Master Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang directs this look at three people looking for human connection. Hsiao-kang (Tsai regular Lee Kang-sheng) is a young man who sells watches from a briefcase in front of Taipei's train station.… More Master Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang directs this look at three people looking for human connection. Hsiao-kang (Tsai regular Lee Kang-sheng) is a young man who sells watches from a briefcase in front of Taipei's train station. When his father (Mio Tien) suddenly dies at the beginning of the film, it sends Hsiao-kang and his mother, Lu, on two radically different trajectories. His grieving mother becomes obsessed with the return of her dead husband's spirit. Hsiao-kang starts to urinate into plastic bags and bottles rather than risk bumping into his father's ghost in the middle of the night. Around that same time, Hsiao-kang encounters an aggressive, though beautiful, lass named Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) who is travelling in a couple of days to Paris. Entranced by the girl, he reluctantly sells her his own watch even though he believes that item has some connection to his father. The encounter leaves with Hsiao-kang with a fixation that Paris is in another time. Soon, he is changing each and every clock he can find back seven hours to Parisian time, forging an obscure connection to Shiang-chyi. Shiang-chyi herself finds Paris to be little different from Taipei in terms of alienation and isolation. Though she has run ins with several people, including an irate Frenchman in the middle of a lover's tiff and none other than Jean-Pierre Leaud in a cemetery, she only finds some comfort when she meets a woman from Hong Kong (Cecila Yip) who generously shares her hotel room with her. This film was screened at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival.
Consensus: Though it requires patience to view, What Time Is It There?'s exploration of loneliness is both elegant and haunting.