Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)

Genres - Comedy, Comedy Drama, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Manners, Showbiz Drama, Supernatural Drama, Workplace Comedy  |   Release Date - Sep 17, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - Taiwan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Tom Vick

With Goodbye, Dragon Inn, Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang distills his minimalist aesthetic to its very essence. Previous efforts like What Time Is It There? look almost baroque by comparison. There's barely any dialogue, and almost all of it consists of non sequiturs. It's essentially a feature-length experimental film that plays with cinematic language and history in ultimately very rewarding ways. The jokes -- and there are many -- are extremely subtle. They arise from Tsai's playful manipulation of sound, space, and duration. Tsai is a master at placing the camera at just the right place and letting scenes play out in front of it for just the right amount of time. A character in the film claims the movie theater is haunted, but the film, as a whole, is haunted, not only by King Hu (Miao Tien and Shi Jun, the heroes of the original Dragon Inn, play ghostly, forgotten figures in Tsai's film, lurking in the darkness, watching their younger selves onscreen), but by the great French director Jacques Tati, as well. Goodbye, Dragon Inn plays like a Tati film in slow motion. In Tsai's hands, the smallest of gestures become sublime comedy, such as when two men try clumsily to squeeze through a doorway simultaneously, or an indescribably weird scene involving urinals, cigarettes, and lots of awkwardness. The net effect of Tsai's purposefully slow, meticulously crafted style is a film of lingering images, a mixture of humor and melancholy that stays in the memory long after it's over.