Goodbye, Dragon Inn

"Very Good"

Goodbye, Dragon Inn Review


It's raining in Taipei again. Anyone familiar with Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang's work knows that his world is a wet one, where rain pours down constantly on decrepit concrete buildings, faucets drip, urinals overflow, and puddles are everywhere.

In Goodbye, Dragon Inn, the decrepit building is the Fu-Ho Theater, a large movie palace that on this, its last night of operation, is showing the 1966 Chinese kung-fu classic Dragon Inn. At first glance, the theater is packed with people. At second glance, it's almost deserted, a strange mystery that leads to the first line of dialog, which comes along more than half an hour into the film: "You know this theater is haunted." What we have here, among other things, is a ghost story, Tsai's take on the belief of superstitious Chinese people that all movie theaters are haunted.

The few people inside the Fu-Ho include the ticket girl (Chen Shiang-Chyi), who walks with a pronounced limp slowly slowly slowly through endless takes and climbs stairs slowly slowly slowly up to the projection room. She hopes to drop off half her steamed bun for the projectionist (Lee Kan-sheng, who appears as some version of the same character in all of Tsai's films). He's not there, however, so she leaves the bun, perhaps as a token of love, and clumps back down the several flights of stairs before doing a patrol of the bathrooms. Believe it or not, this is among the more action-packed of Tsai's films.

In the theater, a young man has come in to seek shelter from the rain but finds himself annoyed by other patrons. There's the little kid making noise, a couple of old men who sit way too close to him, a couple who are sloppily and noisily eating their way through their dinner, a pair of bare feet that pop up from behind and rest on the seat next to him, and a woman who devours a huge pile of seeds, casting the shells onto the floor.

Eventually he makes his way to the bathroom, where three men join him at a row of urinals and they stand there together, in silence, for close to two minutes of screen time. An encounter in a back room reveals that the Fu-Ho may be a gay cruising spot, and it's here that we hear the comment about the theater being haunted.

Eventually the screening of Dragon Inn ends, and in one long static take we watch the ticket girl clean the theater, and then we watch the empty theater for more than two minutes. No, the film isn't stuck in the projector. This is the Tsai style, and you'll either love it or hate it.

Why love it? Because Tsai knows how to visualize a feeling of abject loneliness and loss. All his films are to some extent about the dehumanizing effects of urban life, how two people, such as the ticket girl and the projectionist, can work together for years and yet never speak, how even her love can only be expressed through a steamed bun of all things. Cinephiles may also want to ponder the message that despite the fact that going to the movies is a communal act, it's essentially a solitary experience, an interaction between you and the screen no matter how many people are or aren't sitting around you.

That is, if you ever go to the movies. As the two old men stroll out of the theater, we learn they are actually Tien Miao and Shih Chun, two of the stars of Dragon Inn. They've come to watch themselves and remember the past. "No one goes to the movies anymore," one comments ruefully. He walks home holding the hand of his young grandson. Perhaps they'll pop in a DVD when they get there.

The DVD adds Tsai's short film The Skywalk is Gone, an epilogue to his film What Time is it There?

Aka Bu San; Good Bye, Dragon Inn.

Hello, creepy person behind the door!



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Ticket Woman, Yang Kuei-mei as Peanut Eating Woman

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.