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.