ZUO TIAN (PAST PRESENT) and NO FORM

A Buddhist Shaman gives Tsai Ming-liang (right) his blessing in ZUO TIAN
NO FORM shows a Buddhist monk (Lee Kang-Sheng) slowly walking through our hurried present until he stares at us in our cinema seats with tears in his eyes

NO FORM shows a Buddhist monk (Lee Kang-Sheng) slowly walking through our hurried present and through a white world of possibilities until he stares at us in our cinema seats with tears in his eyes

NO FORM is an intense work of art, a dreamlike sequence on a busy street coupled with a symphony in red and white, a short film by Malaysian filmmaker Tsai Ming-Liang, whose life and childhood memories – essentially what formed him and his work – were presented in a soulful portrait named ZUO TIAN (PAST PRESENT) by Malaysian lawyer, author and director Saw Tiong Guan. I asked Saw Tiong Guan today at Vienna International Film Festival, what made him go to such lengths for another filmmaker. “Love” was the simple answer. Tsai Ming-Liang is known to be shy, and to portrait him like this was a three year effort for the young director. Actually ZUO TIAN to me is a film about films, and not so much about filmmakers, although many of them, amongst them Ang Lee, star in it to praise Tsai Ming-Liang and his “courage to do what he wants to do”, as Ang Lee put it. Saw Tiong Guan explains ZUO TIAN as exactly what it means (its English translation being PAST PRESENT). He wanted to show, “how somebody’s past could influence the present”. Considering that Tsai Ming-Liang grew up with films and in cinemas it’s no wonder, that films became a part of his DNA. He dreams about old cinemas, he says, and then he has to portrait them, before they are forever lost. With young talent such as Saw Tiong Guan around I don’t see much danger of cinema dying very soon – as Saw put it: “Cinema is a mirror. It reflects the person who makes the film and it reflects the society.” I’d love to see more mirrors put before me by this artist.

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About Elisabeth Schabus (477 Articles)
I see, I like, I write ... mostly about cinema and actors, but also about politics or economy. In English, auf Deutsch, på svenska. This ORF trained news journalist (TV, radio), who has also worked in corporate publishing for international brands and written/edited tons of magazines, has become a blogger out of passion.

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