A docu-fiction that may not be as fully-formed as Tsai’s previous films, but still feels somewhat rewarding if you surrender to its modulated slow cinema style.
Dir. Tsai Ming-liang
2020 | Taiwan | Drama | 127 mins | 1.78:1 | No dialogue
Not rated – likely to be R21 for homosexual theme
Cast: Lee Kang-sheng, Anong Houngheuangsy
Plot: Kang lives alone in a big house while Non stays in a small apartment in town. They meet, and then part, their days flowing on as before.
Awards: Won Teddy Award – Special Mention & Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlin)
International Sales: Homegreen Films
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature – LGBT, Existential
Narrative Style: Straightforward – Elliptical
Pace: Very Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Is it right to call Days a docu-fiction? Maybe.
But in Tsai Ming-liang’s latest feature film, he blurs that thin line between fiction and reality to an even greater extent as his camera captures his two actors—one (Lee Kang-sheng) very familiar to those who have been surveying Tsai’s works over the decades, and the other (Anong Houngheuangsy), a new face who might soon be familiar if rumours of a sequel to Days do come to fruition.
On this note, one might see Days as a spiritual sequel to the even earlier and more fully-formed I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (2006). With a Golden Bear competition slot at Berlin, one might accord some seriousness to Tsai’s work here, though I personally find this to be a minor film of his.
Running at two hours, which feels all of its length as Tsai’s modulated slow cinema style takes center stage again. Made up of only a handful of shots, some flowing for more than 20 minutes without any cuts, Days could be Tsai’s most austere film to date.
But it also seemingly suggests a new phase for his filmmaking, relying on low-fi digital cameras and what seems like a shoestring budget to continue innovating artistically, including intentionally having no subtitles in what is a largely dialogue-free film. The anti-Tsai brigade will certainly be repelled by this, but those fully converted already will find it somewhat rewarding.
Days is a tale of two men whose days of loneliness and isolation are so stifling that when they meet in a hotel room in a centrepiece 20-plus minute erotic massage, they find a rare connection undergirding the physical intimacy.
Some of the most poetic moments in the film come in the form of Chaplin’s music for ‘Limelight’ as produced by a music box, incidentally also reproduced in I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone in a song sung by the great Li Xianglan, forging some kind of cosmic interconnectedness.