Rarely has a film captured loneliness, urban alienation, ennui and quiet nostalgia with such melancholia and wry humour, and with so few movements or words, as did Tsai’s gorgeous and minimalist masterwork Goodbye, Dragon Inn. It was also a rapturous evocation of the joy of watching cinema, and a poignant commentary on the death of mammoth movie places and certain genres on account of them being rendered economically unviable and out-of-favour due to modernization and changing tastes. It focused on the last movie screening, that of King Hu’s cult classic Dragon Inn, in an old-fashioned theatre in Taipei before it closes down forever. The narrative was timed at approximately the same length as the Hu film, and dealt on the few oddball people populating the theatre, the decrepit condition of the place whose days of grandeur are long past, and the movie-within-movie that formed a study in contrast to the Tsai film. A gay guy trying in futility to strike companionship, bored fellows incessantly smoking in the dingy corridors, people trying to escape their mundane lives, a crippled lady who, having sold the last few tickets, is hobbling along the byzantine corridors looking for the projectionist, and two aged men, who were part of the Hu film, watching it in silent rapture, and upon becoming aware of each other being taken down the memory lanes – these were some of the idiosyncratically etched characters the last show is catering to. The seedy interiors were brilliantly captured by the dazzling color photography, while the sparse style, with long takes, whimsical interludes, and hardly any spoken words except those emanating from the film being screened, hypnotically portrayed irony, dark humour and a somber sense of loss.
Director: Tsai Ming-Liang
Genre: Drama/Black Comedy