) repressed homosexuality and its consequences-aftermath, as well as intra-family relationships in general make Todd Solondz look like a grandstander. Todd Haynes does better but unfortunately suffers under the stifling veneer of Hollywood. The other obvious (meaning even I picked up on it) theme is the limitation of traditional Eastern medicine (and by extension, values) to provide all the answers. (see Lu Xun’s short story “Medicine”) Perhaps other film commenters have more to say on Tsai’s use of mirrors?

Note: In the film, some pretty amazing things happen, yet because of Tsai's style, they seem easier to take (to me at least). This contrasts the more intense, even theatrical depiction of similar events occuring in say, a Bergman film. I wonder if there is a compromise here in terms of the lasting effect the film has on audiences. But if the films were to hard to swallow, fewer people might see them. And there may be some culture considerations as well at play in terms of where the film is made and who it is being made for. I need to speak with Tsai.

Spoiler: The quasi-Oedipal father/son event defies credulity and simply put, in spite of all stylistic attempt to the contrary, is contrived. But! It is in an attempt to further a vital theme of parental son sacrifice. The father, in spite of an event which would make some men flee outright, stays on and continues in an attempt to heal his son as he makes the phone call to arrange for his son’s medical care. If I am correct in this analysis, then the film can be said to be flawed in this way.

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