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San Francisco International Film Festival @ BAM/PFA

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
6:30 p.m. Stray Dogs
Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan/France, 2013)

Master filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang’s work often reveals an affinity for the natural world and its elements, especially rain and water. And in Stray Dogs, Tsai’s tenth feature, the cold of the wind and the driving rain provide a fitting backdrop for the struggle of an impoverished family consisting of a father and two children (and two shifting maternal figures) trying to survive in modern-day Taipei. Loneliness and sadness permeate the tableaux in this incredibly tactile work, with surfaces, especially walls, taking on a sharp tangibility. The rock-strewn floor of an abandoned building gives off the otherworldly feel of a lunar plain. Tsai’s camera is patient and watchful, peppering the film with extreme long takes. The daunting duration of these scenes simultaneously coaxes and frustrates the viewer’s attention as our eyes scan the frame upon which the minutes unfurl while the characters’ actions and faces slowly build to and sustain moments of desperate emotion. In the end, these long shots become mesmeric in their revelation of pulsating despair and longing in this bold and often mysterious work.

—Veronika Ferdman

• Written by Song Peng Fei, Tsai, Tung Chen Yu. Photographed by Liao Pen-jung, Sung Wen Zhong. With Lee Kang-sheng, Lee Yi-cheng, Lee Yi-chieh. (138 mins)

Tickets on sale April 4. Online tickets are available through the SFFS ticketing system. Follow the link below and select "buy tickets." BAM/PFA members receive a discount online by using a special promo code. If you are a member and did not receive the code by email, please call (510) 642-5186.

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