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Goodbye, Dragon Inn
(Bu san)

Directed by Tsai Ming-liang.
With Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Kiyonobu Mitamura.
Taiwan, 2003, DCP, color, 82 min.
Mandarin, Min Nan and Japanese with English subtitles.
DCP source: Metrograph

A decaying Taipei movie palace on its final night of business provides Tsai with one of his richest locations in this turn-of-the-millennium paean to the fading cinemagoing ritual. As King Hu’s wuxia classic Dragon Inn reverberates around the cavernous auditorium and the shadowy corridors that surround it, Tsai traces the wanderings of the screening’s few lovelorn attendees, all either cruising for a partner in the dark or pining for some succor from the screen itself. Dialogue is nearly nonexistent, but the film communicates an entire spectrum of longing through the inspired use of silence and duration, whereby even the most distant figures in Tsai’s expansive compositions can become objects of sympathy and comedy. Far more than a dewy-eyed love letter to the movies, the film offers a broader meditation on the impact of urban development on communal spaces, which gains an added resonance when considering the history of gay cruising in Taipei’s cinemas. As the projector creaks to a halt and the patrons wander off into a torrential rainstorm, Tsai offers an aching portrait of the eternal loneliness of outsiders doomed to live just out of pace with a changing world.

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