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The Wayward Cloud, April 28

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Friday, April 28, 2006
9:15 p.m. The Wayward Cloud
Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan/France, 2005)

(Tian bian yi duo yun). The most audacious film to date from visionary director Tsai Ming-liang, The Wayward Cloud is about a porn actor and the museum tour guide who enters into a strange relationship with him, unaware of his profession. Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng) is the same alienated youth whose chance encounter with Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) provided the spark that fueled Tsai's earlier films. Once again, these two lost souls cross paths—he now works as an actor in no-budget porn films, and she wanders around Taipei, hoarding bottles of water because of a serious drought. In fact, the government is recommending that people eat watermelons to hydrate themselves. This fruit sets in motion a perverse (and often hilarious) symbolic theme throughout much of the film. As in his earlier film The Hole (SFIFF 1999), Tsai adds trashy, campy musical numbers into the narrative. These sequences play against the raw sex scenes, creating a bizarre, existential chaos. The filmmaker has created a perfectly realized alternative universe in his ongoing exploration of sex, bodies, and loneliness. His stationary camera perfectly illustrates the isolation and exploitation the characters are trapped in—yet the film is as funny as it is emotionally tortured. Tsai's characters are indeed wayward clouds, drifting through life without purpose, in a world without water. And prepare yourself for the film's unbelievable final scene (no spoilers here), which manages to be both weirdly erotic and profoundly disturbing.

Please note: this film contains sexually explicit scenes.

—Joel Shepard

• Written by Tsai. Photographed by Liao Pen-jung. With Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Lu Yi-ching, Yang Kuei-mei. (112 mins)