Tsai Ming-liang: Then and now


The first Malaysian-made feature documentary on Tsai Ming-liang is here.

This is a true story, yet it could have come right out of a Tsai Ming-liang film.

University lecturer and filmmaker Saw Tiong Guan made his first film, a short titled G16 G17, back in 2007. Dripping with nostalgia for the old cinemas of yore, the film fittingly featured some of the best known faces in the Malaysian film scene. Directors Yasmin Ahmad and Ho Yuhang, and film historian Hassan Muthalib were among those who appeared in G16 G17 sitting in an old cinema hall, their faces lit by the flickering light of the movie being played before them.

Saw was not only paying tribute to his parents, but here was the idea that the present is watching the past, and the past still echoes in the present.

Just a few years before that, in 2003, Tsai, the most internationally celebrated Malaysian filmmaker, made Goodbye Dragon Inn, an equally nostalgic, and haunting, meditation on the death of cinema. Tsai had happened upon an old cinema in the Yonghe district in Taipei that was about to be torn down, and took the opportunity to shoot the film there.

Coincidentally, Saw also shot his film in an abandoned cinema back in his hometown of Raub, Pahang, before it was demolished. It was the cinema he had frequented as a boy.

Saw Tiong Guan (left), director of Past Present, and the subject of his film, Tsai Ming-liang, at the abandoned Cathay cinema in Kuching where Tsai grew up.

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