His themes are as limited as his fixed shots and recurring obsessions (water, empty spaces, Sixties pop songs, tentative homosexuality, Lee Kang-sheng, and Tien Miao). “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” starts with images from the beginning of “Dragon Inn,” then reveals that a packed house is quietly and attentively watching the King Hu film. Copyright © 2006 - 2020 by CIStems, Inc., d.b.a. Required fields are marked *. Even though the characters are active, as far as moving around and interacting with each other on some level, a static camera that does not cut for minutes at a time makes you feel like nothing is happening. The emotions are so urgent, so powerful that only the simplest of forms can even begin to convey their immeasurable depth. The projectionist throws several buckets of rainwater out the window and locks up. If interpretation and ambiguity are nearly nonexistent, mystery is never absent. Sadness, Despair, Loneliness, Isolation, Alienation—certainly, Tsai's films are “about” such things, and precious little else. The story in “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” is simple. Emotion becomes here a physiological curiosity which Tsai isolates from its surroundings by lengthening the time in which it exists and thus, paradoxically, “stopping the clock.” In Tsai's films, the decisive action does not leap beyond space and time, it hangs in place and present. One minute more of sit-ups is nearly unbearable. Earlier one of the patrons says, "Do you know that this theatre is haunted?" She wears an iron brace on her leg. A woman cracking sunflower seeds also tests his patience. The two minutes it takes for a dental fluoride treatment to be completed is 120 seconds too long. Ghosts”; an appropriately ghostly, bare-footed woman (Yang Kuei-mei) fixedly chewing her way through an endless bag of peanuts; the gate being pulled down over the entrance, a “Temporarily Closed” sign pasted on the marquee, a resigned comment “Not many people go to the movies anymore”; a slow shuffle home through the rain to the tinny strains of an old love song. The Last Movie And it's particularly crucial when discussing the work of Tsai Ming-liang, for he seems so susceptible to the confining rationale of words. Taiwanese New Wave director Tsai Ming-Liang intuitively understands this concept, and as he demonstrates in his self-scripted film “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” (2003), that time passes at all is more damaging than whether it is speedy or sluggish. When the Japanese tourist enters the story shortly thereafter, there appears to be fewer than five people in the movie theatre. Yang Kuei-mei's tears in the final shot of Vive L'Amour (1994) are less the expression of a private grief than an essentialization of Sorrow. The projector flickers upon screen and audience both, embracing them with a sweetly inconsolable sadness beyond images, beyond logic, beyond words. The banal shape given the dreams of transcendence—much like Henry Spencer's romance with the woman behind the radiator in Eraserhead (1978)—makes the muted desires they express that much more poignant. Two of these characters have the second and final conversation and what they say to each other profoundly connects with Tsai’s obsession with the destructive and depreciative power of time. It is set in a decrepit movie palace in Taipei that is about to close and probably be torn down. In a bare 82 minutes, Tsai dashes off every facet of his private universe in shorthand, its human, material, and narrative totems made depthless and rigid, its nostalgic iconography comically blatant, its emotional affect purposely dulled. Two old men are brought to tears when the film ends. The yearnings which Tsai once embodied on screen are given body in those who watch that screen, the finite running time of the first a premonition of that of the second, yet both, for this one moment, experiencing a shared eternity, a shared infinity. There is a little boy, a couple snacking very loudly, and you assume everyone else is in off-screen space. The ominous tone of sterile lighting and long takes is compounded by the near total lack of dialogue. How we experience time impacts our perception of its passing. Your email address will not be published. Reducing his meticulous minimalism to the brink of nothingness (Ozu's mu), Tsai has—perhaps just this once—touched on the shores of Schrader's transcendental triumvirate. The familiar elements are deployed with such stringent economy that they are nakedly self-evident. That's a truism, of course, but an important one. Moving Image Source was developed with generous and visionary support from the Hazen Polsky Foundation, in memory of Joseph H. Hazen. Hu's Dragon Inn is Tsai's Dragon Inn, the former's simplistically indexical heroes those of the latter's, the screen that which we watch, the packed theater glimpsed early on through a curtain the space in which we sit, the inexplicable dwindling of the audience to a few lonely souls each of us in our solitude, the cavernously empty theater at the end that space after our departure—the ghosts, ourselves. He pulls the higher forms back down to earth, grounds them in terrestrial bodies; his blank characters are evocative precisely because they are so unable to bear the weight placed upon them. Outside it is raining and a few patrons have come to the once glamorous theatre to see a revival of King Hu's 1966 sword-fighting epic Dragon Inn. Your email address will not be published. Yet this transference only occurs by way of a decisive action: our watching of the film, and its watching of us. He leaves the room and sees some men in the corridor smoking cigarettes; they are homosexuals looking for sex. By The fantastically elongated shots—the longest, of the emptied theater stalls at the film's conclusion, clocking in at a full five minutes—stare back at us, envelop us in a shared world. The cut-and-dried schema of The Hole—the human and material decay of a world slowly coming to an end contrasted with the eerie, flamboyant musical numbers performed in the halls of the crumbling apartment complex—casts a spell precisely because the symmetry is so patently obvious. French movies are erotic. Only a few people are present in the cinema, and a variety of subplots are developed around them. Remarkably, though, rather than simply wear the skin of a sinister movie, “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” is somewhat of a satire of the genre. Wielding unwavering resolve, the director confronts us with real time to emphasize the film’s ideology, which is that time destroys everything and the only way to combat it is to stop its progression. She limps down the hallway to take care of some menial tasks in the bathrooms. Narrow though the films are, they are never reductive. Perhaps these two are really the actors of Dragon Inn, lamenting the glory days long gone by. Tsai's world is slowly disintegrated by the relentless physical logic which gives it form—the skywalk vanishes, Kang-sheng's neck pain grows ever more unbearable after his immersion in the river, that hole gapes wider to the accompaniment of fossilized pop songs—and thus unveils the incomprehensible forces behind that logic. Words have their own logic independent of the impressions they convey, an enclosed system of meanings which the subject of description itself often has trouble penetrating. To describe is, always, to mislead. When the Japanese tourist enters the story shortly thereafter, there appears to be fewer than five people in the movie theatre. A different angle on moving images—past, present, and future. He produces the same effect several times throughout the film, involving scenes where characters are motionless or have just left a certain space. To describe is, always, to mislead. All rights reserved Support forthis publication has been provided through the National Endowment for the Arts. What could be said about it that isn't imprinted directly on the screen? In fact, the films are more mysterious by way of their reduction. He moves to another seat and is bothered by some bare feet stretched over the seat next to him. Every time it returns to the Japanese tourist or to the theatre room, the number of patrons decreases. For he has finally, fully achieved the mystical stasis towards which all his films have been working. The deadpan “miracle” which caps What Time Is It There? Throughout the film, the ticket woman tries to find the projectionist, searching for him in order to present him with a steamed bun. If you can slow down and adapt yourself to the resolute rhythms of this film — it consists mainly of long takes — it will give you a melancholy glimpse of urban loneliness and the passing of an era. | March 21, 2006. The sometimes humorous, sometimes chilling absurdity of their predicaments reflects the larger absurdity (and painful necessity) of human beings searching for the unknowable and unseeable in the known and visible world before their eyes. Bonafide nerves may contribute to why the second scenario would incline us to believe that two minutes could not elapse any slower, but it’s the actual waiting that alters our senses. Tsai Ming-Liang has made a film that by all aesthetic accounts should be a scary film. The emotional affect is no longer thematic, but experiential. As the film progresses, the size of the audience watching “Dragon Inn” grows smaller and smaller until only three people remain. Set in a Taipei revival theatre that is closing, offers a melancholy glimpse of urban loneliness and the passing of an era. Other than elements of the mise-en-scene, there is no real reason to suspect that there really are ghosts. A young man who is trying to concentrate on the film finds himself distracted by some noisy patrons munching on popcorn. American films are like two fourteen-year old virgins... Universal Studios has a dismal track record of trying to update its classic stable of iconic monsters. Those who are capable of being refreshed by minimalist films will want to see this 81-minute one by Taiwanese writer and director Tsai Ming-Liang. For instance, there are posters of “The Eye” (Oxide Pang and Danny Pang, 2002) plastered all over the theatre’s exterior.