alr

Afternoon
(Na ri xia wu)

Tsai Ming-liang and Lee Kang-sheng in Person
$15 Special Event Tickets
Directed by Tsai Ming-liang.
Taiwan, 2015, DCP, color, 137 min.
Mandarin with English subtitles.
DCP source: Home Green

As if created to refute the notion that artists are notoriously aloof about discussing their own work, Afternoon ostensibly grants Tsai’s devoted audience an all-access peek behind the curtain of his decades-long artistic partnership with his muse Lee Kang-sheng. Filmed in one two-hour-long wide shot broken up by periodic cuts to black in the half-furnished mountain home purchased by Tsai and Lee, this rigorous documentary presents a wide-ranging heart-to-heart between two artistic soulmates whose very dispositions—in both their cinematic collaborations and public appearances—skew toward the introverted and nonverbal. The results are surprisingly light and meandering, with Tsai playing the gregarious, vulnerable inquisitor and Lee the deadpan object of fascination, his sparsely deployed remarks often tinged with good-natured teasing. No topic is out of bounds, as they discuss their films, their career ambitions (or lack thereof), their travels, their peculiar relationship that is neither fully platonic nor romantic, their anxieties and their sense of morality. What elevates it beyond a niche DVD supplement and into something consistent with Tsai’s worldview is the extreme patience it exhibits in the observation of human behavior. The content of what is said is only part of the appeal. Arguably more fascinating is the process by which these feelings are gradually, circuitously articulated, an alchemy we are invited to witness in hypnotic real time.

Afternoon introduction and post-screening discussion with filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang, actor Lee Kang-sheng and HFA Director Haden Guest with Jannis Jizhou Chen (Mandarin-English translator). ©Harvard Film Archive

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