HKMDB Daily News

February 11, 2014

Journey to the West (Screen Daily review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 7:22 pm

Journey To The West
10 February, 2014
By Jonathan Romney

Dir: Tsai Ming-Liang. France-Taiwan 2014. 56mins

The question “How slow can you go?” is answered with sublime poise (quite literally) by actor Lee Kang-Sheng in Tsai Ming-Liang’s extraordinary Journey To The West (Xi You) - a film that may well be the last word in (and overtly on the subject of) ‘Slow Cinema’. A follow-up to the Taiwanese director’s 2012 short Walker – which originally formed part of the portmanteau film Beautiful 2012 - Journey takes the same premise, a Buddhist monk walking at something slower than tortoise pace, relocates it in Marseille and introduces the always fascinating wild card of Denis Lavant.

The words ‘hypnotic’ and ‘mesmerising’ are over-used with regard to such abstract cinema, but the words genuinely apply in this remarkable venture which is more like a performance or installation art project than an ‘art film’ in the regular sense. Journey is most likely to flourish in very specialised niches, both at festivals and on the art fair circuit, where it should enjoy a prestigious ‘event’ status, especially when screened - as it was in the Berlinale Panorama - on a gigantic IMAX screen, the projection format truly adding a special dimension.

Consisting of only 14 shots of varying lengths - from very brief to a centrepiece of approximately 20 minutes - the film shows two men, narratively unconnected, who finally come together in an extraordinary (and very amusing) sequence that shows off both actors’ physical skills and sense of timing. The film begins with a lengthy close-up in darkness of a largely unblinking Lavant, his weatherbeaten features (down which a single tear eventually rolls) filling the screen like a craggy lunar landscape.

Further shots of Lavant’s face by day are interspersed with the progress of a red-robed monk (Tsai regular Lee Kang-Sheng) as he undertakes a spiritual and physical exercise of walking in extreme slow motion across Marseille, beginning in one of the crumbling, deserted buildings that are a favourite Tsai locale. In some shots, the monk is briefly glimpsed in the crowd, in others he’s at the centre of the image, filling the screen, and sometimes (in shots that confirm Tsai’s status as a deadpan humorist and actor Lee as his Zen Buster Keaton), the monk materialises improbably - passing outside a window or glimpsed in the distance in a mirror.

This very sculptural film makes dazzling use of the mirrored canopy of Marseilles’ Port Vieux Pavillion - in one magically framed shot, making a stretch of waterfront resemble an ‘infinity pool’, and in a teasing sign-off, leaving the viewer searching for the monk in an upside-down crowd, Where’s Wally? style (a touch of delicate jazz piano sneaks in bewitchingly at this point).

Marseilles itself is another star of the film, its population reacting with the players in two shots in particular. One, the film’s centrepiece, has the monk - a silhouette backlit by a shaft of daylight - descending a staircase while passersby ignore, observe or puzzle over him. In the other, he moves past a busy corner bar, while this time Lavant follows him at a distance, also slowly and in pretty much perfect synch.

The film is a tribute to the astonishing physical and mental discipline of Lee Kang-Sheng, one of the great Everyman figures in modern cinema, and to the elegance and mastery of a director whose films represent a subtle, constantly surprising and often moving brand of minimalism that’s entirely his own. Journey To The West shows that style at its simplest and most rarefied, but also, in a gloriously counter-intuitive way, its most directly pleasurable.

Production companies: House on Fire, Neon Productions, Résurgences, Homegrown Films

International sales: Urban Distribution,

Producers: Vincent Wang, Fred Ballaïche

Screenplay: Tsai Ming-Liang

Cinematography: Antoine Héberlé

Editor: Lei Shen Qing

Music: Sébastien Mauro

Main cast: Lee Kang-Sheng, Denis Lavant

February 10, 2014

Journey to the West (Hollywood Reporter review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 2:31 pm

Journey to the West
2/9/2014 by Deborah Young

The Bottom Line
A piece of curious performance art as beautifully photographed as it is sleep-inducing.

Taiwanese cult director Tsai Ming-liang takes his snail-paced monk to Marseilles.

One has to ask if the English title of cryptic Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang’s Journey to the West is a sly reference to Stephen Chow’s demon-hunting hit of last year, with which it has nothing but the title in common. Instead Tsai returns to his Buddhist monk who walks through the city at a snail’s pace to the general indifference of the populace and, of course, most of the film-going public. Yet there will be followers of this short but patience-trying film, and its message to get off the grindstone of unhappiness and find inner peace will fly at selected festivals after its Berlin premiere. It’s hard to imagine other audiences.

This is the third installment of the series, after the Asian-set Walking on Water (part of the film Letters from the South) and the original Walker (part of Beautiful 2012) with Lee Kang-sheng returning to the role of the stooped, red-robed monk who treads through streets and squares and up and down staircases in exaggerated slo-mo with his fingers in a blissful mudra. All around him Antoine Herberle’s hidden camera captures the bustling life of the city, which in the present case means Marseilles, as busy people ignore him or politely look the other way.

One man, however (played by Denis Lavant), decides to imitate his penitential steps and follows him like a disciple. We have previously seen the man’s suffering face in extreme close-up and profile, in fixed long-held shots emphasizing his unhappy heavy breathing. Now he seems to have found a purpose in life.
The setups are often startling, even witty, like the monk passing by a store dummy or entering an empty screen where red paint literally seems to be drying. Tourists furtively snap his picture and the bemused idlers in an outdoor café watch him until they lose interest. The final shot turns the city upside down in a huge mirror.

Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special), Feb. 9, 2014.
Production companies: House on Fire, Neon Productions, Resurgences, Homegreen Films
Cast: Lee Kang-sheng, Denis Lavant
Director: Tsai Ming-liang
Screenwriter: Tsai Ming-liang
Producers: Vincent Wang, Fred Bellaiche
Director of photography: Antoine Herberle
Editor: Lei Shen Qing
Music: Sebastien Mauro
Sales Agent: Urban Distribution
No rating, 56 minutes.

October 11, 2010

October 11, 2010

THR: Jet Li, Tsui Hark reunite

Li plays a Ming Dynasty general battling a power-hungry eunuch played by Chen Kun. Their contest comes to a head at an inn run by actress Zhou Xun.

FBA: Li, Tsui reunite for new Dragon picture

Production got underway today on Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, a stereoscopic 3-D film which reunites action star Jet Li and Chinese director Tsui Hark 14 years after their most successful collaboration on New Dragon Gate Inn.

CRI: ’The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate’ Starts Filming


THR: Hot Summer Days review

THR: When Love Comes review

THR: Late Autumn review

THR: Suitors rap on China’s door

Fox gets teeth into Chinese movie market

THR: Asian Filmmaker of the Year

Tsai Ming-liang lauded by PIFF for his taciturn films

CRI: Zhang Ziyi to Host Hundred Flowers Awards

The festival will open Tuesday, Oct. 12 in Jiangyin, a small city in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province. The media predicted a lackluster opening, as Jiangyin has no airport. [Fan Bingbing and Huang Xiaoming have already announced that they are not going.]

It is tradition for the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Festival, one of the biggest film events in China, to be held in a different host city each year.

Stories From Chinese America - The Arthur Dong Collection

New DVD collection

Bouquet commemorating Anita Mui’s 47th birthday at a fan gathering in Hong Kong.

It’s been almost 7 years since the pop legend passed away.


Dong Xuan, Li Chen - Struggle

Director Joe Ma Wai-Ho and the cast of Struggle

Joe Ma has begun shooting the film version of Struggle in Suzhou. The romantic comedy is based on the popular 2007 mainland TV series. (Sina)

Publicity stills of Yu Shaoqun (Forever Enthralled) and Jiang Wu (Let the Bullets Fly) from The 1911 Revolution

Jiang Wu

Jiang Wu

Yu Shaoqun


Porn site is selling ‘fully naked’ photos of female stars for HK$78; HK stars next target

Anthony Wong spoke out against the unhealthy trend and called for government intervention.


Andy Lau in Harper’s Bazaar (Xinhua-slide show)

CRI: Yuan Quan, Chen Kun Pose for Mag Cover

Their romantic film “My Ex-wife’s Wedding” will be released on October 22.

Chen Kun

(Xinhua-slide show)

CRI: Li Bingbing, Star in Singaporean and Malaysian Versions of ‘Bazaar’

Stalking Cherie Chung shopping in Central


Need more Cherie? Check out Glenn’s Cherie Chung Week.

Charlene Choi

(Oct. 8) Appearing at the Metro i Do Concert, Charlene requested a microphone stand for support as she woke up feeling dizzy and nauseous, probably due to an ear infection. She was scheduled to fly overseas the next day for filming. Charlene admitted that she wanted a holiday but that it was just wishful thinking. [Give this girl a break! Her health seems to be an ongoing problem.] The Twins also have a November 13th concert in Macau on their schedule.  (Sina)

William Chan, Charlene Choi

Elsewhere, over the weekend, William Chan Wai-Ting publicly declared his love for Charlene on his weibo. (Sina) Charlene admitted through Emperor that two have been dating for 3 months and would make an announcement about their relationship when she returns to Hong Kong from a mainland fan club meeting. (Sina)2

HK actress Charlene Choi now dating singer William Chan

William Chan, Charlene at Hong Kong airport today

(Xinhua) (Sina)234

Sammo Hung

(Oct.8) Sammo Hung attended the Hong Kong Golf Assoiciation annual charity match. Vivian Chow, Eric Tsang, Michale Miu and  other Hong Kong artists participated. Son Timmy Hung recently got married to Janet Chow, former Miss Hong Kong runner up, and Sammo was kidded about the prospect of being a grandfather. (Sina)

Eric Tsang


WSJ: Hollywood Heads to Hainan for Golf Tournament

SG: Cecilia Cheung to go against Rebecca Tang [Tang Wei] in Jingle Ma’s new film

SG: Jordan Chan and Cherrie Ying go old school for wedding photos

Younger rival threatens Maggie Cheung’s relationship

October 5, 2009

October 5, 2009a

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , — dleedlee @ 1:00 pm

Taipei Times: Face review

Tsai Ming-liang pays tribute to Francois Truffaut in the first movie made under the Louvre’s new filmmaking initiative.

Taipei Times - Short Takes

Kungfu Cyborg: Metallic Attraction
Hong Kong’s China-market-friendly (read: suffocatingly naive) version of Michael Bay’s Transformers series holds back until late before the action kicks in. A policeman must look after a cyborg that has joined the force, but romantic complications between the robot and “his” colleagues take the plot hostage before an evil cyborg can do his thing. As the title suggests, there’s more love stuff in this one, but the reviews are even worse than for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which at least had splendid effects. Note: The English title is reversed in some markets. Directed by Jeff Lau (劉鎮偉), perhaps best known for Operation Pink Squad (霸王女福星) and its sequel from the late 1980s.

Khalil Fong (方大同) is definitely not your average pop singer. With his less-than-sculptural face, mop-top hair, black-rimmed glasses and waifish body, Fong looks more like your high school geek than a singer on MTV.

February 21, 2009

Zhang Ziyi and Fan Bingbing rivals in love in Perfect Life

 Six Flavors of Hong Kong
The six shorts from The One Days: HK are deliberately short and indefinite, enough to intrigue but never time to stop and explain.
DVD available here (thanks, to David Wells):

APA Top Ten: Female martial artists in Asian film


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