Friday, 10 July 2015

REVIEW - STRAY DOGS (TSAI MING LIANG)


The stillness of Tsai Ming Liang's Stray Dogs is deeply beguiling; transfer the effect of the otherworldly spaces created by this master stylist's peerless aesthetic sensibilities to the film as a whole, and you'll find yourself beholding an equally perplexing creation. In solemn, solitary voids of space, desolation depicted as art in that most fashionable of fashions, a homeless family ambles around Taipei. Their existence as such lacks clarity as their actions lack consequences - they seem stranded, and the film formally assigns them little more purpose than they seem to serve in Tsai's vision of the modern world. They simply exist, and it is in his compassionate portrayal of simple human existence that Tsai's film is perhaps his most humanistic: here is its purpose, and it forgoes the temptation of allegorical blame in the process of merely documenting the (appropriate, in a stylistic sense) desolation of homeless life in the 21st Century. Indeed, search for a deeper meaning in Stray Dogs and you'll be deliberately deceived - changes in mood and tone vary so greatly from one apparently arbitrary scene to the next that the more 'important' issues of time and character are rendered equally elusive. And whether or not there is any philosophical purpose to Tsai's stylings is beside the point - cinematically, they demonstrate his formidable grasp of this medium's many tools and attributes. Be it admiration or emotion he evokes in sequences such as the superior final two static shots, what Tsai achieves in the stillness is as remarkable in Stray Dogs as it ever has been.