September 24, 2004

The Missing

Directed by Lee Kang-sheng

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

Best known as the enigmatic star of all of Tsai Ming-liang’s films, Taiwanese actor Lee Kang-sheng has garnered international attention as the alter ego/muse/fetish of the Malaysian-born auteur. Making his directorial debut with The Missing, Lee also establishes himself as Tsai’s worthy apprentice. The film is a deserving companion to Tsai’s haunting masterpiece Goodbye Dragon Inn. In fact the two films were originally conceived as halves of the same feature, but split due to considerations of length.

Following two separate but intersecting narratives, The Missing depicts a grandmother’s frantic search for her lost infant grandson and a student seeking diversions in order to cope with the disappearance of his grandfather. The film offers some fascinating insights into how people helplessly resort to irrationality in dealing with loss and desperation. The grandmother hops onto a random stranger’s motorcycle, while the student skips school and spends all day in an arcade.

Lee borrows some of Tsai’s favourite cinematic techniques, but achieves drastically different results here. His studied long takes and long shots quietly unravel a sense of urgency centering on Lu Yi-ching’s tour-de-force performance as the grandmother. Simultaneously unnerving, frustrating and droll, this masterful effort demonstrates the tremendous potential of a new filmmaking talent.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2004 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.