Feature Tuesday: “What Time Is It There?”

I think I’ve already featured this on Feature Friday, but this is Feature Tuesday. And in any case I’m sure that other copy is now down.

Tsai Ming-Liang is one of my favorite living filmmakers, and What Time Is It There? was the first work of his that I saw. I recommend everything he’s made, and think that, ultimately, it’s best to watch all of his films in order (since each new film is usually an oblique sequel to the last one). But What Time? made an excellent entry point for me, and it’s a beautiful, wonderful film in its own right, if you watch just it:


* Some translate the title as What Time Is It Over There?, and maybe that’s preferable somehow, but I prefer the way the title sounds without the preposition.

Feature Friday: “What Time Is It There?” (2001)


If this is to be your final day on earth, then this is as fine a final film to watch as any other. Finer, even.

It’s the first Tsai Ming-Liang film that I saw. Afterwards, I went and watched all his other films, and have kept up with him ever since. He’s one of my favorite living directors.

I hope you have the same experience.

(Here’s something I wrote about a later film of his, Visage.)

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A call to the arms of love: on the love of film as a politics of film, on critique-as-love and love-as-revolutionary-force, in memory of Alexis Tioseco, Nika Bohinc and my father; or, another letter I would love to read to you in person.

(Note: I don’t typically double-post, or indeed triple-post, but some forms of mourning, or memorial, ought to be as wide-reaching as celebration, or an embrace. This is for the international cinema–and especially Southeast Asian cinema–critic-lovers here at Big Other, too.)


On September 1, 2009, Filipino Canadian film critic and founder of Criticine, Alexis Tioseco and his girlfriend, Nika Bohinc, were killed at home in Quezon City, “in an apparent burglary staged by three armed men who fled the scene.”

From Gang Badoy’s “Alexis, voilà (or the death of Alexis Tioseco)”:

Alexis is dead. He was murdered on the night of Sept. 1, 2009. I know this because I saw him dead. Not in the solemn way that we are accustomed to — prepared and lying in peaceful state but face down and crumpled on their kitchen floor with his girlfriend Nika Bohinc almost beside him. Nika was a respected auteur herself, hailing all the way from Slovenia. The two met at the Rotterdam Film Festival a few years ago, both fell deeply in love and built a high-powered partnership mantled in a gentle relating together.

When Alexis died almost everyone near him focused on remembering his life, celebrating his work, reveling in his love for film and passion for saving Philippine Cinema. I suppose it is normal for human beings to ask for the cause of death — in passing — and when found too difficult to stare at — we focus our pupils elsewhere. We toast to him and comfort ourselves with the illusion that it was after all “a full and good life.” It works for a few months but not for me who saw exactly how he fell, less than two hours after his murderers left (what is now known as) the crime scene.

As difficult as this is for you to read and for me to write, it needs to be said that Alexis died by violent hands. It was not clean and there was nothing graceful about what I saw. I can always use euphemisms — God knows I have been — but not today. I want to cut the ribbon of The A/V Club with truth.

The truth is Alexis was beat. He was bruised and his right hand shot. His left hand’s middle finger had something around it. I stared at it for a while, thinking it was a ring — I never remembered Alexis wearing jewelry so I had to strain and look through the blood and saw that it was his house key in a ring. He was shot while he was still holding the keys to his home.

I will never be able to describe how it is to see the crime scene investigators mosey around him with characteristic city-hall indifference. All I could do was remind them over and over to be thorough. I barked orders at many of them that night in the kitchen, so much so that after a while they started calling me “Attorney.” I would ask if they’d dusted the chair or the bottles for prints. When asked why I was allowed inside the crime scene I lied and said I was Alexis’ legal guardian and that I was a student of forensics and that they should just take my word for it. In my mind, Alexis and I had a good chuckle because he is (was?) aware that all the forensics I know is from watching CSI.

I stood guard watching over Alexis and Nika pacing around them, kneeling beside them every now and then to make sure they were comfortable — a most absurd thing given that they were already dead. I am not mincing my words now, am I? I am sorry if this disconcerts you but it is the truth. And the truth is we have to be brave enough to talk about their death. I know we have to continue remembering his life and celebrating his life’s work — but f*ck — shouldn’t he be living it instead? Tonight I am angry. I am sad. I am resolved. And then I want to forever look the other way. I want to forget but I need to remember. There are reasons.

Alexis and Nika were murdered and today, over six months after, there is still no progress on the case. His sisters and brothers, our shared good friend Erwin Romulo and I have wrestled through administrative meetings with the police, a general, the former Secretary of Justice Agnes Devanadera, you’d think with all our connections we’d get somewhere — still nothing. The courtesy calls to the heads of these departments were hell. We’ve witnessed the Forensics Department go antsy when they found out we consulted a private forensics expert, the big title game — and the delay of releasing documents because of red tape and ego. All hell. All hell to all the players in this game as I cling on to my childhood belief that both my friends are in heaven.




Between 2006 and 2009, as long-time readers of this space know, I was in the throes of deep mourning over my father’s death, as well as the throes of severe illness (how is grief an illness? how is illness a physiological manifestation of grief?). And for those three years, I neither read nor wrote anything, or almost anything–indeed, refused outright, to read or write anything, as in October 2010 I wrote in one of my first [PANK] columns two years ago (has it really already been two years?), “A FAILED ESSAY ON GRIEF, SICKNESS, ANTI-WRITING/ANTE-WRITING, WOUNDS, CIXOUS, PHILOCTETES, DÉBROUILLARDES, AUNG SAN SUU KYI, ON KAWARA, KANYE WEST, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, BARTHES’ MOURNING DIARY AND QUEER GHOSTS IN CONTEMPORARY R&B; IN THE FORM OF AN INTERRUPTED LETTER TO A DEAD PARENT”. During those three years, I completely abandoned the book I had started when my beloved was still in the world; untaught myself of reading; untaught myself of learning; untaught myself of living anywhere but in the wound; living in the wound, and not the world. I do live in the world now, though, I think. I admit I’m not always sure.

During those three years, despite neither reading nor writing, I did, however, watch movies. (I also watched awful-fantastic Japanese television and variety shows like VS Arashi and Bistro Smap, though the latter is a classic; the episode with Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai–of course, one of my great cinematic loves and alter-egos–is particularly good; I think they were there to promote Confession of Pain.)

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Flaming Creatures (1963), directed by Jack Smith.

Noticing last September that the Features section of this site was blank, I began embedding there feature-length films that are available in their entirety at YouTube. At the moment there are links to:

You can find much better copies of Marienbad and What Time Is It There? on DVD, but the others are trickier to come by. There’s a great DVD of Little Murders, but it’s currently out of print, and not many video stores stock it. India Song finally got a US DVD release last year, but it’s not the kind of film you find lying around. A New Leaf was issued on VHS and is now severely out of print. Flaming Creatures never got any kind of video release to my knowledge (which is a terrible shame, as it’s one of the greatest films ever made). (No doubt the fact that it was seized by the police upon its premiere, and ruled obscene, has played some part in its inaccessibility. Censorship sadly sometimes works!)

Amazingly, all of these films are still up and running at YouTube. I’ll add others as I stumble across them…

A Review of the Relatively New Movie Dogtooth (Kynodontas)

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Giorgos Lanthimos‘s third feature-length film, Dogtooth (Kynodontas, 2009), which is the kind of movie that makes one want to immediately write something about it.

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Brevity, Part 2: Long Takes

Some of us have been discussing long takes in movies, and John mentioned that he’d like seeing a list of films that consist primarily of the beautiful things. So here is a start at such a list. (And here is another one, which like this list embeds many YouTube clips, such as the magnificent opening shot Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958), the homage Robert Altman pays it in The Player (1992), and many others—including some overlap.)

But first: What’s the value in the long take?

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My Favorite New Movies of 2009

[Update: 2010 is here] [and 2011 is here]

Here are my favorite new movies of 2009, like you care. I’m drawing from the films I saw in the theater this year, some of which were “officially” released a year or two ago. But they’re all new.

NOT one of my favorite films this year

…So, Mr. Cranky, what did you like?

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