Lush jungle and a building in ruins are the ideal stage for a film-confession that defies storytelling and goes beyond conversation on cinema. Tsai Ming-Liang and his actor Lee Kang-sheng confess and put on stage a pièce in which attention and slowness are in tune with the rhythm of memory. The unveiling of Tsai Ming-liang’s filmmaking: from Stray Dogs to the most intimate notes of the director-actor relationship.
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★★★★½ review by nrh on Letterboxd
how many times you sit with someone you love, you realize the sun has set
★★★½ review by Tony Huang on Letterboxd
A puzzle of a film, though it doesn't present itself as such. Why sit through this? Why spend an afternoon with Tsai instead of seeing The River or The Wayward Cloud again? Why does the take break 3 or 4 times? Is the film really as it appears or has some rearrangement occurred? Can those plants really hear them talking? A film for Tsai-fans which is in a sense about Tsai and in another sense about Tsai-fans.
★★★★ review by Arthur Bollis on Letterboxd
A conversation between director Tsai Ming-lian & actor/muse Lee Kang-Sheng in a ruin-looking room of their house they recently moved into. Tasi does most of the talking, which has him coming to terms with what he believes to be his impending death. The topics range from their relationship together, homosexuality, Tsai's legacy & Lee's feet. All done in a static shot with a total of three cuts, it is Tsai's emotion that requires this to be seen and wouldn't work as just a transcript.
★★★½ review by Michael Sicinski on Letterboxd
Following the release of his 2013 film Stray Dogs (a work that some consider his masterpiece), Tsai Ming-liang announced his retirement from feature filmmaking. He’s been busier than ever since this alleged bowing-out, producing a stage play and the Walker series of medium-length films (Tsai released the latest one, No No Sleep, earlier this year). But it is clear that his work has fundamentally changed. Afternoon is a feature-length experimental film that could be taken as the most complex DVD extra ever made. But for devotees of Tsai and his onscreen alter ego, actor Lee Kang-sheng, the film is hypnotic, even as the perversity of its stasis prompts a viewer to wonder whether it has a trajectory or is simply going where it will.
Afternoon consists of several long takes from a single camera set-up, in what appears to be a roof deck in the new mountainside home where Tsai and Lee cohabitate. The space is dark and grungy, but the foliage and sun visible through the windows provides a sharp colour contrast. With the unmoving camera trained on the two men in chairs, and only an occasional boom mic or photographer’s arm peeking in to break up the composition, the look of Afternoon is very much Warhol-meets-Apichatpong.
But the long, long dialogue, which is dominated by Tsai (Lee doesn’t really speak for the first hour), is a different matter. In pacing and conversational lopsidedness, one may think of My Dinner with Andre (1981), but a much clearer comparison can be drawn to Godard and Mieville’s Soft and Hard (1985), since the main topic of the discussion is the pair’s career together and how it has affected their deep, almost Romantic friendship. Tsai speaks about his poor health, which affected his decision to retire. They joke with one another, which allows us the pleasure of hearing Tsai’s childlike giggle. But above all, Tsai spends much of Afternoon singing Lee’s praises as an actor and a human being, going so far as to say that his leading man/best friend was a gift from God. Afternoon is a rare and lovely cinematic expression of gratitude.
★★★½ review by Kenji Fujishima on Letterboxd
I tried to place Tsai Ming-liang's latest film in context of the rest of his oeuvre for Fandor's Keyframe Daily here.
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