Lee in The River

Lee in The River

Lee at Cannes

Lee at Cannes


There is a great actor among us in our own movie-going time.  He is Kang-sheng Lee, and he is a star of Taiwanese films.  He has appeared in most of the important films of Taiwan director Tsia Ming-liang.

Notes on a recent viewing of The Wayward Cloud (2004) directed by Tsai Ming-liang and starring Kang-sheng Lee:

A tired porn star entertains himself with  —  or perhaps is subject to  —  fantasies which appear to satirize his work and life.  Some of these, since this is a Tsai Ming-liang film , are, of course, delightful musical episodes.  Some American viewers, hearing a song about a wayward cloud, may recognize a Taiwanese version of The Wayward Wind, an American fifties hit.  The viewer is at least once confused  —  deliberately, I think  —  as to whether our hero’s episodes of physical self-love are in his role as actor or in his off-screen solitary existence.

We learn little about the young woman who is fascinated by the porn star and pursues him.  We know she is bored.  We know that she does little but follow him and collect plastic bottles.  Are any of the fantasies we see hers?  We know she loses her key and finds it, but the actor has to pry it up for her out of freshly-laid asphalt.  We also know that she sucks melons, like others in the story, and that she has a suitcase she is unable to unlock.  The actor spends considerable screen time trying to open it for her.

SPOILER ALERT:  Our tired professional screwer (the Strand DVD sleeve calls him jaded, the perfect adjective) is a good sort who during filming submissively follows the director’s orders, willing  —  and hoping  —  to give his all.  In true hard-core rather than soft-porn style he is a vigorous thruster to the accompaniment of moans and squeals of pleasure from the female partner beneath him or above him or alongside him or before him.  There is a difference, however in the last sequence in which he does his thing with his Japanese co-star.

The film crew has found her overdosed, apparently, and dead  —  or at least in a narcotic doze  —  in a nearby elevator.  They take the corpse to the set for our hero to insert himself into in various positions.  He tends, for most acrobatic stances, to function kneeling on one leg, giving his character a jaunty peculiarity despite no cooperative moans from his dead partner.  But he grows tired, telling the crew, “I’m beat.”  He is still trying, though, to deliver his goods.  Then he finds that his persistent follower is watching him at his work, facing him directly.  As he pounds away, she becomes excited; and he responds, the two of them watching each other directly over the corpse as he pumps his damndest.  At the climactic moment (pun intended), he leaps out of his dead partner and into the mouth of his watching admirer.

As star of all of Tsai Ming-liang’s important films, Kang-sheng Lee may have some limitations as to appearance and range; and he works within a Ming-liang related persona, but in his kind of role in his kind of film there is no better movie actor IN THE WORLD.


Until then,
See you at the movies,



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