Ni na bian ji dian (2001) Poster

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Understanding WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? (Part2)
pjrdct8 February 2002
(...continued from Part1)

The most significant encounter, of course, was with the young woman heading to Paris, the "there" in What Time is it There? I believe she is a ghost and her contact with Xiao Kang and the exchange of the watch is somehow responsible for his peculiar behavior and experiences. If France can be taken to be a metaphor for death or the "otherworld," then Xiao Kang's strange fascination with all things French can be seen as his desire to understand his father's death. Viewing an old French film becomes a way to catch a glimpse of the "otherworld" where his father might be. Drinking French wine may be yet another method to reach the trance-like state that facilitates communication with his father.

Tsai explores the various avenues of communication between the living and the dead. He shows the Buddhist rituals, the food offerings, burning ghost money, etc., intended to establish contact or at least help the deceased. He shows how non-spiritual ways such as memories, mementos, and imagination are all employed to keep that person "alive." Xiao Kang's tampering with time is his idiosyncratic approach. We even see him using an antenna, a communication device, to adjust a giant clock. In return for these efforts the deceased is expected to communicate to the living by way of signs or in dreams. We see Xiao Kang crying in his sleep-perhaps a visitation by his father in such a dream. His mother desperately looks for signs of her husband's return, even if it's only as a cockroach or a fish.

Tsai points out in this film that contacting the dead is a difficult and frustrating endeavor only leading to more suffering. He adds that the dead are having an equally difficult and frustrating time communicating with us. Moreover, they are having trouble adjusting to their new reality-at least until reincarnation occurs. The young woman in Paris is seen wandering aimlessly and communicating only with difficulty with the Parisians. Her aborted telephone calls can be seen as attempts to contact the living, probably loved ones. There is evidence that these loved ones are somehow getting through to her; the snack plate she nibbles on in her hotel room uncannily resembles food offerings to the dead. The overwhelming feeling we get from her experience is that of frustration and profound sadness. Her exhaustion and eventual collapse may indicate her resigned acceptance of death.

Xiao Kang's father though appears to be farther along in the process. He seems calm and sure in his actions. His struggle appears over. His walking toward the Ferris wheel is deliberate, reincarnation imminent. The film ends here on this hopeful note.

What Time is it There? has much in common with Tsai Ming-Liang's earlier films. He again explores the difficulty in communicating or establishing connections with others. Only this time he included the dead in his universe and in the process created a rich and mysterious work. Despite an elliptical and metaphoric structure, and despite an imperfect understanding of Buddhist philosophy, upon reflection the meaning of What Time is it There? emerges slowly but surely.
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Understanding WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? (Part1)
pjrdct8 February 2002
As the credits began to roll after the screening of Tsai Ming-Liang's latest movie What Time is it There? a crowd quickly assembled in front of an enlarged NYT review thoughtfully set up in the lobby. There was a palpable hunger to understand this enigmatic film. Their frustration no doubt was compounded by the feeling that this movie was not just an exercise in absurdity but that something significant was going on. My companion and I left the theater in a similar frame of mind. Being admirers of Tsai and familiar with all his major cinematic works we knew that this one was successful and we marveled at his unbroken string of remarkable films. But this one seemed more of a puzzle than the others and we had to figure it out.

The story is deceptively simple. A man dies alone in his small apartment he shares with his son (Xiao Kang) and wife. After the interment of his remains and a simple religious ceremony the son returns to his work selling watches on the sidewalk. There he meets an attractive young woman who after examining his merchandise insists on purchasing the very watch Xiao Kang is wearing. He politely refuses but she is adamant and finally persuades him to part with it. He learns she is flying to Paris the next day. Meanwhile his mother is preoccupied with the reincarnation of her husband and dutifully carries out religious practices to ensure his reincarnation is successful. It appears she expects him to return to life or at least attempt to communicate with her. She is devastated by the sudden loss and becomes increasingly unhappy and her efforts at communication border on the hysterical. Xiao Kang is newly fascinated with all things French and inexplicably begins turning all clocks to Paris time. This increasingly becomes an obsession and he goes from changing his own timepieces to adjusting public clocks.

The scene then shifts to Paris where we follow the young woman through a rather non- descript area of Paris. She seems disoriented and sad, unable to properly communicate with busy Parisians. She occasionally tries to telephone someone but is frustrated in her efforts. Becoming ill in a restaurant she meets a kind fellow Chinese woman she can talk to, but after a thwarted romantic advance towards the woman she is left to wander the streets more miserable than ever. Falling asleep on a park bench, she is robbed of her suitcase by a group of boys who toss it in a lake. The suitcase drifts out of sight but is recovered from the edge by a man who is none other than the dead father. He is then seen slowly walking towards a large illuminated Ferris wheel slowly spinning in the distance. The movie end.

On the surface What Time is it There? looks a lot like his previous films. Tsai even used the same three actors portraying a family in two other movies, although one should not presume they are the same people. As in his other films, we find sad, alienated people doing strange obsessive things, characters unable to communicate with each other in a sterile, ugly urban milieu, all themes familiar to Tsai's admirers. But that stunning ending changed everything and called into question all that came before it. The questions piled up. Is he dead? Is he reincarnated? Why is he in Paris? What does the girl have to do with him? Is she dead? We looked for answers and as we talked a sort of poetic sense emerged and actions that seemed absurd suddenly became purposeful. Tsai was communicating to us in an indirect metaphorical language, one that had to be decoded, and not simply passively experienced. We were forced to look back for clues, for signs, much like the son and mother looked for signs from the dead father of his imminent reincarnation.

What emerged from our discussion was that What Time is it There? is in its essence a spiritual film, a meditation on the meaning of death with conclusions drawn from traditional Buddhist belief and Tsai's own take on the subject. Buddhist symbols of reincarnation abound, though in modern form. The face of a clock, a waterwheel in an urban mall, the great Ferris wheel, are all reminiscent of the traditional Buddhist symbols of reincarnation. The act of turning back clocks may be a modern way Xiao Kang is trying to (consciously or not) manipulate the process, in contrast to the conventional religious methods his mother employs to the same end. Xiao Kang's existence becomes trance-like; he seems to have no customers, and the few encounters he does have take on mystical dimensions. The "pervert" who runs off with Xiao Kang's stolen clock may be warning him albeit humorously not to "screw" with time. Similarly the prostitute who steals his case of watches perhaps intends a punishment for his insistent interference in matters he does not truly understand. (continued in Part2... )
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A showcase of the power of Asian cinema
Kevin Schwoer4 November 2008
What Time Is It There at a first glance is a boring, frustrating and complex puzzle of broken narratives which leave the viewer struggling to stay out of a sleepy haze and focus long enough to draw some sort of cinematic conclusion to an otherwise ambiguous film. Yet once all the amateur film goers and the rest of ADHD ridden America, the true film goers can marvel at a cinematic masterpiece, so far on the spectrum of complexity that it almost goes full circle to simplicity. Full circle being the key phrase here.

Much like other Asian filmmakers, Tsai deals with alienation, loss, and a search for something. The story of the film is simple: a boy's father dies and he and his mother are forced to deal with the loss. If you look for anything, story wise beyond this, you must look harder. The film shows how these two individuals deal with loss through their own idiosyncrasies, yet they both are getting at the same thing. Reincarnation. The young man meets a woman who wants to buy his watch and after some prodding, he relinquishes it. Whether it is because of her or not, he becomes obsessed with turning back the clocks he encounters, as if he is literally trying to turn back time itself. It even becomes quite comical at times when he goes to all sorts of lengths to turn back the clock. While his mother on the other hand deals with reincarnation in the literal sense through her religion. She rigorously practices her faith in hopes of bringing back her husband. In fact she becomes so obsessed with it that she believes he is trying to contact her and won't hear otherwise. Both contrasting view points on reincarnation show the different beliefs on religion and science not fully marrying the film to one of the ideas.

The imagery that comes with these practices is astounding. Tsai has shown that he is the master of mise en scene. Each scene has the camera set up in one position and doesn't move or cut until the end of the scene. The eye is allowed to move freely about the depth of the image while finding the imagery Tsai leaves behind as clues. He uses a water wheel in a mall, a Ferris wheel, and clock faces to show the visual interpretation of turning back the clock. The final image of the film is the Ferris wheel spinning counter clockwise leaving a retrospective idea in the viewers mind.

Truly this film tackles the idea of reincarnation and the dealing with loss and alienation so masterfully that any who attempt to address the same subject matter will just feel like a weak attempt. Tsai's What Time Is It There truly is a simple story with complex themes and visuals that is unlike any film going experience that should be appreciated for its content and relevance and not its entertainment value.
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crossbow010625 February 2007
Tsai Ming-Liang is a Director you either "get" or don't. His work reminds me to a point of Jim Jarmusch, their pacing is similar. If you've ever seen and liked Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise", you will probably like this. The story introduces you to people who lead mostly ordinary lives, just in Taipei. Ming-Liang's use of the long shot (setting up a scene and waiting for something to happen-usually, very little does) is very important. I think it adds to the simplicity of the story, ostensibly about a watch salesman who sells the young lady the watch he is wearing. He then changes the clocks in Taipei to Parisian time, where the young lady is going on vacation. The film also captures the side story of the watch salesman's mom, who just lost her husband. She looks for ways for him to "come back". It is a bit sad, but also touching. She almost steals the film. For lovers of independent film, a must. If you liked "The Departed", forget it. I'd like to add two things: The interlude "The Skywalk Is Gone", appended on the "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" DVD, is a 20 minute short which is also worthwhile, continues the story. Lastly, "The Wayward Cloud", the real sequel, is not quite as good (I give it 7 out of 10). It has images of fairly explicit pornography. I do recommend it, but it, like all of Ming-Liang's films, is uncompromising. The only major complaint I have with it is the mother is barely in it. I miss her. I want to tell you how it ends, but I can't, I can't spoil it. In the theater watching "The Wayward Cloud", the guy sitting behind me was flat out snoring. I was wide awake. All in all, "What Time Is It There" cemented Tsai Ming-Liang's reputation as a force to be reckoned with. He deserves the praise.
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On connections.
buster-crashtestdummy28 December 2005
No lengthy review from me this time, just a very small personal musing, as I'm in a melancholy mood, because it's Christmas...

Funny how movies can connect. Like lives sometimes do, I suppose. The oddball male protagonist of "What time is it there" watches Truffaut's "Les Quatre-Cents Coups", as a way to somehow connect himself to the girl who is obviously the girl of his dreams, even though he's only barely met her, when she bought his watch before going away to Paris. He also, of course, sets all the clocks in his house, and all other clocks he can get his hands on, to Paris time, prompting his mother to think that the ghost of her dead husband has returned. The watch can show two different times at once, and the girl want to be able to see Taipei time as well as Paris time, to keep herself connected to her own country whilst abroad.

In one scene in "Les Quatre-Cents Coups", the two rebellious boys steal a movie poster outside a theater. The poster (look carefully, or you'll miss it) shows Harriet Andersson in a famous pose from Bergman's "Summer with Monica". Another connection. I don't know if it means anything.

This year, I gave my ex-girlfriend all three movies - "What Time is it There", "Les Quatre-Cents Coups" and "Summer with Monica" - for Christmas. I guess it was an attempt to connect myself back with her. We always shared a love of movies, Bergman in particular, and I think I wanted to tell her something. Perhaps that sometimes lives and the common themes in them stick together and connect across oceans, across time, across our personal universes, in ways that can be hard to recognize, but that are impossible to deny.

Well, in any case, I don't think she picked up on it. She's still my ex-girlfriend, she's still away in some far-off land, and I'm still here alone and pretty much miserable. I'm still glad that I gave her those three movies, though. It's only right that she should have them, too, as she still has my entire DVD collection.

I guess I didn't pay enough attention to the fact that in all three movies, human connections ultimately fail or break down. The two boys in "Les Quatre-Cents Coups" are broken out of their doomed youthful rebellion and torn apart by society and the pressures of the world. In Bergman's film, Monica abandons Harry by her own volition and leaves him heartbroken (like I am now) because she is to much of a dionysiac to deal with an ordered, adult, appolinian life. In "What Time is it There", there's hardly any initial optimism to destroy. Every person is an island from the outset, and when they long for connectedness, it's in a silent, subdued way, like their hearts have already been broken in advance and they are only going through familiar motions by some force of habit, but without real hope. The girl attempts a lesbian affair that fails as soon as it's initiated. The boy takes out his frustration in an impersonal encounter with a prostitute. The mother is last seen in a heartbreaking masturbation scene that more than anything else seems like sex with a ghost.

In one celebrated scene, the girl meets Jean-Pierre Leud, who played the lead role in "Les Quatre-Cents Coups", in a Paris cemetery. He is now a middle-aged man. He's a ghost as well, the ghost of the boy in Truffaut's movie, that another boy is compulsively watching in Taipei while thinking of the girl, who in return hardly knows that he exists. She doesn't recognize him. He gives her his phone number and tells her only his first name. She just seems to think he's some nut case. Nothing comes of it. That is all. Connections attempt to be made. They fail completely.

At the very end, of course, the ghost of the dead father and husband does indeed materialize itself. However, it is not to the wife and son in Taipei, but, mysteriously, to the girl in Paris. She doesn't see him. She is asleep in a chair in a Paris park. Perhaps she's just exhausted from loneliness, perhaps her own personal clock is still set to Taipei time.

Oh well. Maybe I'll feel better in the new year. Happy holidays to all.
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Hypnotic,absorbing and touching all in an unusual filmic context.
ede589 April 2003
This film-known in the US as "What Time is it There?" captured me in ways that I never expected a film to be able to do. Do not see this film seeking plot-linear connections-causal relationships. See this film to slip into a different view of the world we occupy. A world where feelings for one another do not necessarily have results we are aware of. Where the occasion of place and time and circumstance carry weights of understanding without explanation. I can only really tell you this film is slow-and deeply touching; plotless and driven by the regard for the persons in it; visually stunning without any visual trickery. Overall this film went instantly to the top of my own personal "best movies" and I don't even know how to tell you about it. Do see it.
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Brilliant, for the most part
zetes18 June 2002
Tsai's unique style gives rise to another film about isolation in urbanization. Hsiao-kang's father has just died, and he and his mother must hold together. He doesn't have much problem doing that, but his mother is going insane with loneliness, so much so that she entirely imbues herself in her religious beliefs. Around this time, Hsaio-kang sells his personal watch to a girl about to fly to Paris. Soon after this, Hsiao-kang becomes obsessed with her (or is it the watch?) and decides to set all his watches (he sells them on the street) to Paris time, and then all the clocks in his house, and then all the clocks he can find. The girl gets stranded in Paris, having lost her plane ticket. The film moves slow and it has little dialogue, as is Tsai's style, but it is incredibly beautiful in its composition, editing, everything. The story is quite great, too. Tsai is a wonderful humanist. The film builds up to a silent crescendo, where the three main characters each endure cold acts of love and failed attempts at communication. When the film closes, all three are asleep, two in Taipei and one in Paris, all three alone.

Okay, I should have ended it there, but I do have two problems with the film, go figure. First, Hsiao-kang's clock setting is highly amusing at first, but it does get very old after a while. The sequence that ends in the movie theater bathroom is gold, perfect, so Tsai should have just stopped there with that motif. The scene where he sneaks into a clock store and the scene where he resets the clock tower are superfluous. We got the point, and it should have been moving forward. Secondly, I think it's about time Tsai moved on. I love the three films of his I've seen, including The Hole and Vive L'Amour, but the style is the same in all three, as is the theme. Michelangelo Antonioni, who is obviously Tsai's main inspiration (though this particular film has a lot of references to the Truffaut film The 400 Blows, including a very funny cameo by Jean-Pierre Leaud), had a problem moving on from this material, as well, with everything from L'Avventura to Red Desert being very similar (although his style evolved more than Tsai's has), and even after that his films had comparable themes. As much as I like Tsai (and Antonioni), if his next film is just like this, I'm sure it will hurt my presently high opinion of him. 9/10.
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Great Film
akon519 May 2004
Films in their nature is an experience of the extroverted. We see another person suffer, we see their emotional state through actions and their facial gestures. Some films however, managed to use this extroverted medium to express introspection. 'And What Time is it there?' accomplished this perfectly. But in order to do this, the film can not be rushed. For the longer a shot can substain within a time frame but remain interesting, the longer the audience have to concentrate. In due time, the aduience have to actively think about the scene and they will somehow perform this introspection within themselves. If a film can do that to an audience, it is a masterpiece. Of course there are as many interpretations to this film as people say it is slow moving. But for me, it is a philosophical journey, where the changing of time is an indication of desires and wanting to escape. Since the protangonist can not go there, he decided to change his environment instead. But of course, we can also see this as an indication of the lack of progress in life, of wanting to turn back time and the drift into isolation and loneliness. But as we can see, this hope is trivial but its existence is necessary for one's own survival. So in an outsider's view, the actions may look irrational or pointless, but amongst the circular motions of repetition of fears and anger, it is these very action itself that gives life a purpose.
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The slowest movie ever in the history of everything ever
Lagomorph29 January 2002
It wasn't a bad film. Not by any means. It was very well crafted, beautifully filmed, and managed to impart a powerful mood with artistry and precision.

Now, I'm not a lightweight about slow-moving films. But after an hour of this film I was about to chew my own leg off to try and escape. You reach this point where you see the female lead step on one end of a LOOONG escalator, and you think to yourself, "I'm going to have to watch her go the length of that whole damn escalator, aren't I?" And yes, yes, you do.
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Like watching paint dry... and then watching the dried paint.
you_savvy2 January 2011
This is probably the most infuriatingly tedious movie I've ever seen. Nearly every scene is the same -- the camera sits motionless as we watch someone putter around and do some inconsequential thing. Maybe it shows a guy watching a movie. Or a woman eating something. Or a widow pleasuring herself. Or (twice!) a guy taking a leak into whatever container is lying around. And after the inconsequential thing has been done, the camera just sits there. Maybe we're supposed to take this time in which *nothing is happening* (fully half the movie) to reflect on the mysteries of life. I just spent it getting madder and madder at the director for thinking that anyone could find this remotely interesting. Halfway through the movie, there's a scene in which a woman is staring at a fish tank. I actually envied her -- watching a fish bob around in a tank is more interesting than this pretentious nonsense.

There's nothing innately wrong with slow films. Or quiet films. Or uneventful films. But SOMETHING has to develop throughout the course of the film, be it interesting dialogue or character development or the presentation of interesting ideas. Nothing of the sort happens here. Its message about loneliness is made clear within the first half hour and after that it's just directorial masturbation.
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bedazzle5 April 2002
I was going to write an interpretation, but any interpretation will be unconvincing because the movie was so completely ambiguous. Ambiguity is the only possible result when you mix symbolism with an almost complete lack of dialogue.

Now I don't have a problem with ambiguity per se. That's exactly what I like about some David Lynch films, that they're left open to interpretation and the best argument wins. The difference here is presentation. With movies like this, it doesn't matter how profound the underlying theme is if said theme is presented in a boring uninteresting way. Every single scene in the movie is shown, the point is made, and then the scene continues for some reason. These scenes go on and on with no dialogue, no music, no camera movement, and not even enough light to allow you to entertain yourself with the backgrounds.

Some of this structurally unnecessary prolonging is done in an attempt at realism. Though it seems naive to assume that real life boredom will be film-worthy simply because it is real. Other times the prolonged scene is simply an immature attempt to make the audience uncomfortable. For example, scenes eating with prominent chewing noises, the tourist and her lesbianism, mother and her masturbation, and so forth.

I just figured out the best interpretation: By being aware of time, life slows tremendously and becomes excruciatingly boring, as this movie illustrates beautifully!
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city sickness
liehtzu20 July 2001
This darkly humorous minimalist examination of loneliness and urban despair is a minor masterpiece. A withdrawn Taipei watch seller falls in love with one of his customers the day before she is set to fly off to a holiday in Paris. The film then follows both of their stories, connected by time: she knows no one in Paris and is miserable while he pines over her back in Tapei, sets every clock he sees to Paris time, and tries to cope with his mother's mental breakdown. The film's done in Tsai's usual manner: long static shots, no music, muted lighting and pursues the same themes as his earlier work but he's somehow able to not make it feel like old hat. "What Time is it There?" is a bit morbid maybe but very well done.
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For voyeurs only
George Parker10 July 2003
"What Time Is It Over There" is a laconic study of three characters: A man hawking wrist watches on the streets of Taipei; his widowed mourning mother obsessed with her late husband's spiritual return; and a Taiwanese babe who goes to Paris after trying to buy his watch. The camera of this virtually scriptless flick methodically follows these characters as we get to know them simply by watching what they do - none of which is very interesting. To the extent the audience can "feel" their pain and loneliness, this film has something to offer. However, I suspect most filmgoers will quickly lose interest in this slow moving, uneventful, peculiar, minimalistic art flick with little to offer. For voyeurs, arthouse film devotees, critics, and dilettantes. (B-)
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kinolieber5 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Beware of this film if you enjoy plot, dramatic situations, character development, moving camerawork, or any of the usual things that make a film worth watching. However if the idea of watching a guy turn restlessly in bed and then get up and urinate into a bottle and then get back into bed sounds interesting to you, then check out this film. (Whoops! I wonder if that could be considered a spoiler?) It's a movie for those with rarefied tastes who really do enjoy long takes with stationery cameras watching people eat, sleep, breathe, smoke cigarettes, look expressionlessly into space, sell watches, buy watches, change the time on clocks, feed their pet fish, and yes, urinate into bottles and plastic bags. All others: you've been warned.
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FORGET PARIS as directed by Hollis Frampton?
nunculus19 January 2002
The method is that of the high-school science experiment: Tsai

Ming-Liang lines the camera up at an odd angle to the action,

locks it down, and puts together the ingredients of what might be a

scene--and which often turns out not to be. Organized in blocklike

scenes that land with a monumental thud, WHAT TIME IS IT

THERE? fascinates in the way its romantic-comedy premise lands

on the rocklike surface of its style and evaporates with a quiet hiss.

It seems there's this kid in Taipei--not a kid really, from some

angles he looks to be in his thirties, but babyfaced--who falls in

love with a girl who wants to be a "dual-time" watch. He sells her

his own watch so she can tell Taiwan time and also time in Paris--

where she is going for reasons unknown to us. The movie follows

her journey in the big Western city (which looks and feels exactly

like a New York City where people speak French) and the kid's

lonely mania at home, turning all the clocks he can find in Taipei to

Paris time. The kid's mom, obsessive over the imminent

reincarnation of the kid's recently deceased father, adds to the

Jihad-vs.-McWorld quality of Tsai's bicultural comedy.

There is really only one blatantly laugh-desiring moment in WHAT

TIME IS IT THERE?--the appearance of a fat flasher holding a

clock over his genitals, the hands springing to attention at 12:00. (It

suggests the horror-movie jack-in-the-box moments in a Richard

Foreman play.) I can scarcely think of another movie so brave in its

veering from one tone to another as this one. Tsai is one of those

courageous souls who makes up his own form absolutely from

scratch. The friend I saw the movie with commented on its

similarity to Antonioni, but Tsai's style is all his own--and his

structure too.

Like Duras, Tsai affords us the time to process the world in ways

we usually don't get to do in movies--with many of the toxins and

additives removed. And he invents the relationship of story to

meaning anew--no easy feat in this post-Memento, post-Mulholland age of high-tech narrative convolution. Tsai's

stories do not convolute at all; like the substances for which he

has become semi-hemi-famous, they flow freely. Tsai offers us

the freedom to look and look again.
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Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
Anthony Iessi9 April 2017
A film about clocks, and big white fishes. Hard to watch, yet every scene is beautifully blocked, and masterfully shot with perhaps the most fascinating mis-en-scene in any film of the 2000's. It doesn't matter how slow it is. It could last forever, and you still won't get tired of staring at it's beautiful imagery.
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UTC+8 blows
Lee Eisenberg16 December 2016
Tsai Ming-liang's "What Time Is It There?" focuses on a man in Taipei who sells a watch to a woman headed to Paris. He resets all clocks to Paris time, which convinces his mom that her deceased husband is trying to contact her.

The movie contains long scenes, so you need a serious attention span to watch it. At times it seems like a B movie due to the limited action. But overall, it's about the difficulties of making connections with people. I get the feeling that Taiwan's complicated international status (countries are only allowed to recognize one China, and most of them go with mainland China, so Taiwan doesn't even have UN membership) adds to the difficulty of making connections with people who are abroad.

Overall, I thought that it was an OK, not great movie. The end contains a surprise, although its authenticity is questionable. Probably the only cast member whom western viewers will recognize is Jean-Pierre Léaud, best known for playing a character in some of François Truffaut's movies (one of which - "The 400 Blows" - appears in this movie).

PS: UTC+8 is Taipei's time zone.
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A Masterpiece.
wlegrand15 April 2006
"What time it is there?" is a very wonderful film. Threat about loneliness and how slow pass the time without nobody. But is also a chant to hope, to take a chance, whatever, and don't leave it to escape that boring live who eats us inside and outside, to keep the hope for living.

Incredible work as the world as one, idea with iam agree, because loneliness is loneliness everywhere, in Taipei or Paris, and can be suffered for whites, blacks, asians, ..., like other illness, because all of us are the same, human beings, good reason include different races in some shots. Somethings don't understand bout races.

Ming-Liang's direction is amazing, with very long shots without movement talking us about the slowly and boring life of the characters, helped by an extraordinary photography working depth with it and characters movements in it.

Finally, recommend this film everyone because its class of cinema and its good story. 9/10.
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Marty-G16 November 2003
I still keep What Time is it There? in my DVD collection because I find it to be a wonderful sleep aid. For a film of two hours it feels more like three days, and I have never been able to watch the entire thing all the way through. But when I do decide to give it another viewing, I find myself slowly drifting off again and again - so it's the perfect tranquilizer.

I must say, I love some slow-moving films, and I don't mind a bit of art-house cinema here and there, but unfortunately What Time is it There? is not even engrossing enough to keep the viewer vaguely interested, unless you like watching some guy wee in a bottle.
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not my cup of tea
Gordon-113 February 2003
The film adopted a minimalistic approach, which means there are very little conversation, no grand stage-setup, and unfortunately, no story. Honestly speaking, I did not understand the film. The story itself is not plausible. It says that a watch seller sold a watch to a woman who would go to Paris. After that, the watch seller would adjust all the clocks he sees to the Paris time. The watch seller's mother went crazy because her husband died. The woman who went to Paris felt lonely and slept with another woman. That's absolutely all I could get from story, if there were any story at all. The three subplots did not link with each other, they were so scattered and they did not make any sense, either individually or collectively.

There were occasionally one or two funny scenes, where all the viewers bursted out laughing. Still, this does not make a boring film good. This film cold be compressed into half an hour, if the shots were not so long.

For the two hours that I watched the film, I felt extremely bored. I can't wait for the film to finish! I must say I do not know what is so artistic about this film. Maybe I don't know how to appreciate this kind of approach of making a film.
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herb200013 January 2003
"Terrible" has a reasonably good handle on describing the pace of this movie. I watch it and did found its lack of dialogue disturbing at first but had a level of curiosity high enough to enjoy it. It is a conversation piece since how many movies can you discuss where you basically remember each and every line (there are so few).

The movie leaves enough open, and sometimes pointless, scenes to leave a great amount of room for interpretation. Reading the Director's comments helped a bit and I feel a great need to watch Truffaut's "400 Blows" given the numerous references in the movie and commentary. Then again there is enough that I have chalked up certain scenes to being meaningless. My take - Death happens, Celebrate the living.
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Don't waste your time
mjuice25 April 2003

This is one of the least good movies I've seen in a long time, and I've seen some really bad ones. This one, however, is bad in a rather different way. This is the "story" of a guy who sells a girl his watch and somehow feels connected to her as she leaves for Paris. He goes around setting clocks to Paris time. He... oh wait, that's pretty much all he does in terms of thinking about her. I thought this was some huge romantic thing? As for her... she barely thinks about him, but I guess maybe she does though all we ever see is her doing random things in Paris with other people. Nearly every scene was too slow. I realize the movie is supposed to be about time, but if you want to make the point that cutting from one scene to another leaves out all the slow time in the middle, fine, but DON'T do it for the whole movie. I nearly wanted to cry after the first 15 minutes (and 2 scenes).

The only halfway decent part of this movie is the performance by Yi-Ching Lu as the boy's mother, who is greiving over her husband's death in many real and interesting ways, which leads to a few very poignant scenes. Unfortunately, there were far too many scenes without her in it, and it got aggravating.
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A Warm tribute to Truffaut's "400 Blows".,
shihlun1 March 2002
"What Time is it There?",a new film by Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang, is a warm tribute to Francois Truffaut,Jean-Pierre Leaud,and "400 Blows".The original title of this film is "7 to 400 blows".Jean-Pierre Leaud also play a role in this film.It's a very beautiful and quiet film with a lot of deep emotion in it.One of the best film from "Taiwanese New Cinema".
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Highlight of the 2001 NY Film Festival
m1tchm9 December 2001
I saw this film at the NY Film Festival, and it was by far the best film there. It's immaculate plot is beautifully simple, with such wonderful performances by the actors. Although I am not a fan of films with long shots, the long shots in this film worked so well. There is not a thing I would change about this film, and recommend everyone see it.
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