Still, I think this is by far Tsai's best film to date.
The good stuff
In the end I Don't Want To Sleep Alone is another typical Tsai film, with some slight experimentations that are in no way big enough to attract new viewers or to push away existing fans.
Tsai allows you to slow down along with it, transporting you to a wet and distant place where you can enjoy the final day of a local cinema.
What Time Is It There?
Chacun Son Cinéma
Worthy but flawed
More art project than documentary, even so this conversation between director Ming-liang Tsai and his protégé Kang-sheng Lee wasn't as dull as I had feared. It doesn't feel entirely natural and Tsai is a little too dominant, but it does offer a nice peek into the lives of two famous men who left an incredible mark on Taiwanese cinema. 135 minutes is just too long though.
Letters from the South
I'm quite partial to anthology films, as they allow directors to go a little crazy. Because they are comprised of several shorts, these projects allow for a little more risk. One or two failed entries don't necessarily mean a failed film. For the larger part, anthology films deliver, but only when the directors are willing to play.
Letters from the South was a bit disappointing though. For the larger part it's just run-of-the-mill arthouse shorts that don't offer anything unusual or memorable. Aditya Assarat, Sun Koh and Midi Z are interesting names on paper, but their entries felt muddled, unadventurous and a little lazy.
Royston Tan's execution is better, but not up to par with his feature films. Tsai on the other hand delivers the biggest disappointment of the bunch (a prelude to Journey to the West). The only one who rose above the pack here was Chui Mui Tan, delivering a challenging and beautiful little film that stands in shrill contrast with the other entries. I expected more from this film.
My Stinking Kid
Tsai's TV work is clearly not as great. The story of a kid suffering from a rare disease has potential, but the execution is plain. We see the boy as he struggles through school, while his mom tries to educate the world about the nature of his disease, but apart from some well-scored moments the film lacks impact.
Journey to the West
Sleeping on Dark Waters
A documentary on I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, directed by Tsai himself. It's little more than a simple behind-the-scenes doc though, with Tsai contemplating some shots and explaining his motivations for making the film. While I did like I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, I think you're better off just watching the film again.
Give Me a Home
Another made-for-TV Tsai film. Without Tsai's usual focus on style and minimalism, his films are little more than social criticism. Fine if that's your thing, but this rather bleak and unattractive peak into the lives of poor immigrant construction workers didn't really do it for me. I prefer his more cinematic work.
All the Corners of the World
The start of Ming-liang Tsai's career. Like his other TV work, there are small glimpses of the style that would bring him international recognition, but they are hidden in very mediocre TV drama. These films are hardly worth the trouble, unless you're a completist like me and you just want to watch all of Tsai's films.
I used to like Tsai's films, but ever since he turned his back on feature films his work has gone downhill. I'm not sure what Tsai hoped to discover here, but unless you like regular folk sitting awkwardly in front of a camera, unsure what to do, then there's very little here. Point in case one interviewee who fell asleep.