The Wayward Cloud Movie Review

It's all in the timing: Tsai Ming-liang's long-awaited follow-up to Goodbye, Dragon Inn finally finds distribution and, what one would assume to be, a mouth-agape audience at New York City's Anthology Film Archives. A sort of festival myth, The Wayward Cloud premiered at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival, was released on DVD in Asia and then began to find itself popping up in small festivals all over the U.S. As much as you love to see a film so elusive and divisive finally get an open forum, The Wayward Cloud finds Ming-liang in a rut and unable to elevate his neon wilderness to the heights of the rest of his consistently fascinating oeuvre.

Following What Time is it There? and the short The Skywalk is Gone, The Wayward Cloud catches up with the watch-salesman-turned-porn-star and the unaffected object of his obsession. The opening scene (one for the books) shows Hsiao-Kang (Ming-liang standby Lee Kang-sheng) sexually violating a watermelon placed between the thighs of a female porn star. While he is tending to his craft, Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) sits in her apartment, all zombied up by her television set. Their chance meeting occurs in a small outdoor booth in a sunny park, where a small spark is relit that sets off the beautiful mess that follows.

Musical digressions come from nowhere and seemingly mean nothing to the story. Whether it's Hsiao-Kang donning a reptilian swimsuit and crooning to an indifferent moon or a parade of dancers twirling umbrellas designed with watermelon patterns, Ming-liang's delusional panorama doesn't suffice as dreamy escapism (e.g. Dancer in the Dark) nor does it further the story in the classical musical sense. There's a sense of hollow pageantry to these scenes that distances the audience rather than engages them; the same goes for the film.

The deeper you go into the bunny hole, the stranger this mess gets: the thematic devices get tired and overplayed (water, elevators, those watermelons!) and the story begins to let go of any sense of trajectory and point. The Wayward Cloud plays out predominantly as a procession of Ming-liang patented sublime compositions but without the fluidity and metaphysical dazzle that has defined his best work (The River, Goodbye, Dragon Inn).

Though by miles more interesting than the normal crap being dumped in your local megaplex, Ming-liang's audacious stab at a sexually-devious musical seems like one of those rare films that doesn't suit the director's goosestepping auteurism in any sense. Anyone but die-hard fans should be warned that they might resemble the two leads laying on the kitchen floor in existentially-bored reverie by film's end. Even as the film's titular image floats by above its characters, one can't help but think that this is the first time that Ming-liang has let his daydream get away from him.

Aka Tian bian yi duo yun.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :

Comments

The Wayward Cloud Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 2005

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