Non-diegetic music is such a rare element in Tsai’s filmography that its inclusion throughout much of Your Face, courtesy of a minimalist score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, may immediately strike one as odd. But this highly austere film is devoted to the act of seeing familiar surfaces anew, and the use of music only heightens the feeling that we are being given almost none of the usual Tsai trademarks from which to generate meaning. Gone are the spacious wide shots, the dilapidated settings, and the sketches of urban ennui. All that is offered up for contemplation are the faces of thirteen older men and women, each marked in different ways by time. Tsai skirts any expectations of glamour lighting and exposes the real texture of aged human skin, which, through prolonged observation, metamorphoses from something concrete to something abstract—from a keeper of history and experience to a pure artistic canvas. Encompassing both speaking participants and sleeping participants, those engaged by the camera and those indifferent to it, Your Face relinquishes authorship almost entirely to its subjects.
Where Goodbye, Dragon Inn filled a shuttering movie theater with yearning human figures, Light presents an actively operating concert hall in a sleepy, depopulated state. Beginning with the exteriors and working his way gradually to the auditorium, Tsai fixates on the fine architectural accomplishments of Taipei’s Zhongshan Hall, home to the city’s Golden Horse Film Festival and the director’s boutique coffee shop. Light is plainly a tribute to this cherished building, but it’s also an atmospheric study of the way warm afternoon light penetrates a dark interior, and an exercise in the overlapping of diegetic and non-diegetic sound to create the impression of a space with purpose and history.