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A Minute With: Director Tsai Ming-liang on retiring, next film

Director Tsai Ming-Liang, poses during a photocall for the movie "Stray Dogs", directed by him, during the 70th Venice Film Festival in Veni
Director Tsai Ming-Liang, poses during a photocall for the movie "Stray Dogs", directed by him, during the 70th Venice Film Festival in Veni

By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Taipei-based Chinese director Tsai Ming-liang announced at the Venice Film Festival, where his latest film "Stray Dogs" is in competition, that the movie would be his last, but left himself some wriggle room.

He told Reuters on Friday that his films require more manual labor to make than the usual Hollywood production. Although he is 55 and looked fit while giving interviews poolside at a Lido lounge, Tsai said he felt tired "inside".

Asked about the unspecified "sickness" that the production notes say he suffered while making the film, he broke from Chinese into English momentarily to say "not cancer".

Here's what else he had to say about his "retirement", his longtime leading man Lee Kang-sheng's description of working for him, and a response to the question what is his next film.

Q: Why did you announce on Thursday this film would probably be your last?

A: "A lot of people but especially young people think making film is such a lot of fun, it is such a great thing, when actually it's a lot of hard work, literally manual work...So after 20 years you really feel tired. And probably it has to do with the way I'm making cinema. It's not quite the Hollywood style."

Q: You have said that films today are too commercial, but of course you make films to earn money too.

A: "My cinema is a commercial product, there's no way around it. But the thing is if you look back at the old films you have the feeling among all these products there were also some very good products and some very poor ones. Now we seem only to have the low quality and somehow we lost the quality of film."

Q: Your leading man Lee says working for you is a form of torture. Would you care to respond?

A: "I think it's why I love to work with Lee. He does a lot of things that other actors wouldn't do. So for instance I ask him to pee or undress...or I ask him to walk very slowly and stand there for hours and hours and he's really standing there for hours and hours. He's doing things that other people wouldn't. You have the real person there. You have the real action of the real person."

Q: Concerns have been raised that you are from Taiwan, your film is in competition here and Italy does not recognize Taiwan. You've won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion before, though, so is this a stray dog?

A: "This time they wrote for my film they wrote 'China Taipei' and it's a bit strange. But it's the same game they played with the Olympics (to allow the Taiwanese athletes to compete). It's not something you or I can solve. It's something between politicians."

Q: You've announced that you hope "Stray Dogs" will be your last film, but what is your next one?

A: "I don't know...fate is going to arrange (that) for me."

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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