(WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?)
June 15, 2003
France / Taiwan
Mandarin / French / Taiwanese / English
This is the slow, deliberate story of three Taiwanese people. A young man sells watches at the train station, his mother mourns the death of her husband, and a young woman goes on vacation in Paris. The woman buys a watch from the man because it tells dual time. She can keep track of both Paris and Taiwan time. The man, remembering the woman and the quick connection they made, begins changing his watches and indeed most clocks he comes into contact with to Paris time. His mother, seeing a malfunctioning clock in her kitchen, takes it as a sign that the ghost of her husband has come back and prefers this new time. She sets out to prepare his dinner just past midnight, to please his soul.
The plot, as described above, really doesn’t do the film justice. The movie is filled with long takes, often with a stationary camera. We see a woman drinking coffee in a French cafe. Nothing much happens while we watch, except we can see that she is a stranger. She is the only asian woman there, the men look at her as an attractive oddity, she slowly drinks her espresso and then leaves. Without any words, we see how she feels different from those around her. She knows rudimentary English, but no French. Imagine her relief when she strikes up a conversation with a woman from Hong Kong.
The man’s obsession with the time in France is never fully explained. He has a quick interaction with the woman but nothing more. He simply cannot pass by a clock that has Taiwan time, he must change it. This provides humorous scenes where he resets every clock in a store.
The widow is desperately trying to bring her husband back. She covers the windows and changes her every schedule around to make him more comfortable. Her son thinks she’s gone bonkers, but this is the only way she can deal with her grief.
The boy in The 400 Blows makes an appearance on video and then in person during another slow, lengthy scene in a cemetary.
This film creates an emotion. It is definitely not plot-driven.