CITIES OF LAST THINGSDirected by Wi Ding Ho
Filmmakers in attendance.
Screening of this film is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Republic of China (Taiwan) and Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles.
Unfolding in reverse chronology, with each of its three sections capturing a few days in the life of Taiwanese cop Zhang Dong Ling, director Wi Ding Ho tackles the philosophical questions behind life, love, and death in this genre-bending omnibus work, which won the Platform Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Over a haunting doo-wop track, a man falls twenty stories down to his death. A surveillance drone immediately arrives on the scene, registering the death before flying away. So begins CITIES OF LAST THINGS. Unfolding in reverse chronology, with each of its three sections capturing a few days in the life of the protagonist Zhang, the film traces the events that led to that death. The first section is set in a dystopic Taipei in the year 2056, where a grim sixtysomething Zhang delivers beatings to his wife’s lover, runs into a foreign prostitute that reminds him of someone from the past, and tries to reconcile with his daughter. Zhang’s unease with women, pervasive in this section and culminating in violence, is explained in the second section. Capturing events of the present day, this section finds Zhang as a young cop who spends an evening with a young foreigner before stumbling onto a terrible scene involving a senior officer. Finally, the film ends in the late Nineties, where Zhang, then a teenage delinquent, encounters a female mob boss at the police station who shares an important secret with him.
Like other backward narratives like MEMENTO or IRRÉVERSIBLE, CITIES OF LAST THINGS is structured like a puzzle. Initially disorienting, the film slowly reveals the traumatic moments that drove Zhang, riven by toxic masculinity, to violence. As ambitious as the narrative, the visual design is even more spectacular. Assisted by ace cinematographer Jean-Louis Vialard (TROPICAL MALADY), Chinese-Malay auteur Ho Wi Ding (PINOY SUNDAY) creates a different palette and style for each section, all richly textured. With passages that recall the gorgeous griminess of Wong Kar-wai’s 2046, this is a feast for the eyes that deserves to be seen on a big screen. —Ryan Wu
Director, Writer, Producer: Wi Ding Ho
Director of Photography: Jean Louis Vialard
Cast: Jack Kao, Hong Chi Lee, Louise Grinberg, Ding Ning, Stone, Zhang Ying Xie