Goodbye, Dragon Inn

on September 17, 2004 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
A decaying, nearly deserted movie theatre is the setting for Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang's "Goodbye, Dragon Inn," which pays tribute to cinema's glorious past even as it laments its sadly lacking present. At least, that's what one can read into the movie, which, like many of Ming-laing's films ("The River," "The Hole"), is long on atmosphere and short on story.

The nominal tale in the film is that of the physically disabled ticket girl who has an unrequited crush on the theatre's projectionist. There's also a Japanese tourist who may have taken refuge in the theater to escape the (perpetual) rain outside, or perhaps is interested in the gay cruising taking place on the premises. Meanwhile, King Hu's classic 1966 film "Dragon Inn" unspools on screen, even though we mostly hear it and rarely see its images.

Hypnotic in effect but ultimately rather irritating, "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" will entice those viewers who like oblique, allusive cinema. Those filmgoers who want a little more meat in their movies will go home empty -handed. Starring Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi and Kiyonobu Mitamura. Directed and written by Tsai Ming-liang. Produced by Liang Hung-chih and Vincent Wang. A Wellspring release. Drama. Cantonese-language; subtitled. Running time: 82 min

Tags: Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Kiyonobu Mitamura, Tsai Ming-liang, iang Hung-chih, Vincent Wang, Wellspring, Drama, refuge, escape, Japanese, tourist

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