Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tsai Ming-liang Banned Unbanned

Tsai Ming-liang's film, I Don't Want To Sleep Alone, was recently banned by the Malaysian censors because they weren't happy with the way the country had been portrayed or with, I presume, all the sex, which is pretty much inevitable in a Ming-liang film. The 'last month' in the quote below refers to March this year, by the way.

Last month, Tsai and his production company, Homegreen Films (set up by him and his producer Leonard Tee), received a letter from the Malaysian censors informing them that I Don't Want To Sleep Alone had been banned.

Despite Tsai having been careful about how he portrayed the character of his Muslim actor, Norman Atun, and the edits they made specially for the Malaysian release, somehow the censors still took offence with the film.

The censorship board's reasons were that Malaysia was depicted negatively in the film, with beggars and immigrants populating Kuala Lumpur and the hazardous haze (caused by open burning) enveloping the city. They said Malaysians were also portrayed as cold and heartless. It is Visit Malaysia Year 2007 after all, so they felt it wasn't appropriate for the film to be shown.
An appeal was quickly made against the ban and just a couple of days ago, the appeals committee of the censorship board finally said yes to the film's release ... but with a few conditions.
The film will only get a limited release in arthouse cinemas, while five cuts are to be made. The cuts involve scenes where actor Lee Kang-sheng's bare buttocks can be seen, Norman is cleaning Lee as he lies injured and clad only in his underwear, Norman washes his underwear, Lee and actress Chen Shiang-chyi are kissing and where radio reports of open burning can be heard in the background.

Producer Tee said they were happy that the appeal was successful, but worried about the five cuts. He said they would make another appeal against those cuts. Meanwhile, Tsai voiced his concern as well, stating that he could not see how a story about love and compassion could be seen by the censors as something negative. He also said he is still trying to make up his mind whether to accept those conditions put forth by the censors.
Clearly we're not the only ones. I'm not sure whether to cheer, or weep.
Two interview with Tsai Ming-liang: Senses of Cinema, which is a few years old now, and an excerpt from Tony Rayns' interview with the director, which forms a part of the Press Kit for the film (pdf). Incidentally, this film was commissioned for the Weiner Mozart New Crowned Hope Festival, Vienna 2006, along with Syndromes and a Century by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.


Alok said...

I missed watching it when it was released. It lasted for only one week!

Syndromes I think is getting released soon. One needs to be really alert, a little laziness and it is gone. have you seen tropical malady? It is great I hear. I haven't seen it yet

Space Bar said...

oh ya...I saw Tropical Malady a couple of years ago when there was a Thai film retrospective at the Hyfic. It's very interesting and I had no idea how much it shares with Naga mythology until early this year. But wortha watch, though it's a difficult and puzzling film.

Cheshire Cat said...

"Syndromes and a Century" is an absolute masterpiece.

Space Bar said...

cat: i'm sure...now all you've got to do is say you've watched the ming-liang and the new kim ki-duk for envy to happen.

Cheshire Cat said...

The Ming-Liang should happen very soon... As for Ki-Duk, I haven't watched any of his movies, actually. I'm aware that's something that needs to be redressed.

I feel Ming-Liang and others (Kar-Wai, Hsiao-Hsien) have got their just deserts from critics, but Weerasethakul hasn't. He's consistently under-rated, perhaps because he lacks the self-importance of filmmakers such as certain mortals who have been in the news recently.

driftwood said...

Incidently both "I don't~Alone" and "Syndromes and A Century" were both shown in recently concluded Osian Film festival..Was luck to watch them both there.

and thanks for the "Frozen" tip. It was a good watch. It got an award later also, i guess it was Jury Spl award.

Space Bar said...

Cat: I don't know about self-importance. I've found that Thai cinema in general doesn't get the attention it deserves; in time I'm sure that will right itself. I thought Tropical Malady got a lot of attention; and now this one.

'Certain mortals'?!

Driftwood: You're wlecome. Yes, I know it won the spl Jury Award. Yet to see it, though.

Cheshire Cat said...

"I Don't Want to Sleep Alone": never have I seen a promising movie degenerate so quickly into sentimental twaddle. Alas, I stayed to the bitter end.

Space Bar said...


Space Bar said...

Cheshire Cat: I know this will go against the grain for you to say so much on your own blog, but could you do a review? Pretty please.

Cheshire Cat said...

Will try to do it tonight.