A Japanese tourist takes refuge from a rainstorm inside a once-popular movie theater, a decrepit old barn of a cinema that is screening a martial arts classic, King Hu's 1966 "Dragon Inn." Even with the rain bucketing down outside, it doesn't pull much of an audience -- and some of those who have turned up are less interested in the movie than in the possibility of meeting a stranger in the dark.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
The theater used for the film was actually on the brink of being closed, and shortly before the film was released it was indeed closed, in an strange example of life imitating art. See more »
Teacher Miao. Shih-Chun.
Teacher, you came to see the movie?
I haven't seen a movie in a long time.
No one goes to the movies anymore, and no one remembers us anymore.
See more »
"Good Bye, Dragon Inn (Bu san)" is something of a Taiwanese "Cinema Paradiso" and "Last Picture Show" in its love of old movie theaters and evoking the unfulfilled longings we project onto movies and their showcases.
We take refuge (and I have no idea how we were supposed to know that one of the characters we are following in is a Japanese tourist, per the IMDb plot description) during a rain storm on the last night at a huge theater, and the camera slowly leads us through every inch of the place.
The vast scale of the place is brought home to us (and it will have less impact when not seen on a big screen) as virtually every inch is navigated painfully by a lame employee, clumping (as we only hear ambient sounds) up and down all those stairs, from the red velveteen seats around every nook and cranny and down long hallways and seedy passageways.
I don't know if only a Western viewer thinks at first one character is a pedophile or another a transvestite, as the theater certainly looks like the old ones that were in Times Square, or if writer/director Ming-liang Tsai is toying with all of us, as he brings other assignation attempts closer (in what must be the longest time any men have ever spent leaning against a urinal), but they are as unreal as the movie-within-a-movie, the swordplay flick "Dragon Inn" which is just a bit more stilted and corny than the current "Warriors of Heaven and Earth (Tian di ying xiong)."
There is one especially lovely moment, within beautiful cinematography throughout, of reaction to the flickering screen when the employee pauses in her rounds to look up at the huge image of the warrior princess and shares our view of the screen with her. Amusingly, the only fulfilled feelings are hunger, as various characters noisily eat a wide variety of refreshments.
The projectionist is as much an unseen power as Herr Drosselmeier in "The Nutcracker," as we don't even see him until the theater is almost ready to close. He is as oblivious to interacting with real people as every other member of the sparse audience.
The major events in the film are when two characters even acknowledge each other's existence, let alone speak the only three lines or so of spoken dialogue in the entire film, reiterating what we've seen visually -- "No one goes to the movies anymore." The closing nostalgic pop song is jarringly intrusive at first to this quiet film, but the lyrics are very appropriate.
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