The films of Tsai Ming-liang have always been melancholy, but the Taiwanese maestro’s latest is literally sodden with sadness. The account of an impoverished family (headed by his usual star, Lee Kang-sheng) eking out an existence in the shadows of contemporary Taipei unfolds in a series of rain-streaked tableaux, as if the city has burst into tears. The film’s achievement is that its rigorous formal structure – including a few almost impossibly elongated takes – heightens rather than flattens the emotional content. Don’t mistake Mr. Tsai’s spartan style for minimalism; there’s more cinematic savvy in any one of his ingeniously arranged frames than you’ll find in the whole of most other movies.
At VIFF: Sept. 30, 11:10 a.m., International Village; Oct. 11, 8:30 p.m., Rio