In Taiwan, the week leading up to January 2000, TV news reports that people are experiencing flu-like symptoms and then acting like cockroaches. But all we see is a strangely depopulated apartment building and market under constant rain. Drunken grocer (Kang-sheng Lee, star of every Tsai movie including Walker) upstairs has a nice place except for the hole the plumber has put in his floor leading to a woman downstairs (Kuei-Mei Yang, porn actress in The Wayward Cloud, schoolteacher in Eat Drink Man Woman) whose place is slowly flooding. So there’s a water shortage in The Wayward Cloud, plus a musical number set in a water tank of some sort – and now The Hole is the dampest movie I’ve ever seen.
Finally, I think he saves her from becoming a cockroach, pulling her upstairs through the hole. Is that what happens? Lot of long shots with slow tracking. Cool scene where he’s smoking on his landing while she’s on her own floor, pretending not to see each other, then a lipsync dance scene where she keeps chasing him while he escapes, all very Dennis Potter.
Tsai’s oblique vision of a languishing, highly industrialized, and impersonal post “economic miracle” Taiwan recalls the bleak landscape and pervasive ennui of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films. The sound of incessant rain, extended silence, and viral quarantine create a sense of claustrophobia.
Part of the “2000 as Seen By” series. I’ve seen Hartley’s Book of Life and Sissako’s Life on Earth, not the ones by Miguel Albaladejo, Alain Berliner, Daniela Thomas and Walter Salles, Ildiko Enyedi or Laurent Cantet.