Cinema as Heterochonos:
Temporal Folds in the Work of Tsai Ming-liang

By Andrea Bachner

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 19, no. 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 60-90

In his essay “Of Other Spaces” Michel Foucault designated a space that virtually contains all other spaces as “heterotopos.” One of Foucault’s most important examples, cinema, allows a turn from space to time, since film can also become a “heterochronos,” a temporal unit that evokes multiple times and temporalities. “Cinema as Heterochronos: Temporal Folds in the Work of Tsai Ming-liang” analyzes the filmic art of Malaysia-born Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang in terms of a cinema of the heterochronos. With a focus on Tsai’s more recent work, from The Hole (1998) to The Wayward Cloud (2005), this essay explores the director’s strategies of complicating linear notions of time: the subversion of historical and eschatological time, the manipulation of nostalgia and spectrality, and the cotemporality of the mismatch. Tsai’s thematic concerns as well as his aesthetic choices enable his filmic work at once to rehearse and to reflect upon the complexities of different postmodern temporalities.