The Associated PressPublished: October 17, 2006
BUSAN, South Korea Malaysian-Chinese director Tsai Ming-liang, known for his highly experimental style, on Tuesday gave a stinging rebuke of commercial cinema, accusing movie executives of being overly concerned with profit and dumbing down films.
Giving a master class at the Pusan International Film Festival, Tsai, a past winner of the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, also lashed out at the practice of using movie stars as jury members at film festivals.
"In the future there will only be ghost movies, mafia movies and kung fu movies left in the world," Tsai said.
"Apart from allowing you to have dreams, escape from reality, what other potential do movies have? I think it has a great deal of untapped potential," he said.
"If you view movies as vehicle for moneymaking, then movies are just a business. If you think movies can serve many purposes, movies will progress," Tsai told the audience.
He derisively called Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks studio, the producer of films like "War of the Worlds" and "Memoirs of a Geisha," a "moneymaking machine."
The 49-year-old director said he hopes to cultivate a mentality that "movies can be a means of changing society."
In one example of watering down movies, Tsai said movie executives resisted the idea of not using subtitles in a part of his new movie "I Don't Want To Sleep Alone" where Malaysians and Indians are speaking their native language in Kuala Lumpur.
"From our movie executives to our audiences, everyone thinks that movies need to spell everything out," Tsai said.
"I want to give you a chance to watch movies, not to watch the story," he said.
His head nearly shaved, Tsai, who has a round face, wore a spartan, all-black outfit of T-shirt, jacket and loafers.
Tsai, who likes to explore themes of loneliness and isolation, uses minimal dialogue and music. His films rarely have elaborate plots.
In one version of "Vive L'Amour," which won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1994, the first word is uttered more than 23 minutes into the movie. In one scene, one of the main characters, out of boredom, bowls with a watermelon.
He also likes to challenge social taboo. Tsai's "The River" is known for a controversial scene in which father and son have a sexual encounter.
Tsai also criticized film festivals for using movie stars like Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi as jurors.
"I don't question their ability. I question their concept of film. Their performance is very good. It's very professional. But their concept of film may not make them suitable jurors. Yet everyone if fighting for the big stars," he said.
Tsai said he had to work hard to establish a following of about 50,000 viewers in his adopted home Taiwan, where he attended university, personally hitting the streets to sell tickets.
He said his first three films were mostly funded in Taiwan, and then his source of funding shifted to Europe, adding that he appreciates French laws that give him greater ownership of his work.