Ming Liang TSAI’s Hand-Sculpted Cinema in Industrial Age

On the evening of Feb. 24, director Ming Liang TSAIgave a lecture titled “Hand-Sculpted Cinema in Industrial Age,” on his idea of filmmaking at the invitation of TAICCA, allowing the audience to a glimpse of his creative life. More than a hundred professionals in the film industry braved chilling weather for TSAI’s lecture.

Director Ming Liang TSAI shared his idea on Hand-Sculpted Cinema

TSAI firstly talked of his personal experience while shooting at the congee store, one of the main scenes of the film “Days (Rizi).” The shop owner once mistook TSAI’s team for that from the Discovery, but the director pulled his own leg, saying that his 5-man team is way much tinier than the Discovery’s. All jokes aside, TSAI emphasized that despite the film industry has reached its maturity, he still makes his films with a small crew. Though the hand-sculpted cinema might be less deliciated than shooting with a large team, yet TSAI’s method can better express his creativity and ideology. TSAI also said that he is exploring the possibilities of museum screenings to get closer to his ideal expression.

In the middle of his speech, TSAI navigated the topic to the old-fashioned pop songs he listened to as a kid, and how he like to put them into his films with no alteration. Reviving old songs in films is TSAI’s gentle tip of the hat to movies of the past. For instance, in “The Hole,” viewers can easily spot “Oh, Clapso” by Grace Chang from the film “Air Hostess,” a major hit from the year 1959. Against the backdrop of the song, TSAI spoke of the two concerts he held in Hong Kong. In 2018 and 2019, TSAI was invited by Ching Fang HU, who was the director of Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Centre at the time, to share his life experience in words and songs, for which TSAI curated many era-defining movie soundtracks and film stills.

TSAI’s works are often selected in the Venice Film Festival, and last year the festival invited him to attend a special screening of the 4K restored version of his earlier work, “Goodbye, Dragon Inn.” As TSAI pointed out, his films suit museums very well, and museum screening is a common practice in Europe, but in Asia, people are still getting used to it. Elena Pollacchi, a film selector of the Venice Film Festival, was at the lecture and agreed with TSAI.

As a fan of Judy Garland, TSAI did not miss the chance to see the film “Judy.” TSAI gave high praise to the acting, costumes, and scenes to “Judy,” but it is no match for the Judy in his mind. TSAI believes that even if modern cinema can be a quaint mirage of classic films, the aura of the original cannot be replicated.

Themes like classic songs, old-fashioned films, and life experiences revolved around the lecture’s title: “Hand-Sculpted Cinema in Industrial Age.” TSAI did more than talking about his films in the speech; what he shared was his ideology of filmmaking, expression, and cinema.

The lecture is packed with enthusiastic film-lovers and filmmakers alike

In fifteen years, TSAI is shortlisted one more time for Berlinale’s Best Film for his new film, “Days,” which will premiere on Feb. 27during the film festival. And on Feb. 29, the long wait for the final result of the Golden Bear Award will end.