The Wayward Cloud

An unqualified masterpiece from Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang, The Wayward Cloud is as tender as it is bleak. Combining the genres of musical comedy and porn, romance has never felt so wonderful or so hopeless.

Almost bereft of dialogue, the desolation of modern Taipei shares uncredited star status with the unlikely watermelon. The city is in the throes of a severe drought and to conserve water the citizens are encouraged to eat watermelon and drink watermelon juice. Cumbersome, purposeless, the watermelons hover just below the level of a plot device or metaphor. They mirror the futility of their human counterparts.

Wilting in the torrid heat, Shiang-chyi returns to her high-rise apartment and rediscovers her friend Hsiao-Kang. He is making a hardcore porn film a couple of floors down. Fraught with inhuman gurgles and thumps, the porno sex is mechanical and disturbing.

It is the bizarre and lavish musical sequences that express the true nature of their longing. Shiang-chyi sings a song with actress Lu Yi-Ching by the National Palace Museum. They lovingly caress the inner thighs of Chiang Kai-shek’s statue. A later number is set in a public toilet at the Taichung Freeway interchange. Amidst two dozen dancers, she sports huge prosthetic breasts and dances seductively with Hsiao-Kang who wears a giant glans penis on his head.

Shiang-chyi half-heartedly tries but fails to seduce Hsiao-Kang. Although the Japanese porn actress has fallen unconscious, the shoot must nonetheless go on. Shiang-chyi watches it through a window. (Linda Feesey)

Dir. Tsai Ming-liang