What Time Is It There?

What Time Is It There? ★★★★½

A couple of months ago, after a while languishing in the relationship wilderness, I met someone. We met three times in fact, and each one only briefly, but she caught my eye, my heart and my imagination, and then she left to travel overseas. I became like Hsiao-Kang in Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time is it There?, obsessed with time zones. I studied our temporal differences, being awake while she slept and sleepless while she explored. As she travelled between countries I had an urge to watch films from wherever she was, and spookily my local German Film Festival began almost to the day she arrived in Deutschland. I felt the days pass slowly while we were apart and it made me think about the nature of time. Tsai Ming-liang’s films do that too. He slows it down to make us feel its crawl. Then once we’ve adjusted to the pace we start to reflect on its essence. And then Tsai pulls the magic trick of wrapping all the space and slowness around us in compassion for the grief, difficulty and absurdity of life. And so it was that time became my companion while I waited, my loneliness watched over and consoled by its passing hours. I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again and yet sitting around waiting for something to maybe happen isn’t really an option when life is hurtling by. The world spins to its own dance, and you have to find a way to live in its centrifuge. And yet the heart is a rare constant in all the flux. It longs for love and patiently endures the endless nights while the mind frays. And so it was I got on with my life while hoping to see her again. And the time slowly passed, as it must, and the skywalk where we first met is gone, destroyed in a pique of urban regeneration, and tomorrow I start my busy new day job as a porn star. No, hold on a minute, I got a bit muddled there ... What I meant to say is I saw her again last night and it was lovely, and so is this film.

Tsai Ming-liang

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