The strange, elliptical movies of Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang (The Hole
, What Time Is It There?
) defy encapsulation. A description of The River
will tell you about a female elevator operator, her pornography-selling lover, and her husband who goes to gay bathhouses. Her unhappy scooter-riding son runs into an actress he knew a few years earlier; she brings him to the set of a movie she's working on, where the young man gets a role as a corpse floating in a river. But none of that amounts to a plot in any conventional sense, and that summary doesn't capture the slow but hypnotic pace of Tsai's movies, or how the seemingly ordinary images will burn themselves into your memory. The lack of conventional action will frustrate some viewers, but others will find deadpan humor and an eerie cinematic poetry. --Bret Fetzer