Festival du Nouveau Cinema celebrates its 50th Edition

It's been 50 years that the Festival du Nouveau Cinema has graced the Montreal festival scene, bringing the forefront of new international film to our backyard. This year things are back to business as usual, opposite of 2020’s necessary push to online screenings. This October the audience has both the option for online or in person viewings, the latter involving the city’s most renowned art house and independent cinemas. Special events to commemorate the 50 years include a master class with legendary filmmaker Jane Campion, as well as their usual prizes, VR presentations and much more.

I managed to catch a film in their “Incontournables” section, the latest from renowned Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang in perhaps one of his most experimental films to date. Days loosely follows the separate lives of two men through long shots and still scenes. With an intentional lack of subtitles, the film is mostly wordless, relying on setting and sound as secondary characters. We watch these two men in scenes of daily life such as cooking, sleeping, meditating - all of which in essence are isolated activities. 

At the midpoint of the film in a subtle shock, we see the two characters meet, in which we learn that one is a prostitute with the other paying for his services. After the time spent together, they share a simple moment and a meal and the film falls back to the rhythm of the long shots of daily life. 

Not one to stray from topics of isolation, connection and sexuality, Tsai Ming-liang explores these themes in a very subtle approach in this piece. Throughout the film we see the characters always within their environment, alone and silent. This allows the viewer to analyze the setting through the character’s perspective and also see how they belong to their space. With little to no information given about the two leads, not only does this give the film a certain anonymity but it could also show the insignificance of individuality against a busy world. 

Through the incessant sounds of white noise, traffic and air conditioners humming, the city becomes a trusted third character in this film. When we are presented with a scene with total silence, the viewer is left feeling uncomfortable and almost threatened by what is missing. Another merit of this film is the pacing, with the length of the scenes seeming to be a direct communication from Tsai Ming-liang. The scenes of isolation are still and long, whereas the single scene with connection between the two characters was abruptly short. A subtle symbol of the rarity of authentic intimacy.

In this writer’s opinion, this film definitely hit all the targets that it aimed to, but unfortunately cannot stand apart from other films with the same intent. That being said, it is obvious that as a director, Tsai Ming-liang is not done experimenting with the medium of film in order to precisely  convey his message. 

The Festival du Nouveau Cinema will be holding screenings in theatres and online until Oct. 17.

Lisa Rupnik is ½ of the duo behind Last Stop: This Song, a radio show dedicated to sharing conversation about music appreciation. Tune in Wednesday at 11:00AM to hear some of your old, new and forgotten favourites.