Tsai Ming-Liang and Malaysian love stories
by Vitor Pinto
There's no place like home, the saying goes. After a successful list of films set primarily in Taipai, Tsai Ming-Liang decided to chose his birth place Malaysia as the set of his latest film, I don't Want to Sleep Alone [+see also:
The Venice Film Festival, which awarded Ming-Liang the Golden Lion in 1994 for Vive l'amour, today hosts the official presentation of film, which received warm applause last night at its first press screening.
"It is an import film for me", said Tsai Ming-Liang. "It explores the theme of immigration. I have put some of my personal memories in it, as I was an immigrant myself in Taiwan". Shooting with a local crew, but still using the director's fetish actor Lee Kang-Sheng, I Don't Want to Sleep Alone tells the story of Hsiao-Kang, a Chinese homeless man who is rescued by a group of Bangladeshi workers after being attacked in the streets. However, this potentially trivial tale about solidarity between foreigners set against the background of a hot and humid Kuala Lumpur soon turns into a more complex plot as one the Bangladeshi men, Rawang, seems to be particularly fond of him.
Tsai Ming-Liang shoots this "love that dares not speak its name" kind of story with profound tenderness and erotic subtleness, which is clearly opposed to his previously hard-core musical The Wayward Cloud. The fragile balance of this relationship will, however, be shaken as Hsiao-Kang soon develops a parallel relationship with Chyi, a waitress at a coffee shop, and her female boss.
From that point on, the film becomes a disturbing labyrinth of emotions, with Ming-Liang using several peculiar symbolic elements, specially the character's hands, seen here a double metaphor for power and affection.
Static plans, musical moments introduced as a resonance of the characters' inner world, very little dialogue, implication rather than a straightforward plot: Ming-Liang's style remains incomparable, proving once again the filmmaker's capacity to thrill us with his unique aptitude to be grotesque and poetic at the same time.
I don't Want to Sleep Alone was produced by Soudaine Compagnie (France) and Homegreen Films (Taiwan) in co-production with New Crowned Hope Festival 2006 (Austria). International sales are being managed by Fortissimo Film Sales.