The Wayward Cloud Review
Whenever a movie has some explicit sex in it, pressure is placed onto the responsible film-maker to justify these kind of images through placing them in a moral narrative. The same pressure is never placed on other film-makers who keep to established decorum in relation to scenes of procreation but lack any serious intent in other areas of depiction. No one will ever confront Michael Bay with the complete lack of integrity or intelligence in his films or tell Spielberg just how racist Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is. The belief seems to be that these are films made as entertainment and so their images and mores are simply for that purpose and don't require a moral dimension. Strangely this same lassitude is not extended to the depiction of rumpy pumpy which can never be enjoyed honestly and openly as the titillation it is.
The Wayward Cloud has been reviewed here before by Kev, and he was none too pleased with it, and I can't say that his criticisms aren't valid. The film does meander, the relationships are quirky and without depth, and the sequence with the unconscious porn star is no rib-tickler, but there is a lot in the film that is very witty and surprising. The story of a romance of a porn star and his new partner's rude awakening to his career is very slight, but the joys of the film are the superb compositions, the delirious musical numbers and its entertaining and unpredictable nature.
As a brew of unlikely ingredients, Tsai Ming-Liang's film ensures that the eyes always have something to watch that is intriguing and strangely spontaneous. The opening with the porn star in a fetish scene complete with medical setting and watermelon, equates the drought of the backdrop of the story with sexual release as thirst and appetite are quenched. We are then introduced to a young woman collecting water in order that she can get around the drought, and she meets and befriends the porn star not knowing that the strange noises coming from upstairs are his doing.
The romance develops, the porn scenes get wackier and more gross, and occasionally a song and dance will break out in full Dennis Potter style to illustrate the mindset of the characters. I found myself a little disoriented by the onslaught of oddness, but eventually I was cheering the audacity and admiring the craft. Where this kind of story may end up in a more commercial universe is similar to tosh like The Girl Next Door, yet here it risks tastelessness and high camp to end in an extraordinary moment of grim acceptance which elderly relatives and household pets should not be shown.
So is there a higher purpose behind this that justifies the hardcore sex and tasteless camera positions? Well I suppose this is about an acceptance of human physical needs and the dangers of drought in that sense, but basically it's just meant to be fun, artful fun, and not too much else. Clearly made with real commitment and real ability, the lack of a moral tone is kinda the point much as it was in early Almodovar and others whose pop art is about individualist freedom and acceptance. I would say that if you come to the film wanting a condemnation of something or a lesson in something else then you will find it flimsy, but if you want entertainment from unlikely places then you'll get your fill.
This release comes in a resplendent green case with cover art using the famous open melon shot. The disc itself is region free and dual layer and the transfer is presented at 1.85:1 with no obviously missing information or squeeze on the image. The transfer is sharp and detailed with good colour balance for the surreal song and dance numbers, and strong contrast throughout. The edge enhancement is a little less subtle and you will see in the screenshots I have taken some elements of compression artefacts which I have to say I did not notice whilst watching the film itself. Visually this seems a stronger treatment than the R3 disc that Kev covered. The sound is a very solid stereo with little to complain of in the original elements or the mastering, it works well when fed through a pro-logic circuit and the music and dialogue are well presented in respect of clarity. The optional English subs are very effective.
The disc contains a long interview conducted by Tony Rayns with the director. Rayns' questions are represented by intertitles with no presence of his voice as the director talks about his film-making. It is wide-ranging stuff with explanation of how his films are part of a "continual story" but "standalone" at the same time, his choice of lack of a dialogue and the key elements of sex and song in his film. The director admits that his sex scenes are joyless and that this film in particular could actually be described as "anti-pornography" in the mechanical and squalid trysts he shot. The final extra is a photo gallery of twenty plus stills from the film, along with the director himself comically re-creating the melon shot of the front cover.