September 16, 2005


Watermelons are everywhere (and people are doing everything with them, from juicing to humping them)I have to confess: I've never seen a Tsai Ming-liang film before. It's a horrible thing to have to say, like hearing the waiter at a steakhouse admit he's allergic to red meat. On the one hand this positions me as an ignoramus. On the other hand it positions me as an ignoramos who's going into THE WAYWARD CLOUD free of preconceptions. The movie has earned almost universal pans, and no one likes to talk about it much, but maybe it's just a sign of the final death throes of my tiny mind that I liked it a lot.

The story is minimal. Taiwan is gripped in a heat wave, water is a precious commodity, watermelons are everywhere (and people are doing everything with them, from juicing to humping them) and a guy and a gal living in the same apartment block fall for each other. According to other reviewers, these are the same couple from WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? and they went their separate ways at the end of that earlier film. Okay. That's neat.

Anyways, the guy is an actor in porn movies and he obviously doesn't want the gal to find out what he does for a living. Their lives turn into a game of cat and mouse up and down the stairwells and through the corridors (he's currently shooting a porno with a Japanese actress upstairs) as he virtually does backflips to keep his day job secret. Some things to know about this movie: the shots are long, the scenes are long, no one talks much and everything is broken up with cheapo musical numbers set to 50's Mandopop.

The Wayward Cloud is the most scathing denunciation of pornographyThis doesn't sound very promising, and the musical numbers are pretty pointless (except one that an older actress bursts into right after getting the stud's money shot squirted onto her face - it's the keeper of the bunch) but this flick that starts out as a quiet visual comedy evolves into the most strident anti-pornography movie I've ever seen. Variety's review (here) says the last scene of the movie is the most misogynist of director Tsai Ming-liang's career. Uh, sorry, but it's actually most scathing denunciation of pornography (damn dirty pornography!) I've ever seen. Which just goes to show that there's a lot of room to read things into this flick.

Folks made a big stink about the blow job scene in BROWN BUNNY between Vincent Gallo and Chloe Sevigny. Please. If you haven't sat through the deeply upsetting sausage gobbling in THE WAYWARD CLOUD, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.

September 16, 2005 at 10:26 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink


I just saw this film in Rio´s International Films Festival. I liked it a lot, very very much.

And I like the musical parts, too. I think they have a special meaning in the story. It´s like their dreams of love, their wishes, desires and a concept of a so romantic love that is so far away from the reality. And I like the way it shows. And they are also so beautiful, the colors, the dances...

Posted by: L. | Oct 1, 2005 10:13:59 PM

Hey there. Sorry I have to sound like this awful pedantic person but just to clarify some plot points concerning the central couple in The Wayward Cloud...

In What Time Is It There, the porn actor was a watch-seller on a bridge, he sold this girl a watch, and she went to Paris before they could even properly fall in love - that's not quite going their separate ways, no? Anyways, he spends the rest of the movie being sort of lovesick, resetting all the clocks in Taipei to Parisian time, even the gigantic town-hall clock.

There's a short-film sequel to this, called The Skywalk Is Gone: the girl comes back from France looking for the watch-seller but the bridge, as stated in the title, has disappeared, and she can't find him. (Actually the two of them cross paths at one point in the movie but both are feeling too dejected to notice each other and the last we see of him in this short film, he's auditioning to be a porn actor.)

So, The Wayward Cloud is really about their reunion, and I just found it really romantic - that scene of them dancing their way through the city, that was just so sweet - in a way that really talkative romantic comedies seem to have forgotten how to be...

As for the musical numbers, Tsai Ming-liang really seems to know his Chinese oldies (more than Wong Kar Wai, the other master of nostalgia). He was able to use an old song at the end of The Skywalk Is Gone in a way that cast new light on its meaning. And I think he tries to do the same in The Wayward Cloud...

Posted by: ww | Jan 3, 2006 7:09:25 AM

Thanks - and what is the internet for but pedantry of all shapes and sizes? I have to say: I'm glad I hadn't seen the earlier movies because I found the end of WAYWARD CLOUD unrelentingly harsh and if it was between two characters I'd followed through a couple of other movies I might have been inclined to crawl into bed for a few days.

Did you have the same reaction?

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Jan 3, 2006 7:28:07 AM

hmmm... i don't know what i thought of the ending, actually. i was in tears, but without thinking too hard about what it was that had made me cry.

i think i was still sort of elated from that scene of the sunny, lazy afternoon in the park when they finally meet again on the swing, and the small scenes afterwards in which they eat crabs, share a cigarette, etc, and so i was able to come out the cinema still feeling glad for them... if that makes sense?

Posted by: ww | Jan 3, 2006 8:11:44 AM

i love this film. the ending had made me cry. depaired loneliness and isolation.....

Posted by: ihzow | Sep 2, 2006 3:42:04 PM

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