Stray Dogs (2014)

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A father and his two children wander the margins of modern day Taipei, from the woods and rivers of the outskirts to the rain streaked streets of the city. By day the father scrapes out a meager income as a human billboard for luxury apartments, while his young son and daughter roam the supermarkets and malls surviving off free food samples. Each night the family takes shelter in an abandoned building. The father is strangely affected by a hypnotic mural adorning the wall of this makeshift home. On the day of the father's birthday the family is joined by a woman-might she be the key to unlocking the buried emotions that linger from the past?
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
In Theaters:
 limited
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:

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Critic Reviews for Stray Dogs

All Critics (30) | Top Critics (9)

Stray Dogs really starts to come alive in its second half, when... the family-of-outcasts narrative tips completely into the slippery realm of the avant-garde.

Full Review… | September 18, 2014
Time Out
Top Critic

In its most evocative moments offers images that will stick in your mind even longer than they stay on the screen.

Full Review… | September 12, 2014
NPR
Top Critic

A mysterious and deliberately prolonged series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity, among other things.

Full Review… | September 12, 2014
RogerEbert.com
Top Critic

[A] glum, humorless exercise in Asian miserablism ...

Full Review… | September 11, 2014
New York Times
Top Critic

An extreme, compassionate magnification of the minutiae of second-to-second existence (brushing teeth, counting money).

Full Review… | September 9, 2014
Village Voice
Top Critic

If this is Tsai Ming-Liang's last film, he's leaving the cinema farther along than he found it.

Full Review… | September 18, 2013
Film.com
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Stray Dogs

It seems like Tsai is trying way too hard to be Tarkovsky (his previous film also gave strong indications of that) with extremely elongated static shots that can be really tiring for most viewers and dilutes into near banality the strength of the sad story that he wants to tell.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

Tsai Ming-Liang's style has so far been utilized for the sake of presenting ideas and allowing the audience to ruminate on them, leaving the subtext hidden in plain sight without spelling anything out. With Stray Dogs, he uses his love of long-takes and the static camera for a different purpose, his intentionally slow pace lending itself to the central story of a homeless family's daily struggle to survive as it demonstrates how long the days would be if one were in their situation. It's a new outlet to convey his signature themes, but it's never made explicit whether or not it's meant to be seen as a bleak counterpart to The River or a hopeful spiritual sibling to Goodbye, Dragon Inn. He lets the audience know what they're getting into from the get-go, holding a shot of a woman brushing her hair for a few minutes before showing the title, effectively signaling to those with an aversion to this kind of thing to leave the theater lest they endure it for two and a half more hours. He places a lot of faith in the audience with this film; the entire point is up to the viewer's interpretation. Yes, he looks at misery in city life and contrasts it with nature, but there are contradictions here that signal that it could ultimately go in two polar opposite directions. The city is collapsing around the family, trying to swallow them up and digest them, but they cling to each other, finding moments of beauty, presenting the central paradox that leads to the film's interpretive ending. Tsai's ending is either a depressing statement about society's irredeemability that would ultimately render the family's entire existence futile or a poignant reaffirmation that life is worth enduring, a dilemma that the characters try to figure out themselves. One makes a decision and it causes the other to make his own. The camera then lingers to allow for you to make yours, leaving it up to you to decide whether or not the final shot is meant to represent art as a beacon of hope in a cruel abyss or a nihilist representation of our ultimate insignificance.

Reece Leonard
Reece Leonard

Well filmed, but the attempt to "pause" on the characters for long moments at a time just doesn't work. If edited like a normal movie, it wouldn't be more than probably an hour and fifteen minutes or so. Not that it would mean it would make a better movie, either way I don' think there's enough to make for a compelling feature.

Matt Heiser
Matt Heiser

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