Minimalist parable about loneliness, alienation and emotional traumas is the début by the regular actor in Tsai Ming-liang's films and also shares with the master his great feeling for the atmosphere of urban spaces and architecture. A teenager seeks his grandfather while a grandma looks for her grandson.
Lee Kang-sheng is best known as Tsai Ming-liang's leading actor. One might even see him as Tsai's muse, so central has he been to the characterisation of the melancholy and lonely world that the Taiwanese master has so brilliantly created in films like The Hole and What Time Is It There? Lee's début feature as a director certainly has a complimentary relationship with Tsai's work and the two directors have spoken specifically of a connection between Goodbye Dragon Inn and The Missing, each with their focus on a tightly constrained locale in Taipei. But Lee's début is extraordinarily confident, clear-voiced and emotive in its own right, announcing, as do all these Tigers, an important young director to be watched.Against the sharply etched and highlighted backdrop of the city - its parks, a temple, side streets, looming high rises in the distance - Lee reveals his characters caught in a sense of loss that goes beyond the immediate circumstances: a woman who loses the child in her care at the play centre and embarks on an increasingly agonised search, the man who is missing his grandfather.With its long and carefully controlled camera movements, the concentrated looking that it encourages from the viewer, The Missing is an intensely visual film and becomes as much about the city itself, its buildings and spaces as about the people searching within it. The result is a film that may be about the profound sense of loss that we experience in the world today, but at the same time one that offers an experience of sustaining richness. [S.F.]