A quirky comedy about a young man who sells watches in the streets of Taipei. He sells his own watch to a young woman who is leaving for Paris the next day. He is so moved by this encounter that he goes around setting all ... more »the clocks in Taipei to Paris time, in order to keep some connection with her.« less
"I've never reviewed before, but I just had to make a point against some of the negative reviews. To those reviewers who claim that What Time is it There? is full of long, boring shots, I emphatically suggest that you rethink the reason you like to watch movies. If you're into movies for action, gags, gimmicks, and stars, then yes, stay away from this one. But to watch this movie with a focus on its fantastically constructed shots, moving portraits of the human soul, and powerful images of modern city life is to understand why sometimes the architecture of a shot can speak volumes more than catchy dialogue and special effects.I actually got a chance to hear Tsai-Ming a few months ago, where he joked with the audience before a screening of this film, speaking through an interpreter and saying: "Other people ask me why I use such little dialogue. I ask them, 'Why do you use so much?'" He made a similar comment about the lack of recognizable musical soundtracks in his film. What the director is trying to explain here is that there are other ways of capturing attention and making a point, and this movie is incredibly effective at that. What Time is it There? is not only a powerful story about loneliness, familial isolation, and cultural identity, but shot so marvelously that nearly every shot took my breath away. I highly, highly recommend this film to anyone interested in the construction of a shot, and how the way that a character interacting with his or her space can be even more effective than dialogue in conveying their emotional relationships to themselves and the people around them.As far as this DVD specfically, I can tell you that this movie is one to be seen on the big screen. So if you have an enormous television, you're in for a treat. However, the beautiful simplicity of the bare shots and the architectural construction both interior and exterior shines through no matter what format you're watching it on."
Lonely people, lonely worlds
kuroneko1 | Istanbul Turkey | 04/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tsai Ming Lian's new film "what time is it there" is an interesting watch. Once again he focuses on the lives of lonely people. Main character loses his father and meets a girl who leaves for Paris. He starts to set all the watches he has (he is a watch seller on the street) to the Paris time. Later he is obsessed with setting all the watches big and small to the Paris time, including a building watch.
Camera journeys into dark, crowded or stuffy rooms with dirty yellow light. Directors chose of using darkness to present people's loneliness continues with this film in various scenes. After losing a husband, widow mother tries to keep the light out by covering everywhere in the house in order to preserve the husband's soul longer If he wishes to visit her in another form. She always prepare a plate for him, unable to cope with his absence. Main character misses the girl whom he saw twice, and tries to stay close to her by setting the time to Paris, drinking french wine on the top of a building (maybe dreaming eiffel tower) and watching French movies on video. She is also lonely in Paris, and refuses to let people in her life who are also lonely, always thinking someone else, trying to phone to that person but failing every attempt (maybe the watch seller who gave her the number, maybe not)
Film has all these emotions told well by camera, actors and cinephotography . So do not expect much speech between the characters. It is a semi silent film in many senses and story actually does not need conversation. But of course director lighten things up for us, using his sense of humour as showing people on their most humane and defenceless moments like burping. He also uses lots of irony in the religious rituels of mourning.
Tsai Ming Lian's films are not easy nor too energetic. So do not expect Wong Kar Wai or Ang Lee type of work here.You need to sit patiently and enjoy the film as a whole, trying to understand the characters actions.
It may not be an easy film for everyone sometimes but definitely a treat for the appreciators of his work."
Disconnection in Melancholic Loneliness - Brilliant!!!
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 08/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ming-liang Tsai's films are nothing like what most audiences are used to as his films have very little, or almost no, dialogue. This means that the dynamic force of Tsai's films are the images and the scenes that he creates with a meticulous perfection as if each scene could be hanging by itself in the Louvre. Through doing this the audience is compelled to participate cerebrally and try to make there own decisions on what Tsai is trying to say. Even so, Tsai creates a story where each scene is interconnected in a very distinct manner. It should also be mentioned that Tsai has been compared to cinematic geniuses such as Robert Bresson and Jacques Tati.
What Time Is It There? begins with an opening scene where an old man sits in melancholic loneliness next to the kitchen table smoking a cigarette. The scene goes on for a good five minutes as the old man struggles with the inhaling and exhaling of the cigarette before he departs the earthly world. The old man is the main character's father, Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-Sheng), who works as a street vendor selling watches in Taipei, Taiwan. Hsiao-kang is a Buddhist and he believes in reincarnation, which means that he must follow certain guidelines in order to help his father have the best possible reincarnation.
Through Hsiao-kang's work he meets the attractive Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-Chyi) who wants to buy his personal watch as she finds it very appealing. At first Hsiao-kang refuses as he is in mourning and it would violate the guidelines of his belief. However, after some thinking Hsiao-kang agrees to sell his watch to Shiang-chyi as she needs it for her trip to Paris, France. It is this moment of the film that launches an emotional journey in the shadow of a spiritual crisis as Hsiao-kang worries about his father's reincarnation. Initially it brings amusement to the audience as Hsiao-kang attempts to set as many watches as he can in Taipei in French time as his watch is currently with Shiang-chyi in France.
Tsai playfully uses the moment of selling the watch to create an astonishing cinematic event that is abundantly rich of subtle humor and simultaneous sadness. This conflict of feelings also brings a homage to François Truffaut's The 400 Blows, which Hsiao-kang buys in order to learn more about France. In addition, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Antoine Doinel in 400 Blows, makes a small cameo in the film where he meets Shiang-chyi on a bench in a graveyard as she is looking for a phone number to someone, assumingly Hsiao-kang. This scene conveys a strong sense of connection between Hsiao-kang and Shiang-chyi, yet the physical disconnection between the two in shape of distance in very real.
What Time Is It There? presents a brilliant cinematic experience that goes far beyond what one can see on the screen. It also offers tribute to cinema itself as it seem to have influenced Tsai in several way. Lastly, it provides much pondering for those who seek a stimulating cinematic experience, which will not be forgotten by those who fully experienced Tsai at his best. "
A solid film all around
Lars Friend | Ithaca, NY USA | 03/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is great. There is a quality to how it is filmed that really just reaches out and grabs you. The movie is well paced (some might call it slow) with lots of meticulously constructed long shots. The composition of these long shots is incredible, each detail in the background, every bit of lighting has been so carefully crafted to put you right there. It's an incredibly lonely film, but beautiful. If you liked "Down By Law" you'll probably enjoy this for many of the same reasons."
Wounding and unforgettable
E. Kutinsky | Seattle, WA | 03/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many have griped of its laconic pace (to put it nicely), but I barely noticed the length of Ming-liang Tsai's elegiac masterpiece - quite the contrary, his concept of "time" is central to the movie. You'll notice there's not a single camera movement in the movie, everything is staged within a particular confined space, and that's because there's not a second of the movie that's not particularly planned out. It tells the story of three characters aching for anything else in their lives, and it does so with unobtrusive observation, a full creation and specification of every nuance of their actions. That makes every action - the restrained ones, the quirky ones, and the sexual ones - a quiet declaration of longing. That is to say the events of the movie are ordinary, for some, too painstakingly ordinary. For those that sign onto its stark stule, though, it'll be an ordinariness that, with nearly silent gestures, moves to the transcendent."