I wrote too soon. Tsai Ming-liang’s wonderfully perverse “The Wayward Cloud” was not acquired by IFC Films’ First Take series, as I previously had written. It was actually Wellspring Films that made a deal to purchase the film, but the company’s shutdown by new-owners Genius/Weinstein Co. effectively axed the acquisition. But all is not lost for Tsai’s stunning cinematic achievement. New York’s Anthology Film Archives will host the film’s U.S. theatrical premiere run from February 23 to March 4.
In an article for indieWIRE’s Top 10 Undistributed Films of 2005 — yes, that’s 2005 — I wrote, “Tsai Ming-liang belongs to that category of rarefied auteurs that is much beloved by critics, and often totally oblique to the rest of the world. ‘The Wayward Cloud’ may not change that reputation, but this surreal, pornographic musical paean to alienation — set during a blistering heatwave, where watermelons are used as both sexual prop and source of water — is a memorable entry in the director’s oeuvre. And with a painful, even heart-rending climax, it’s also one of the most shockingly emotional.”
The Anthology run won’t help the film make it to other cities, but intrepid programmers may finally have a crack at it since the cat is now out of the bag. As Anthology’s John Mhiripiri tells me, “Over the years we have been premiering lots of features without US distribution. Sometimes distribution will follow a successful run; other times, the films simply return to Europe.”