Chinese director Tsai says Venice film "Stray Dogs" could be last

By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Taipei-based director Tsai Ming-liang said on Thursday at the Venice Film Festival, where his "Stray Dogs" is in competition, that the portrayal of a family subsisting on the streets of the Taiwanese capital could well be his last movie.

In the production notes, the director says he has become tired of cinema and that the mechanisms of the market, the "so-called entertainment value of films in recent years and the constant pandering to popular taste", disgust him.

"I hope this is my last film. This statement is for real, that is my hope," Tsai, 55, said at a news conference before the official premiere of the film.

He also says in the notes that during the making of the film, which is called "Jiaoyou" in Chinese, he was struck by an unspecified illness that made him feel "sick enough that I felt I might die at any moment".

Tsai said that while "Stray Dogs" could well be his final film, he could not predict what would happen.

"I also believe in fate and destiny so I don't know what awaits me," he said in Venice.

"Stray Dogs" shows a father and his two children struggling to survive on what he makes from menial jobs and by getting his son and daughter to visit supermarkets to eat food samples.

The slow-paced effort is the director's first since his Cannes competition entry "Face" four years ago. His second feature film, "Vive L'Amour", won the Golden Lion best picture award in Venice in 1994.

Tsai said he probably wouldn't have made "Stray Dogs" had it not been for a theatre performance of Lee Hsiao-kang, his go-to actor for more than two decades.

His leading man, meanwhile, described their collaboration as a form of torture.

"Making films with director Tsai is very tough," Lee said.

"Working with him is kind of torture, you have to endure a lot and in the process I really experience living like the character and feel the heaviness of his life. So, these roles have allowed me to improve my acting," he said.

The concluding shot of "Stray Dogs" shows the father and a woman who has befriended the outcast family standing one behind the other almost motionless and staring at a wall in a derelict building during a rainstorm for 20 minutes.

The film features Lee's nephew and niece, Tsai's godson and goddaughter, Lee Yi-cheng and Lee Yi-chieh, as the children. (Additional reporting by Hanna Rantala; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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