A bizarre mixture of softcore pornography and elaborate musical numbers, The Wayward Cloud was an unconvential landmark for the cinema of Taiwan. Grossing over $20 million, far and above the typical box-office pull for Taiwanese film, The Wayward Cloud engendered controversy as well as praise. Although it never shows full frontal male nudity, the film deals in bizarre, and bizarrely disjointed, sexuality. The sex between characters is never ordinary, it is largely mediated by separation (such as through the grill of a wall, in the film’s finale) or via substitution (via watermelon during the film’s hypnotic and uncomfortably funny opening).
The premise is simple and largely unstated. During an intense drought, porn-star Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng) runs into his eccentric ex-girlfriend Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) and the two reignite their playful, strange relationship, all while Shiang-chyi has no idea of his chosen profession.
The Wayward Cloud vacillates between romantic, languid drama and colorful, unexpected musical numbers, pairing pornography and dance as mirrors of, and conduits of, one another. While the music may express the unspoken desires between the characters, the pornography is the fulfillment of that promise.
With a shocking premiere in Budapest (where an audience member leaped from her seat and shouted, “Fuck you!” at the screen during the film’s riveting and disquieting conclusion), The Wayward Cloud found an unexpected niche. It takes a particular sort of weirdo to appreciate the film, but it is an experience rarely found in conventional cinema. That, alone, is worth the 114 minutes.
Britta R. Moline 12/10/11