Following in the footsteps of early Buddhist travellers, a monk wanders slowly through the busy streets of Marseille. Draped in a bright red robe contrasting with the colours of the town, he advances, deep in concentration, head bowed, completely absorbed and lost in the precise pace of his movement. Meeting others does not happen through discussion, nor by direct contact, but by visiting, by breathing the same air, being alive at the same moment, in the here and the now.
The character appears to be the reincarnation of Xuanzang, the VIIth century Chinese monk, celebrated for his force of character and his search for the "void" that led him on a 17-year journey across Asia. With JOURNEY TO THE WEST, Tsai Ming Liang signs his latest work in a series of films all shot in the manner of an editorial: the quiet pace of the monk in counterpoint to the bustle of different regions of the world. By imagining a contemporary transposition of the spirit of Xuanzang, these films illustrate, at a distance of 14 centuries, the intense beauty of such temporality stolen from rapidity, from the immediateness of life and from the folly filling the world.
- Lee Kang-sheng
- Denis Lavant
- Tsai Ming Liang
- Antoine Heberlé
- Lei Shen Qing
- Sébastien Mauro
JOURNEY TO THE WEST is the sixth in a series of films with the title WALKER that I consider a heaven-sent gift to my career as a filmmaker. In 2011, Lee Kang Sheng walked very slowly on the stage during my play called ONLY YOU. His performance was so perfect that I decided to film it. His walking, so special and so slow, in all the four corners of the world recalls that of Xuanzang, the holy monk of the Tang dynasty, who traveled thousands of kilometers seeking the holy scriptures. In the classical Chinese novel "The Journey to the West", Xuanzang frees the Monkey king from his prison at the foot of a mountain. In Marseilles, there is a rock that resembles the face of a monkey: in the bay of monkeys. Fashioned by the effects of time, Denis Lavant's face is like these rocky shapes and I am irresistibly attracted to it. That was how I started to think of Leek Kang Sheng walking on his face...
Gently following the sparkling light of late summer, across this ancient city harbor raising clouds of dust, his steps remind me of the prayer in the Diamon Sutra:
"All composed things are like a dream,
A phantom, a drop of dew, or a flash of lightning,
That is how to meditate on them,
That is how to observe them."
- UDI - URBAN DISTRIBUTION INTERNATIONAL
- HOUSE ON FIRE PRODUCTIONS
- NEON PRODUCTIONS
- HOMEGREEN FILMS CO.
Journey to the West is a tribute to the astonishing physical and mental discipline of Lee Kang-Sheng, one of the great Everyman figures in modern cinema, and to the elegance and mastery of a director whose films represent a subtle, constantly surprising and often moving brand of minimalism that’s entirely his own.
A piece of curious and beautifully photographed performance art.
Tsai Ming Liang was born in Kuching, Malaysia. He studied drama and cinema at the Chinese Culture University of Taiwan. Many of his films have screened at international festivals, including REBELS OF THE NEON GOD (1992), VIVE L'AMOUR (Venice IFF Golden Lion, 1994), THE RIVER (Berlinale Silver Bear, 1997), THE HOLE (Cannes IFF FIPRESCI Prize, 1998), GOODBYE, DRAGON INN (2003), THE WAYWARD CLOUD (2005), I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE (2006), FACE (2009). STRAY DOGS (2013) won numerous awards, including the Grand Special Jury Prize at Venice IFF. His 2015 feature AFTERNOON premiered in Venice.