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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
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   Goodbye, Dragon Inn  


Goodbye, Dragon Inn

Reviewed by 1. Adrian Sim  2. Soh Yun-Huei

Chinese Title: Bu san
Director: Tsai Ming Liang
Cast: Lee Kang Sheng, Chen Shiang Chyi, Mitamura Kiyonobu
Genre: Drama
Country: Taiwan
Language: Mandarin
Year Released: 2003
Runtime: 82 min

1. Review by Adrian Sim

As in Tsai Ming Liang's previous films, Goodbye Dragon Inn has oodles of deadpan humour and kooky characters. While not quite as inventive as the Hole or What Time is it There?, Goodbye Dragon Inn is a nostalgic ode to the spectacle of the cinema, in particular the classic wu xia pian "Dragon Inn." In fact, the entire film takes place during the last screening at the "Fu He" theater before it shuts down for renovation. "Dragon Inn" happens to be this last screening.

We're introduced to a motley of misfits...
- the mousy ticket seller who walks with an imbalanced gait (played to the hilt by Tsai regular Chen Shiang Chyi)
- the (gay) patron (played with wide-eyed lust by Kiyonobu Mitamura)
- the heavy-smoking projectionist (Lee Kang Sheng) who only appears in the final 10-15 minutes
- pallid ghosts and other gay patrons...

Some of the parts that I thought were amusing...
- row of three "gay" men, who are standing side-by-side, taking a really long time to pee in the toilet
- two seemingly "gay" old men eyeing each other in the cinema turn out to be old colleagues
- Yang Gui Mei's unforgettable role as a nut-crunching vampish patron/ghost

Running at a brief 81 min, Goodbye Dragon Inn is still somewhat a stretch at moments especially when there are about six strands of dialogue in the entire film. However, the details (e.g., humour, strange habits and acts) that Tsai embellishes in the film more than makes up for it.

Love the last shot where the lovelorn Shiang Chyi (spurned by Lee's projectionist) walks away from "Fu He" with the "Dragon Inn" gambar prominently displayed in the background...


2. Review by Soh Yun-Huei

I loved it to bits. Best of Singapore Internal Film Festival 2004 for me. The experience of watching a movie about a movie being played out in an old, large-capacity cinema, while sitting in an old(ish), large-capacity cinema, was just an incredible, incredible experience. I don't think there has ever been as apt a closing film as this one. Watching it on the big screen in such surroundings elevated an already excellent film into the mind-blowing category. Devastatingly good.

As for the gay overtones, I think it's really pretty obvious - an additional person hiding in the cubicle, "peeing" and washing hands for five minutes? I would conclude that it is very much cruising that Tsai Ming Liang was trying to put forth, but the interesting twist is that most of the participants are probably not even there...

And the title of the movie is interesting too. I felt that it probably came from the saying "all good things come to an end," but it can also be from another saying "lingering spirits," both of which makes sense in the context of the film.

And watching both Bu Jian (The Missing) and Goodbye Dragon Inn together, I felt that although Bu Jian (The Missing) is not bad, Goodbye Dragon Inn is far, far, far more superior a movie. I'm so glad the Singapore International Film Festival 2004 ended on such a high note for me...