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I don't want to sleep alone (Hei Yan Quan)

Tsai Ming Liang after a career as a brilliant, uncompromising director built in Taiwan, returned to his homeland, Malaysia, to shoot another inspired chapter of his narration about deep feelings. He is Kuching born and raised... but never quite found Malaysia conducive for his deeply outspoken, provocative vision. In this movie, three characters, a young immigrant, a homeless and a young waitress rediscover themselves taking care of the other.

After being attacked and robbed in Kuala Lumpur, the homeless Hsiao Kang is taken in by some Bangladeshi workers. One of them, Rawang, lets Hsiao Kang sleep beside him on an old mattress he has found. As he nurses Hsiao Kang’s wounded body, he feels calm and contented. Is it because of the mattress or because of Hsiao Kang? Chyi, who waits tables in a small coffee shop, is also nursing someone: her lady boss’s paralysed son. Chyi hates her life. When she happens to meet Hsiao Kang, her body fills with lustful desires. However, her difficulty in finding a place to have sex with him brings home to her just how little freedom she has.

As Hsiao Kang slowly recovers, he finds himself caught between Rawang and Chyi, pleading for attention like a stray cat but equally capable of fluttering away as free as a moth. Chyi’s lady boss also develops lustful feelings for Hsiao Kang, finding that he resembles her paralysed son...

Meanwhile a heavy haze envelops the city that is so humid that it reeks of the sweat of its multi-ethnic population. These men and women and the old mattress lose their way in the haze, but perhaps find each other …

I was at The Cathay in Singapore to preview Tsai Ming Liang's latest film recently. It is hard to say how some movie critics gave it a full 5 stars rating. It was slow, very thinly scripted and for lack of a better description, very unorthodox. Every scene just reeked with realism, as they walk the alleys and slept in old shophouse, you could hear the motorcycles, the bare footsteps and creaks of somewhat disturbing real life. The scenes are often still and melancholic... with very little soundtrack (or dialogue) except for what was playing on the radio.

The director did say, he is very anti-convention. He said in his own words "what you want as an audience, I will not give it to you". Basically, saying there will be no heroes, no villain, no explosion or happy ending and incidentally not much of a story either.

At the preview was Lee Kang-Sheng, Pearly Chua, Tsai Ming Liang (director) and Norman Atun... It's hard to recommend the show for general viewing as it may not be everyone's cup of tea. But if you're into a little art film and very experimental or symbolic films that push the boundary of what we define as film and entertainment, then please.... do give "I Don't Want To Sleep Alone" a viewing.

His films will arrive in Malaysia for the first time in limited arthouse showing. Tsai Ming Liang is probably the most internationally celebrated Malaysian filmmaker, yet back home, few have seen his films, and not one of his films have been released in the cinemas. You might not find this DVD released anywhere back home, so if you do get a chance to catch this "once-banned, now un-banned" film in Malaysia, please do. But the Malaysian release will have about 5 or six cuts.... which I was told amounts to almost 30 minutes of the film.

All I can say is, hope you brought lots of coffee...

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