Stray Dogs: New York Film Festival 2013

Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang returns to familiar stony territory, or so it initially seems. The filmmaker’s usual star, Lee Kang-sheng, is a...

New York Film Festival 2013: Stray Dogs

Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang returns to familiar stony territory, or so it initially seems. The filmmaker’s usual star, Lee Kang-sheng, is a homeless Taipei man who by day holds up advertising placards along a busy city roadway and by night squats in an abandoned building with his two children. A grocery-store manager takes interest in the kids; she slowly assumes a more primary parental position. Then Tsai shakes things up majorly. What appeared to be a straightforward family-of-outcasts melodrama—albeit with expected Tsai flourishes like Lee’s animalistic devouring of a cabbage that his daughter uses as a doll—suddenly turns thrillingly strange and surreal. Everything that came before is reoriented through this newly nightmarish prism, and the lengthy final two shots (each running more than ten minutes) rank with the best work this inimitable, essential artist has done. Click for showtimes.—Keith Uhlich

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