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What Time Is It There? (2001)

Ni na bian ji dian (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 26 September 2001 (France)
Trailer
2:27 | Trailer
A watch salesman meets a young woman soon leaving for Paris and becomes infatuated, so he begins to change all the clocks in Taipei to Paris time.

Director:

Ming-liang Tsai
11 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview:
Kang-sheng Lee ... Hsiao-kang
Shiang-chyi Chen ... Shiang-chyi
Yi-Ching Lu ... Mother
Tien Miao ... Father
Cecilia Yip ... Woman in Paris
Chao-jung Chen ... Man in Subway Station
Kuei Tsai Kuei Tsai ... Prostitute (as Guei Tsai)
Arthur Nauzyciel Arthur Nauzyciel ... Man at Phone Booth
David Ganansia David Ganansia ... Man at Restaurant
Chao-yi Tsai Chao-yi Tsai ... Clock Store Owner
Kuo-Cheng Huang Kuo-Cheng Huang ... Fat Boy
Jean-Pierre Léaud ... Jean-Pierre / Man at the Cemetery
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Storyline

When a young street vendor with a grim home life meets a woman on her way to Paris, they forge an instant connection. He changes all the clocks in Taipei to French time; as he watches François Truffaut's "Les 400 Coups," she has a strange encounter with its now-aging star, Jean-Pierre Leaud. Written by amirmu

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Taiwan | France

Language:

Mandarin | French | Min Nan | English

Release Date:

26 September 2001 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Qi dao si bai ji See more »

Filming Locations:

Taipei Hesien, Taiwan

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$27,936, 21 January 2002

Gross USA:

$195,760

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$265,477
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Father: Hsiao Kang? Hsiao Kang?
See more »

Connections

Followed by The Skywalk Is Gone (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Understanding WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? (Part2)
8 February 2002 | by pjrdctSee all my reviews

(...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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