The Wayward Cloud

The Wayward Cloud


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl have met before, but now their lives are different. Boy has become a porn star and taken to indulging in secret late-night baths on the rooftop, turning into a fish-creature and singing. Can they reconcile their differences and rediscover the pleasures they once shared?

In this almost dialogue-free film from Hong Kong-based auteur Tsai Ming-liang, the setting is almost as important as the characters, and, indeed, dictates many of their actions.

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It is Taipei, in the middle of summer, during a desperate drought. As the heat overwhelms them, the people gradually abandon their civilised ways and revert to animal instincts, their priorities shifted by the urgent need to stay hydrated and stay cool. The atmosphere is delirious, as reflected in Ming-liang's sumptuous photography, which makes gorgeous use of space and light to show us another side of a usually hectic city.

Meanwhile, the price of watermelon has plummeted, and the ripe fruit are everywhere, fresh and succulent. Gradually they begin to fill the role of water in everyone's lives. They quench thirst. They relieve dry skin. They substitute even for the tenderness of flesh. After seeing this film, you will never look at watermelon the same way again.

The Wayward Cloud is a superbly crafted film. Technically speaking, nothing much happens in it, yet it tells a potent story about what it is to be human. If that doesn't sound like your kind of thing, you might be surprised by how easily it will draw you in. It's a passionate, sensual piece of work, with intense performances from the two leads.

It's also quite aware of its own absurdity, and is full of humour, both deliberate and incidental. The cheesy pop songs which accompany elegantly crafted dance routines accord it a lightness of touch that cannot help but be endearing - if you liked The Locomotion in Inland Empire, you'll love this. Gently seductive and full of surprises, this is a film which will alternately dazzle, charm and shock you. In the middle of winter, it's a great way to turn up the heat.

Reviewed on: 01 Dec 2007
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During a drought, the people of Taipei develop an obsession with watermelon.
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Director: Tsai Ming-liang

Writer: Tsai Ming-liang

Starring: Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi

Year: 2005

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France, Taiwan


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