Films & Schedules
  • Face

  • Tsai Ming-liang

Country: France/Taiwan/Belgium/The Netherlands
French, Mandarin
141 minutes

Friday September 1112:30PM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1 Buy Now
Thursday September 1708:45PM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4 Buy Now
Saturday September 1902:45PM CUMBERLAND 2 Buy Now


Face contains some familiar Tsai Ming-Liang elements: the cities of Taipei and Paris, a joke about malfunctioning plumbing equipment, song and dance, endless running water and the actor Lee Kang-sheng. But above all, the Taiwanese filmmaker's most stylistically inventive work to date is actually about how images can function as both facades and works of art.

The story borders on the surreal: a Taiwanese director (Lee, who has starred in all of Tsai's films and is a filmmaker himself) is making a movie based on the story of Salomé at the Louvre, with a supermodel (Laetitia Casta) cast as Salomé opposite a weathered veteran actor as King Herod (Jean-Pierre Léaud as himself). Tsai's superb cast, rounded off by a number of iconic French faces, including Fanny Ardant, Jeanne Moreau and Mathieu Amalric, deliver seamless performances that blur the line between their parts in Tsai's own film and the production being shot by his alter ego. This confounding of roles is best exemplified during the film's meticulously choreographed final dance sequence. Whereas the preceding musical numbers showcased the supermodel lip-synching poppy Mandarin and Spanish love songs, the final dance is performed without a single word sung or note of music played. This scene, which takes place outside Lee's character's film shoot within a film, is surely the most erotically charged, the one most faithful to the original myth of Salomé.

The film's preoccupation with performance, mise en scène and the beauty and artifice of celebrity is emphasized by its striking cinematography and the interplay of light and shadow. From its opening scene in a French café to the brilliant sequence featuring Léaud in a forest of mirrors, Face is a host of visual trompe l'oeils. It is both significant and fitting, then, that Tsai was invited to shoot his film at the Louvre, home to Da Vinci's St. John the Baptist, from which the director drew much inspiration.

With Face, which took nearly two years to conceptualize, Tsai brings to film a narrative with languid and contemplative pacing and astounding visuals. It demands to be viewed as a work of art.

Giovanna Fulvi

Tsai Ming-liang was born in Kuching, Malaysia, and studied film and drama at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei. He has directed the feature films Rebels of the Neon God (92), Vive l'amour (94), which won the Golden Lion at the 1994 Venice International Film Festival, The River (97), The Hole (98), What Time Is It There? (01), Good Bye, Dragon Inn (03), The Wayward Cloud (05), which won a Silver Bear and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival, I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (06) and Face (09).

Cadillac People's Choice Award