San Francisco International Film Festival @ BAM/PFA
Master filmmaker Tsai Ming-liangs work often reveals an affinity for the natural world and its elements, especially rain and water. And in Stray Dogs, Tsais tenth feature, the cold of the wind and the driving rain provide a fitting backdrop for the struggle of an impoverished family consisting of a father and two children (and two shifting maternal figures) trying to survive in modern-day Taipei. Loneliness and sadness permeate the tableaux in this incredibly tactile work, with surfaces, especially walls, taking on a sharp tangibility. The rock-strewn floor of an abandoned building gives off the otherworldly feel of a lunar plain. Tsais camera is patient and watchful, peppering the film with extreme long takes. The daunting duration of these scenes simultaneously coaxes and frustrates the viewers attention as our eyes scan the frame upon which the minutes unfurl while the characters actions and faces slowly build to and sustain moments of desperate emotion. In the end, these long shots become mesmeric in their revelation of pulsating despair and longing in this bold and often mysterious work.
Written by Song Peng Fei, Tsai, Tung Chen Yu. Photographed by Liao Pen-jung, Sung Wen Zhong. With Lee Kang-sheng, Lee Yi-cheng, Lee Yi-chieh. (138 mins)
$13 BAM/PFA members, San Francisco Film Society members, UC Berkeley students, $15 General Admission, $14 Non-UC Berkeley students, senior citizens (65 & over), disabled patrons