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The Working Day of Lee Kang-sheng
By Charles Leary

The River.
Lee Kang-sheng & Chen Shiang-chyi, in Tsai Ming-liang's "The River".

36 year-old Lee Kang-sheng has long been established as one of Taiwan cinema's most respected actors. He is best known for his work with director Tsai Ming-liang, working in such films as Rebels of the Neon God, Vive l'amour, The River, The Hole, and What Time Is It There? The Missing is his first directorial effort, and the film garnered numerous nominations for Taiwan's prestigious Golden Horse awards as well as winning a number of international festival prizes. The film's premise is quite simple, but invites one to look for what may be missing: on one day in Taipei, a grandmother (Lu Yi-chang) can't find her grandson, and a grandson can't find his grandfather (Miao Tian) .

How have you found your visit to the Viennale?

It's been very good. This is my second time in Vienna. Although of course I don't get a chance to know everyone in the audience, generally I think they have been quite positive. The audience seems to be very attentive and they make a concerted effort to take films seriously.

The Missing [Bu jian], shot during the SARS epidemic, reminds me a bit, especially in its opening scene, of the story of a disease at the millennium in Tsai Ming-liang's The Hole , in which you played the lead role. Was this film any influence on you, and how would you describe life in post-SARS Taiwan?

I can see the connection you make with The Hole, but no, it was not an influence on The Missing. As for life in Taiwan after SARS, I don't think anything has changed, unless of course you have a family member who was affected by the disease. But otherwise, people can forget things very quickly. Particularly considering the Taiwan news media, which always have some new strange, sensational story every day.

What differences did you discover between being an actor and a director?

It is a different kind of occupation, especially in Taiwan. Because of the nature of the Taiwan film industry, with not many films being made, an actor always has to wait. He has to wait for a project to come along, he has to wait for the chance for work. And this waiting can pass very slowly. So since I've become a director, I feel like I have been able to become more active. The working is different.

So are you now working on a new film?

Yes, although I don't have a title yet. It is a story of loneliness, of someone who needs help. Like someone calling a telephone hotline — someone in need of a rescue, who needs someone to reach out to them. But I am still searching for the financing.

Charles Leary
© FIPRESCI, Viennale, 2004



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