Perhaps Tsai’s lightest and most thematically distilled and minimalist film to date, Goodbye Dragon Inn pares the dialogue to two brief exchanges that reflect the film’s pervasive sentiment of disconnection: the first, with a displaced Japanese tourist (Kiyonobu Mitamura) cursorily on the lookout for opportunities for an anonymous sexual encounter in the dilapidated, near empty movie palace that is playing King Hu’s classic martial arts film, Dragon Gate Inn, and the second, featuring the original Hu actors Tien Miao and Jun Shi, now middle-aged, as they meet by chance after the film’s conclusion. Intimations of ghosts inhabiting the theater are physically reflected in the isolated souls of a beautiful ticket booth operator and bathroom attendant (Chen Shiang-chyi) – seemingly trapped in a dead-end job by her physical disability – and a projectionist (Lee Kang-sheng), who perform the empty motions of their tasks in a solemn, silent ritual of their seeming existential limbo. Elegantly filmed in rich, vibrant colors against the darkness of the desolate theater and infused with Tsai’s idiosyncratically understated, deadpan humor, Goodbye Dragon Inn is a poetic and elegiac exposition on longing, synchronicity, nostalgia, and the death of cinema.
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