A2P Cinema 100 Films of the Aughts
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GOODBYE, DRAGON INN
2003 - Tsai Ming-liang - Taiwan
36

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"Do you know this theater is haunted?"... This is the first spoken word of dialogue and it comes 45 minutes into the film. While perhaps not a film for everyone, I believe Goodbye Dragon Inn to be a brilliant masterpiece. Maybe I just love Tsai Ming-liang too much, but I find it's simplistic filmmaking approach to be a genius work of art. What's amazing is that even as simple as it is, Goodbye Dragon Inn contains many layers, depths, and meanings (all of which Tsai excels with): loneliness, boredom, romantic longing, coincidence, connection, death, the past. All at once it's a homage to King Hu's groundbreaking 1966 martial arts film Dragon Inn, a love story, a ghost story, a place of gay meetings, and the state of cinema and watching films. It's all this, and is beautifully, poetically, humorously, hauntingly, and unforgettably executed respectfully and naturally. Tsai uses the 1966 film Dragon Inn as a metaphor and backdrop in which sounds and dialogue are used directly from the film. We gradually see the theater (which contains a few of Dragon Inn's original actors) diminish as the atmosphere builds and absorbs the viewer into it's unusual and eerie feel. People in the audience move around, crack watermelon seeds within the theater, while outside the limping ticket booth lady frequently checks in on the projectionist but never see him, and men casually appear from the dark. Tsai's fascinating style is fully evident: minimal camera movement and dialogue, extremely long one shots, unique compositions and framing, deadpan humor (like that of a silent film), and of course water or in this case a rain storm outside the theater. Goodbye Dragon Inn is such a mysterious, intriguing film film that captivates and haunts the mind and emotions of the viewer. A absorbingly beautiful, comic, poetic, and sadly romantic, Goodbye Dragon Inn is truly an incredible cinematic homage and achievement. A film which captures the pureness of cinema as an art form!
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