|A scene from Tsai Ming-liang's STRAY DOGS, playing at the 57th San Franicsco International Film Festival, April 24 - May 8, 2014. Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.|
WHAT: Tsai's films have long developed recurrent themes of home and rootlessness, but with Stray Dogs he uses these to create his rawest, bitterest attack on Taiwan's inequalities thus far. His first digital feature employs surveillance-style footage of his actor fetiche Lee Kang-sheng and two youngsters tramping through and setting camp in locations "stolen" whether by crew or characters. It culminates in a fourteen-minute take that's simultaneously unforgiving and about forgiveness.
That 75-word capsule is all I'm allowed to write while we await a potential commercial distribution of this film, but there are plenty of more untethered critics who have written very thoughtfully and substantially on Stray Dogs and most (though surprisingly not Martin Tsai's useful reading) are linked on the addictive Critics Round Up website.
WHERE/WHEN: Screens 3:15 PM today at New People and 6:30 PM tomorrow at the Pacific Film Archive, both thanks to the San Francisco International Film Festival.
WHY: It's been just over seven years since a new Tsai Ming-Liang feature film has appeared in Frisco Bay cinemas. The last was I Don't Want To Sleep Alone, which debuted here in April 2007 at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts. In the meantime, Tsai's 2009 film Face received mixed-at-best reviews at other film festivals around the world, bypassed local cinema screens, and has not even been officially released on DVD (though I've been told it's on Netflix Instant, I've never subscribed and have still yet to catch up with this work; I suppose I still hold out hope it may arrive through another means). And a new featurette called Journey To The West has just started making festival rounds, though it has yet to land here yet.
Watching Stray Dogs made me realize how rusty I've gotten at watching Tsai's films in cinemas, and made me want to have that experience again with one of his prior films. Not a moment too soon, I received an advance look at a program YBCA's Joel Shepard put together for this summer. One of the selections in this screening series is my own (a real honor and my first stab at programming 35mm, I picked a Robert Altman film that means an awful lot to me) but I think I'm equally excited to see the other nine films in the series. Eight of them I've never seen at all and in most cases have longed to for years, and the ninth (or should I say the first), screening July 20th, is a Tsai film I've only seen on home video before: The Hole. It was my introduction to his work way back when, and I'm thrilled to be able to get a chance to watch it in 35mm in just a few short months. Here's the full line-up for the YBCA series:
Invasion of the Cinemaniacs!
July 20 - Sept 25
Sun, Jul 20, 2pm Karen Larsen presents The Hole By Tsai Ming-liang
Thu, Jul 24, 7:30pm Brian Darr presents The Company By Robert Altman
Sun, Jul 27, 2pm Jonathan L. Knapp presents Colorado Territory By Raoul Walsh
Sat, Aug 9, 7:30pm Cheryl Eddy presents Death Wish 3 By Michael Winner
Sun, Aug 10, 2pm Adam Hartzell presents Madame Freedom By Han Hyeong-mo
Sat, Aug 23, 7:30pm Michael Guillén presents Hell Without Limits (El Lugar Sin Límites) By Arturo Ripstein
Sun, Aug 24, 2pm David Wong presents The Exile By Max Ophüls
Thurs, Sept 18, 7:30pm Alby Lim presents Pietà By Kim Ki-duk
Sun, Sept 21, 2pm Lynn Cursaro presents Little Fugitive By Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin & Ray Ashley
Thurs, Sept 25, 7:30pm David Robson presents The Brides Of Dracula By Terence Fisher
HOW: Stray Dogs screens digitally, as it was shot.
OTHER SFIFF OPTIONS: Day 6 allows festgoers a final chance to see Manuscripts Don't Burn, Blind Dates and All About the Feathers, and features the first of two silent film/indie rock pairings of SFIFF57: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down playing new music for Charlie Chaplin's The Pawn Shop, Robert Florey and Slavko Vorkapich’s The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra, and more.
NON-SFIFF OPTION: Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub's Too Soon, Too Late screens digitally at Black Hole Cinematheque in Oakland.