Premise: An older man (Lee Kang-sheng), who lives in an upscale house, stares out from his deck at the rain. A younger man (Anong Houngheuangsy), who lives in a sparse, run-down apartment, cooks lunch. The older man has chronic neck pains and goes through a grueling, burning acupuncture to find relief. The younger man works at night at an outdoor market. At about the hour mark, the two men meet in a hotel room where the younger man has been hired, among other things, to give the older man a massage. They have dinner afterwards. They part and go back to their own lives. But did their one interaction leave any lasting impression on either of their otherwise solitary lives?
My Take: There is a genre of film called slow cinema, in which directors test the patience of the audience by giving us long takes of seemingly mundane things happening. If you applauded yourself for enduring the opening of “Roma” in which Alfonso Cuarón places a camera above a tile floor that a woman is washing for about five uninterrupted minutes, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang has taken this stationary, continuous shot to new heights here, and I found it thrilling. Sure, there are scenes that can drive you bonkers, like the one in which the older man is walking on a deserted road at night or a shot of a building in which a cat seen walking behind one of the windows is the only action. But the mood Tsai Ming-liang creates stays with you longer because of this style. This film does feel like a minor work for him, but it’s a welcome gift for us, as he had indicated that he was retiring after his last film, the well-received “Stray Dog” from 2013. His best film is 2003’s “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” in which a movie theater that’s about to be demolished plays the 1967 film “Dragon Inn” to a mostly empty cinema. I still enjoyed “Days” very much for the two actors but especially the audacity of Tsai Ming-liang vision.
VIP: I don’t remember if it was Lee Chang-dong or Apichatpong Weerasethakul or another Asian director of slow cinema, but I was at a retrospective screening of one of their films, and they made a speech before the movie and whoever it was said and I paraphrase, “It’s ok if you fall asleep during the film, that is a byproduct for some people.” So, I applaud any audience member who see this movie and didn’t fall asleep or walk out because “nothing happens.” So, here’s to you, the cinephiles, always up for a challenge. I admire you all.