Lee Kang-sheng, who is best known for his slow rhythm and a naturalistic way of acting, has appeared in all of prominent director Tsai Ming-liang's feature films. He debuted in Tsai's 1992 feature movie "Rebels of the Neon God (青少年哪吒)” after meeting the director outside a Taipei arcade the previous year.
Since then, the melancholy-looking actor has starred in all of Tsai's feature films and developed his unique way of acting. Between 1991 and 2013, Lee only appeared in five films that were directed by filmmakers other than Tsai, including Taiwanese directors Wang Tung (王童) and Lin Cheng-sheng (林正盛), and Hong Kong director Ann Hui (許鞍華).
Despite a lack of formal training, Lee's cinematic talent was recognized early on. He was crowned the Best Actor at the Festival des 3 Continents in France with his second film "Vive L'Amour (愛情萬歲),” which was also the recipient of the Golden Lion for Best Picture at the Venice Film Festival in 1994. "Vive L'Amour” also earned Lee his first Golden Horse Award nomination for Best Actor that same year.
Lee and Tsai have been an inseparable pair in their film careers and they continue to inspire each other with their works. Tsai, who has insisted on making art house productions, would usually give Lee a brief instruction and a simple prop and then just let him improvise and act freely, often without any written script. Sometimes, Tsai would keep the film reels rolling for as long as dozens of minutes without yelling "cut” until he gets what he wants for the scene.
Characterized by a static and subdued style, Tsai's films are frequent winners at international film festivals and widely acclaimed, but they often perform poorly at the box office. Despite this, Lee has remained a loyal disciple of the Malaysia-born director. His efforts were finally paid off when he won the 50th Golden Horse Award for Best Actor in 2013 with the role of a single father doing odd jobs in Tsai's self-claimed last feature film "Stray Dogs.” Lee's successful portrayal of the unemployed and lonely middle-aged man also won him the Best Actor Award at the 56th Asia-Pacific Film Festival (APFF) that same year.
Apart from his outstanding acting skills, Lee is also a talented playwright and director. "Bujian (The Missing, 不見),” his 2003 directorial debut, won the top award at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea and the prestigious Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands. His second feature film "Help Me Eros (幫幫我愛神)” was also a sensation at various international film festivals, including the VeniceInternational Film Festival, for its fantasia-esque atmosphere and bold sex scenes.
With the Golden Horse Award and the APFF Award under his belt, Lee's 22-year film career has finally received the acclaim it deserves. Despite a lackluster response from general moviegoers, Lee has proven himself a profound art film actor who can relate his own life experiences to those of the roles he has played.