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Goodbye Dragon Inn Reviews

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Bob S

Super Reviewer

November 7, 2007
Literally plodding... but entrancing take on filmgoing as both communal act and private quest for validation. Movie theater as bathouse.

Total art film - I see some lonely Antonioni in the architecture and some funny Tati in the setups and timing. Oh, and ghosts - lots of ghosts. My first taste of Tsai.

Super Reviewer

June 21, 2008
the apex of tsai's cinema, a pure distillation of movie love, both profound and simple. there are only 5 or 6 lines of dialogue in the film. you've been warned
July 11, 2008
This is a truly under-appreciated film. It's a beautiful story about letting go. It is basically a silent film, though -- the first line of dialogue doesn't appear until 40 minutes into the film, so its not for everyone. It's more art than just a casual bleh-popcorn-movie film.
February 3, 2007
Tsai's ode to the death of the old movie theaters in our times of televisions, DVDs and huge multiplexes. The most minimalistic film I've seen. I counted only 10 short lines of dialogue in the entire film, with the first line 44 minutes into the film. Tsai uses extremely long static takes to capture the main character in the film - a run down movie theater screening its final movie - the King Hu martial arts classic Dragon Inn. Among the people in the theater are a young gay Japanese man looking for intimacy or sex, a crippled woman who runs and cleans the decrepit theater, a young projectionist whom she pines for, and two "ghosts" that haunt the theater. The glacial pace of the film will no doubt alienate most viewers. For those who can stay awake during the film, Goodbye, Dragon Inn is a very rewarding experience. Think of it as a minimalist silent Cinema Paradiso.
February 10, 2007
This was more interesting than Dragon Inn its predecessor, the scenes were well written and scripted. a must see for martial art lovers
April 21, 2014
This is one of those movies you are either going to love, or completely hate. It consists of long, slow takes where not much happens, but if you have fond memories of nights in empty theaters watching something with only a few people, Goodbye Dragon Inn is an enjoyable, often humorous film. I found myself laughing quite a bit but not at things normally found in comedies. I don't even know who to recommend this too, but its only 80 minutes and I'd say worth a try for more patient movie fans.
September 6, 2013
ok direction and idea.. but poor plot/characters
Chris C.
April 10, 2013
One of the worst movies made in the history of cinema.
March 22, 2012
I watched this 4x faster than the normal speed. That's how slow and uneventful this movie is. When you play it faster, it's an interesting film about a dying cinema theater. It's always sad and depressing to witness a theater dying a slow death.
January 16, 2012
Perhaps the first film I think of when I think "minimalism." Might as well have made this a silent film.
June 5, 2011
Goodbye Dragon Inn is one of the slowest, most frustrating, hardest sits a film-goer can experience. The film is essentially a series of still frames with slight bursts of movement or action - not all that surprising considering the film deals with a group of people watching the last showing at a cavernous cinema. The film of the night is the wuxia pian classic Dragon Gate Inn, and some of the film's best moments are when the martial arts masterpiece takes center stage, drawing out parallels with the lives and relationships of those in the theater.

For the patient viewer, there are certainly rewards to be had in Goodbye Dragon Inn. The film comments on the dearth of audience interest in classic film, particularly in younger generations, as well as the general lack of love for theater-going film-watching. The climate of cinema has changed, in many ways for the worse, and Goodbye Dragon Inn is a love letter to a better time when people knew that film matters.
July 18, 2010
Somewhere in the world, in some run down town, you can bet there's a cinema that's on its final reel, not just of the night, but of its existence. It's a sad fact of life that everything must come to an end at some point, and one that cinema itself has taken upon itself to dwell within too many times. Yet when taken into the context of film and the cinema-going experience itself, very little has been discussed or expressed up on the big screen in regards. In what is undoubtedly one of the most original experiences you'll never have in a theatre (but rather on your TV set, because nowhere will play this ever again, at least this side of the Pacific), Goodbye Dragon Inn is a somber and reflective piece of film that takes its ever-sweet time at documenting the final breaths of a small neglected film-house somewhere in China through long, documentive shots that linger on long after the projector dims. Filmed on location at a cinema that would, ironically, close its doors less than a year later, Ming-liang Tsai delivers a piece of art that mimics life which in turn mimics art-it's daring, and it's bold, in just about all the least daring and bold ways imaginable.

Set over the course of eighty minutes whilst classic Kung-Fu action flick Dragon Inn plays out its final screening, Goodbye Dragon Inn serves as something of an elegy or funeral for the dying experience that is going to see a movie. Make no mistake, Ming-liang Tsai doesn't coat anything here in obtuse shades of rose-tinted romance, nor does he make light of the spectacle either. Instead, the director manages to fuse the movie's distinctly reflective mood with that of humour and little minute observations that many cinephiles will be sure to get a kick out of. Indeed, amongst some of the film's most endearing moments is a simple sequence which sees one member of the audience trapped in between a pair of feet over the headrest next to him, and a weird guy obviously trying to make a pass; and this is after moving away from two obnoxious face-stuffers. Even in a half-dead cinema, it would seem, you can't escape its inevitable drawbacks.

Even with these brief moments of humour however, the vast majority of the movie remains static and elongated to the point where much sense of reality is lost. Again echoing the experience of going to see a movie and getting lost in the un-reality of that glow coming at you from the surrounding darkness, Ming-liang Tsai embodies his subject matter with a thorough sense of commitment. Characters, rather than feature as living, breathing, a-list stars and personas, come across more as b-lister background characters-neglected to speaking only forty minutes into the feature, and then even after that, speaking just a few more some twenty minutes later. Scenes, which can sometimes last for minutes on end with next to no movement on the screen whatsoever, drag time and yet manage to keep you there, watching and waiting to see what magic perhaps lies somewhere in that mysterious room. Putting a sharp restraint on dialogue and plot or action, the director forces the viewer to move at his pace, which is a slow burning funeral march-mournful yet charming at the same time.

No matter how you approach Ming-liang Tsai's work here however, there remains an unmitigated feeling that what you do experience over the course of these eighty minutes is something special. Not just in what it says, or how it says it, but in how Goodbye Dragon Inn manages to take these otherwise off-putting and easily disgruntling methods of minimalist film-making and in turn fashion them into something really quite captivating and unique; the methodology is simple, yet the results are not. Striking a firm balance between art-house and sentimental naval-gazing upon the medium in which it itself exists, Goodbye Dragon Inn is an original and thought-provoking piece of cinema that signals the final curtain call of a cinematic era with a humble and resolute grin of affection.
Conor S.
June 28, 2010
This is the third film that I've seen by Cai Mingliang, the first was The River (河流) and the second was What time is it there? (你那邊幾點). I love the effect that watching his films has on me, in that the films while you are watching them don't feel that interesting, with the use of long shots, the lack of dialogue, and the anticlimatic plots, or anti-plots if that would be a better way of expressing it. The River has to be my favourite of the three, maybe just because it was the first film I saw by Cai, and so it had a deeper impact.

Goodbye Dragon Inn (不散)is confusing and makes use of a kind of anti-plot, but it is visually interesting with the strand of decadent urban aestheticism that festers its way through each of Cai's films. I felt a comic identification with the Japanese youth in the film, in his experience of this very "local" form of culture. The use of inverted commas round the term local are my attempt at trying to capture the essence of the Taiwanese concept of the local that Cai seems to address in an auto-nostalgic fashion (I'm trying to express with this term, a cold observance by the director of the recognizable tokens of Taiwanese local culture, on the eve of its annhilation. The film does not push for identification with these tokens, but rather the tokens seem to be nostalgic for themselves within the frame of the film) throughout the film. This is encapsulated in the film with the noisy plastic bag rustling couple who are eating a snack that requires sucking some bones and strenous effort; the ghostly lady's discarded melon seeds carpeting the floor; the way in an empty cinema or an empty men's room, someone will choose the seat or the urinal next to yours, seemingly not owning the concept of personal space. Cai doesn't seem critical or sympathetic to any of the characters in the film or even to the discomfort the Japanese youth has with the "local", and the nostalgia that the actors feel after seeing their film, rings hollowly as we realize they have nothing else to say to each other. The unactualized potential for love, or at least human contact, between the projector and the ticket booth clerk is another interesting thread of the film, and brings to mind a similar theme in What time is it there?. This is parallel to the Japanese youth's exploration of the cinema and the men within it. I wasn't sure if he was trying to examine the men as he recognised them from the film as the blurb on the box suggested or, more likely, if he was trying to find some sort of sexual encounter or indeed human contact; which was intensified when he leant in to the body of the man who stated that the theatre was haunted. I recognised in myself a standard reaction when the Japanese young man uttered the words "我是日本人" (I'm Japanese) with a strong Japanese accent, and then proceeeded to bow. This recalled for me the use of a Japanese character in Cape No.7 (海角七號). This kind of character which has taken a standard role in the Taiwanese concept of Japanese people in popular culture, especially amongst those who are obsessed with everything Japanese (哈日族). His exclamation of "I'm Japanese" seemed to contain an implicit message of: I'm Japanese, so you shouldn't walk away. We have an intrinsic relation of pent-up emotion, and my emotional outburst is something you should seek.

What I'm trying to communicate with this, is the need in Taiwanese popular culture for a Japanese Other, the need for them to prove that the cultural impact of the Japanese colonial period had lasting and shaping effects for the Taiwanese and the need to drag Japan into a master slave dialectic that never perhaps existed in the colonists's imagination. When the man still walks away, offering a sardonic さようなら (Sayounara), but otherwise ignoring him, we can see this as Cai's refutation of this imagined relation with Japan, of this inferiority complex inherent in the portrayal of the Japanese in Taiwanese film.

The film does not offer you anything on a plate, and it forces the watcher to abandon the hope for a plot or a way to stitch the different seams of the film up neatly. The artifice of the film is given its true face in the long camera shots, the inaction, and the opaqueness of the emotional world of the characters.

The DVD also included a short film, The Skywalk is Gone (天橋不見了) which is posited as a kind of epilogue to What time is it there?. The action takes place after the girl returns from Paris, with the building of the MRT the footbridge where the watch seller had formerly been selling watches has gone, and we find that her character is no more at home in Taipei than it had been in Paris. They cross paths, but only the watch-seller is aware and he goes on to a hotel room to audition for a porn movie. It's interesting to me that Cai decided to add to the film, as the ending essentially added little to what we already guessed, but maybe he just wanted to reinforce that the two would not meet and live happily ever after, given the inconclusiveness of the original film's ending. It's a neat short film though, and I think it can be taken as an independent work given that it has the same features that the longer films strive for.
September 7, 2005
Tsai Ming-liang es un tío valiente. Sus películas desechan de antemano todas las convenciones de la narrativa cinematográfica. En lugar de un desarrollo "normal", con trama, personajes y diálogos hilvanados con sentido dramático, Ming-liang suele dejar la cámara totalmente inmóvil frente a situaciones que, en primera instancia, no llaman en absoluto la atención. Y ahí la deja... durante minutos y minutos. Afortunadamente, después de ver su [i]What Time Is It There?[/i] ya sabía lo que me esperaba. Otros espectadores podrían no tener esa suerte, y acabar apestiñados con las enervantes quietudes de Ming-liang.

LADO BUENO: Ese es el mayor valor que se le ha de reconocer a esta película, como a la anteriormente mencionada [i]What Time Is It There?[/i] La entereza de elegir un modo altamente alienante para el gran público y llevarlo a rajatabla hasta el último fotograma. Para que se hagan ustedes una idea: a la hora y un minuto de película, la encargada del cine donde ocurre la (escasa) acción enciende las luces, pues la proyección ha terminado. Recorre cojeando las butacas de un extremo a otro de la sala, sale de plano, y la cámara se recrea un poco más en la imagen de la inmensa sala completamente vacía. Duración total del plano: 5 minutos 20 segundos. Ni una línea de diálogo. Ni un sonido, excepto el de los zapatos de la encargada. Creo que en los 80 minutos que dura el filme la cámara hace un (1) movimiento. Eso es tener valor.

LADO MALO: Pero claro, el mensaje a transmitir no da pie a ello. Para cierta parsimonia sí daba, pues la muerte de una sala de cine es un asunto en principio melancólico, pero no tan cautivador por sí mismo como para merecer hora y pico de planos fijos. Además, el sentido del humor que salvaba en gran medida a [i]What Time Is It There? [/i]no es tan acentuado aquí.

EN TRES (3) PALABRAS: Espectadores cuerdos abstenerse.
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