Days

Days ★★★½

Stillness, but not really. The camera is still, there's no dialogue, but e.g. there's a shot of a wall almost exactly halfway through - just before the 'plot' kicks in, which I assume is by design - and it's a shock because it's the first time that a shot, though beautiful, is truly still (dead, you might say), a reminder of the obvious proviso that Tsai - and especially his alter ego, Lee Kang-sheng - is getting older; before that there's always some drama, even in a shot of an empty street there's a sense that someone might walk in at any moment, even in a shot of Lee sleeping there's the anticipation of him waking up. Stillness creates these little tensions - but stillness also rhymes with getting older, Tsai's artistry now complemented by the sheer physical change in Lee's body (which we've known since the early 90s). Bodies, as usual, are important to him, their physical weight and the constant burden of cleaning them, treating and maintaining them, cooking food to feed them, massaging and arousing them. Water, too, is a trademark motif, working as an echo of higher pleasures and emotional intimacies; a storm rages in the opening shot, Lee shares a post-coital shower with the younger man then offers him a glass of water - as if to ascend beyond mere bodily intimacy - before making him a gift of the music box (which turns him, briefly, into a boy, and turns their age difference - and cold sexual relationship - into an act of generosity). Still a bit flimsy, maybe even a bit sentimental, but the stillness of impending death (the Days slipping by) keeps it going; Lee staring into space, first in the opening shot - his body 'literally' pierced by a stray reflection - then the penultimate one which is like Anthony Hopkins in The Father without all that Oscar-bait nonsense, just a look of anguish held for about 5 minutes. Respect.