Sunday, April 8, 2007

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone

This is the best Tsai Ming Liang film in years. Tsai takes minimalism to new heights. As usual, he dispensing with dialogue almost entirely, and relies on mise-en-scene to tell his story. Whereas in the past, Tsai's films are often meandering and flat, the strategy works surprisingly well in this film. Every small gesture, every prop, every location takes on added weight, revealing an almost spiritual dimension to the every day. Lee plays a duo role, as a comatose man and a mute drifter who gets beaten up by street con-men. The film unfolds in a dualistic pattern, as we see the people taking care of the two men, a hapless young woman, played by Chen Siang-chyi, and a Bangladeshi migrant worker played by Norman Bin Atun. Set in Kaula Lumpur, it shows a depressing, dilapidated and smog filled city never seen in tourist brochures. But like the cheap multi-colored lamp the drifter gives to the young woman at one point, there is an almost surreal beauty to the place. I really like the love story between the drifter and the Bangladeshi worker, the selfless altruism of the latter and the strange way that the drifter takes it all in stride, without a word of thanks, but at the same time not ungrateful. Never settling for sentimentality or cheap thrills (watermelon, anybody?), Tsai manages to surprise me at every turn with this film.

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