This essay attempts to show that Tsai’s Stray Dogs (2013) offers a social critique of Taipei as a neoliberal, global, consumer city, and by so doing establishes a cinema of contemplation through such cinematic devices as the sustained long-take and slow, virtually still cinematic images. By developing Walter Benjamin’s formulation of the dialectical image, this essay explores the extent to which Tsai’s cinematic aesthetics reveals an aspect of the city which cannot be shown otherwise. It argues that his slow cinema creates a potentially revolutionary awakening in an audience accustomed to an immersive mode of cinematic experience which turns the suffering of others into a commodity and prevents a proper understanding of a societal phenomenon that calls for urgent attention. I compare the protagonist with other marginalized and destitute figures in such nineteenth-century literary texts as Dickens’s Sketches by Boz (1836), Baudelaire’s prose poem “Good Dogs” (1865-67), and Hamsun’s Hunger (1890), and those in the Sinophone films including Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Sandwich Man (1983) and Jia Zhang-he’s Xiao Wu (1997).
"Enduring the Long Take: Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs and the Dialectical Image."
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