Tsai Ming-liang returns from exile to bring to us his new film Days, a film that captures the beauty and sometimes heartache of those fleeting interactions you think about forever. Starring Tsai’s long-time collaborator Lee Kang-Sheng, the film follows two men as they slowly meet, and then part, their before and afters completely unknown to us.
Days is a film entirely about the moment. Despite a runtime for 2 hours and 7 minutes, the film is built around one particular scene, at first building up to it, and then slowly letting us back down. Always slowly. The emotional weight of this moment echoes through the rest of the film, and we are left to decipher whether what happened is a cherished memory, or a devastatingly sad one.
The film perhaps has more in common with his earlier work such as What Time is it There? (2001) than it does Stray Dogs (2013). Days is less about the ghostly inhabitants of the derelict modern, and more about the alienation one can feel despite the constant. Interactions we have in the modern world. Leaving the house in a modern city, it is almost impossible to engage in some form of interaction, something perhaps we crave in the current situation, however something captured as both abrasive and alienating in Days. And when something happens that transcends this, taking a moment into new emotionally resonant territory, how are we meant to react?
Days also explores the way in which being Queer, by its very nature, often involves such alienation. As a Queer person, if you allow yourself to become more than a passing-come-invisible part of the city’s crowd then you open yourself up to violence. It is a survival instinct that only some find strength to fight against, and it cannot be held against those who don’t given the stakes. In its exploration of the way in which Queer people and their exchanges must navigate busy city spaces, finding any available private and safe moment to express themselves, Days can be considered masterful.
Slow cinema for some is tough to watch. It is true that, on the surface, not much happens across the runtime of Days. However, the subtle suggestions, and themes that Tsai manages to conjure from one simple interaction is incredible. It also allows the viewer to project their own experiences onto the characters. The film’s dialogue is extremely sparse, and it is purposely without subtitles, allowing the audience time and space to consider not only their reactions to each sequence but how they recognise them in their own day-to-day. Sublimely delicate, Days captures how simple gestures and moments can chime through the alienation of the modern world.