Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)

Tsai Ming-liang’s bleak comic masterpiece is a portrait of the alienation of modern urbanity.   Centering on a crumbling Taipei movie palace projecting King Hu’s classic wuxia feature Dragon Inn (1966) to a meager and mostly preoccupied audience, Goodbye, Dragon Inn employs its once grandiose, barren setting to convey the dearth of human emotion in the contemporary world.  Tsai’s deliberate, minimalistic directorial style relays its narrative through imagery; Goodbye is mostly composed of static shots and long takes while almost entirely eschewing dialogue.  His ensemble, a disabled box office cashier (Chen Shiang-chyi) seeking to bestow a steamed bun to the theater’s absent projectionist (Lee Kang-sheng), a Japanese gay cruiser (Kiyonobu Mitamura) pursuing a sexual experience, and two of Dragon Inn’s original actors (Shih Chun and Miao Ten, the latter a Tsai regular) reminiscing about the film, all strive and fail to find cordiality within the chasms of the theater.  Tsai rarely frames his actors facing or interacting together, their bodies and psyches isolated from each other on screen.  In a press kit for the film, critic Tony Rayns notes, “Tsai has fashioned what may be his most brilliant metaphor yet: a lament for the death of feelings framed as a valediction to an entire era of Chinese cinema and an obituary to film-going in general.”

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