Days (Tsai Ming-liang, 2020)

The face and body of Lee Kang-sheng make up one of cinema’s great timepieces. All screen actors with long careers have features and physiques that we can watch as they develop over time, some changing more than others, some doing their utmost—sometimes tragically, sometimes absurdly—to resist change altogether. But the history of Lee Kang-sheng’s physical being has been written large since his first appearance in a Tsai Ming-liang work, 1989 TV film All the Corners of the World, and that history has essentially been the key theme of a filmmaker who has said that without Lee’s presence on screen, he would find it hard to make films at all.

For devotees of Tsai’s cinema, it has been an extraordinary experience watching the ageing process at work on Lee, from the willowy naïf of early films like Rebels of the Neon God (1992) to the haggard, weather-beaten…