Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang)
Stray Dogs was my first by Tsai Ming-liang and I don’t know what to say. I was totally caught off-guard. It is something so different and outside of my comfort zone, I will honestly admit that perhaps I cannot say whether I like it or not, or even if I am able to criticize or judge it. To a great extent, Stray Dogs is not even a film in the conventional sense but an art installation, a multimedia project, which is whimsical with its oddly constructed frames, all barely held together by a hardly-there ‘narrative’ or puny dialogue. It is hard to describe other than as a tragedy concerning those who live on the margins. But it has some scenes that involve primarily methodical planning (which is true for the whole movie actually) – like the weeping, crumbling, putrefied metaphor-of-a-house, or the rescue in the rainy night of the titular ‘stray dogs.’ Or the ending shot, remarkable in its daring, full of longing and regret, and the inevitable hopelessness – a shot that goes on for 30 minutes, with two leading characters just staring at a mural, and one has to carefully keep an eye on their expressions to read or interpret the meaning. Because the movie ventures into areas and techniques that require more than just interpretation and force you to think on your own, to create your own characters, all the way through.
Gloria (Sebastián Lelio)
Well, Gloria was glorious. At least lead actress Paulina Garcia who, with her nuanced and restrained glory (I can’t help it!), gives one of the best performances of the year so far. The movie itself is wonderful too in its unpretentious treatment, sincerity, humor and frankness. A complex, touching portrait of contemporary middle age in the form of a modern, independent woman of today. Another solid Chilean movie I’ve seen this year after Pablo Larraín’s No. The lead character is smart, self-aware, sexy, realistic, alive. Living, breathing, so real. Ordinary but no less than anyone else and, most importantly, human. A great creation, and hats off to director Sebastián Lelio who apparently created the film for the actress rather than the other way around. Additionally, and understandably given the history of the region, he did not get totally obsessed with her and still included and tried to find parallels between this woman (who is a mother, a grandmother, a worker, a lover) and his mother country Chile and her issues, which are constantly referred to throughout the movie as the ever-present backdrop. The film also boasts an awesome soundtrack which is used perfectly in the story and clearly shows the love and sincerity with which it was selected.