(aka 'What Time Is It" "What Time is it Over There?"or "There Ni neibian')

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/tsai.htm
Taiwan
2001

 

  Tsai Ming-Liang states (as detailed in the DVD "Director's Notes" of the "What Time is it There"

"In 1992 my father died of cancer. He never got to see my first film. In 1997, the day before shooting began on The Hole, Hsiao Kang's father took his own life because he was tired of fighting the illness that caused him such pain. The following year on a flight to a film festival, Hsaio Kang slept on the plane; the melancholy on his face made me even sadder.

On December 6th 2000, I started shooting 'What Time is it There?' in Taipei. February 7th, 2001 shooting ended in Paris."


Tsai Ming-Liang follows his trademark 'pondering static camera' ("Rebels of the Neon God", "The River", "The Hole" and "Vive L'Amour") with his fifth feature film, "What Time is it There?". His unconventional style will deter many cinema goers who might envisage something more easily penetrable, perhaps requiring less speculation. In a pure minimalist vein, Tsai uses no music (aside from "The 400 Blows" theme played sparingly). There is no cinematographic panning shots... no camera movement for each take. Each scene is a single static shot. There are almost no close-ups. There are extremely long stretches without any dialogue. Hopefully, this does not send you running in the other direction because it is indeed a wonderful viewing experience touching upon many important modern emotional themes.

The major plot focuses on a watch-selling street vendor named Hsiao-Kang played by Kang-Sheng Lee who has appeared in all Tsai Ming-Liang's feature films (NOTE: Hsiao-Kang is also his real-life nickname). In the film his father has passed away and he and his Mother (Lu Yi-Ching) have amusing difficulty in accepting this, coping in their own unusual fashion. Hsaio-Kang has just sold his own watch to a beautiful girl, Shiang-Chyi Chen, who is now in Paris. His longing for her manifests itself in his desire to watch French films (Truffaut's "The 400 Blows"), drink wine, and set every clock and watch within his grasp to Parisian time.

Because of Kang's obsessive time piece adjustments, which is misconstrued by his Mother as a sign of her deceased husband's reincarnation, the three major characters of the film become somehow synchronized. Shiang-Chyi Che co-incidentally meets the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, star of 1959's "The 400 Blows", on a park bench in a cemetery (actually right across from Léaud's real-life home in Paris). All three major characters eat at the same moment and Kang, his Mother and Shiang each have a meaningless sexual escapade simultaneously. Shiang beds a friendly female she meets whilst vomiting in a restaurant toilet, Kang has sex with a thieving prostitute in the backseat of his car and the Mother masturbates with what looks like a whicker basket, to a photo of her deceased husband close by.

Tsai has a magnificent eye his shots are wonderfully abstract and refreshing. Most often he does not allowing the focus of activity to be in the center of the frame, lending itself slightly to an aura of realism. Tsai and his films have been compared to great directors of the past including Antonioni, Bresson and even Keaton. Michelangelo Antonioni for his use of sparse dialogue and recurrent theme of personal isolation. Buster Keaton for Kang's comedic dead-pan sense of natural timing. Regardless, Tsai's films all work from their own level of eccentricity in both the tone and examination of prevalent motifs.

Pointing out life's absurdities in an honest and dour spirit, Tsai recounts previous film themes such as lack of communication, self-imposed solitary depression, indiscriminant sexual acts predicated on overflowing desire and new for this film; coping with death. He both exposes and pokes fun at his own Buddhist religious conventions while maintaining an arm's length respect. It is all at once humorous, honest and sad. Photographed with style and beauty, this aspect of Tsai's work has matured enormously. It is hard not to refer back to many scenes of his past films, if you have been lucky enough to view them. I strongly recommend this film, but suggest that first-time viewers may garner more from a gradual transition to Tsai's work, perhaps seeing them in chronological order. To state simply that I loved this would be an understatement. I am so enamored with it and feeling pretty eccentric myself these days so I just set my computer clock to Parisian time... and urge you to do the same. I give it out of  out of   

Gary W. Tooze

Poster (CLICK to enlarge)

Theatrical Release: May 15th, 2001 - Cannes Film Festival

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Arvid for the Cinemagi Screen Caps!

(Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Wellspring

Region 0 - NTSC

Cinemagi
Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:50:20 1.50:28
Video

1.80:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.7 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.80:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.3 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Wellspring

 

Bitrate:

 

Cinemagi

 

Audio Taiwanese, Mandarin and French (Dolby Digital 2.0), Taiwanese, Mandarin and French (Dolby Digital 5.1)

Taiwanese, Mandarin and French (Dolby Digital 2.0)

Subtitles English, None Swedish, None.
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Wellspring Media Inc

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic 1.80:1

Edition Details:

• Director's Notes (text)
• Theatrical trailer
• Home Video Trailer
• Filmographies
• Weblinks

DVD Release Date: May 18th, 2004

Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Cinemagi

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.80:1

Edition Details:
• Swedish documentary: Looking For Tsai (55min WITH eng Subs)
 

DVD Release Date: 2003-10-10
Keep Case

Chapters 22

 

 

Comments NOTE: Arvid did a good job but some of the frames are not exact matches.

Addition Cinemagi R2:
The Region 2 has a sharper image without the edge enchantment visible on the Wellspring. The PAL disc is similarly anamorphic but unfortunately those who don't understand Swedish or Taiwanese as that the
Cinemagi only has Swedish subtitles. Those who are familiar with the film realize there is minimal dialogue. If you're a real Tsai Ming-liang fan you'd like to buy the region2 disc to get the almost one hour long documentary about Tsai. It's done by two Swedish film students and is about there meeting with Tsai and Lee Kang-Sheng on Oslo Film Festival in 2001. It's a love-filled tribute to their favorite director. This documentary DOES HAVE English subtitles.

 - Arvid

About the Wellspring: The Wellspring DVD is 1:50:20 long. It transfers an average bit rate of 5.7 Mb/sec. It is shown in the 1.80:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The sound gives you a choice of Dolby Stereo or Dolby 5.1 Surround. The language is Mandarin, Taiwanese and French with removable yellow English sub-titles. The picture is NOT anamorphic but it is progressively transferred. The main DVD menu is slightly animated and contains 16 Chapter stops. There is no leaflet insert inside the "keep case" box. The "Special Feature" extras include a Theatrical Trailer (2:15), a Home Video Trailer (1:23), "Director's Notes" consisting of 15 static screens of Tsai text, filmographies of Tsai and Kang and "Weblinks".

For a non 16X9 offering the image isn't too horrendous - colors don't look off, but are a bit funky at times. There is some artifacting and very slight edge enhancement and I'd have preferred the image improved rather than a 5.1 bump on an almost silent film. But we are at the mercy of the decision guru's at Wellspring. Still, the only game in town and it plays acceptably.

NOTE: Looks like Wellspring did the poster art for the film after they acquired the rights. Their 'commitment' to the artist can be seen in the huge faux-pas of misspelling the director's name. Check HERE. Perhaps Wellspring thought Mr. Tsai was somehow distantly related to Fritz !? Way to show yourself Wellspring!

Gary W. Tooze

 

 

 






DVD Menus
(
Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

 

 


 

Screen Captures

(Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)
Subtitle Sample (not exact frame)

 

 


(Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Wellspring - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Cinemagi - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


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Image:

Cinemagi

Sound:

Wellspring (Optional 5.1)

Extras: Cinemagi
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Distribution

Wellspring

Region 0 - NTSC

Cinemagi
Region 2 - PAL


 




 

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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

Thank You!

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