Some will find Tsai's languid, observational methodology boring, impenetrable and perhaps even pretentious, but by challenging his audience to investigate beyond the obvious and allowing them time to consider what's happening outside the frame, Tsai has crafted a poignant eulogy for the migrant workers and impoverished whose lives are being reconfigured spatially and physically to conform with the construction boom of global cities like Taipei. Tsai has long held a fascination with migrant workers and displaced citizens and Stray Dogs makes some incredibly cogent comments on the re-appropriation of private space and the conditions under which rural-urban communities exist. Unfinished buildings litter the skyline whilst the father spends his days stood in the pouring rain promoting the city's new developments through the advertising of modern homes.
The juxtaposition of these two worlds beautifully highlights the disparity between human rights and the rights of private property in the city. Towards the end of his film, Tsai transfers the action from the streets of Taipei to the rundown home of the supermarket woman, (now a makeshift mother for the family). As a metaphor for how the notion of a home as a functional living space is old and rotten in a world where property has become a commodity and our right to the city is qualified by our ability to obey market forces. Tsai's Stray Dogs is a masterpiece of social-realism, a distinctive and beguiling study of society's displaced and marginalised that plays to the beat of its own drum and refuses to conform to cinema's own commodification.
Patrick Gamble | @PatrickJGamble