Stray Dogs (2014)
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Critic Reviews for Stray Dogs
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.
In its most evocative moments offers images that will stick in your mind even longer than they stay on the screen.
A mysterious and deliberately prolonged series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity, among other things.
An extreme, compassionate magnification of the minutiae of second-to-second existence (brushing teeth, counting money).
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.
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.
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.
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