Dir. Tsai Ming-Liang
2003, Taiwan, 82 min
Mandarin, Min Nan, Japanese with English subtitles
Like the Royal Theater in The Last Picture Show and the title movie house in Cinema Paradiso, the Fu-Ho is shutting down for good. A palace with seemingly mile-wide rows of red velvet seats, the likes of which you’ve seen only in your most nostalgic dreams (though they’re beginning to fray), the Fu-Ho’s valedictory screening is King Hu’s 1967 wuxia epic Dragon Inn, playing to a motley smattering of spectators. The standard grievances persist: patrons snack noisily and remove their shoes, treating this temple of cinema like their living room, but as we watch the enveloping film deep into a pandemic, the sense that moviegoing as a communal experience is slipping away takes on a powerful and painful resonance. Yet Goodbye, Dragon Inn, released nearly two decades ago by the internationally acclaimed Tsai Ming-liang is too multifaceted to collapse into a simple valentine to the age of pre-VOD cinephilia. A minimalist where King Hu was a maximalist, preferring long, static shots and sparse use of dialogue, Tsai rises to the narrative challenges he sets for himself and offers the slyest, most delicate of character arcs. By the time the possibility arises that the theater is haunted, we’ve already identified it as a space outside of time—indeed, two stars of Hu’s original opus, Miao Tien and Shih Chun, watch their younger selves with tears in their eyes, past and present commingling harmoniously and poignantly.
A Metrograph Pictures release.
For Asian Heritage Month, the Dave Barber Cinematheque presents Dancing Swords: The Wuxia films of King Hu – showcasing five of King Hu’s exhilarating wuxia epics – Dragon Inn (1967), A Touch of Zen (1971), The Fate of Lee Khan (1973), Legend of the Mountain (1979), and Raining in the Mountain (1979). Known for his genre-defining swordplay films that encapsulated breathtaking cinematography, graceful action choreography, enigmatic warrior heroines, densely structured mise-en-scenes, and existential transcendence, we celebrate Hu’s visionary artistry and formal innovations that raised the bar for the wuxia film and influenced the work of contemporary Hong Kong and Taiwanese directors such as Ang Lee, Wong Kar-wai, and Tsai Ming-liang – whose film Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) will screen adjacent to Hu’s five film retrospective.
Generously sponsored by IATSE 856 Manitoba.
Has a quiet, cumulative magic, whose source is hard to identify. Its simple, meticulously composed frames are full of mystery and feeling; it’s an action movie that stands perfectly still.
– Dana Stevens, The New York Times
Tsai Ming-Liang always makes you feel that there’s a world of life beyond his movies — a world populated by ghosts that are as real as we are.
– Stephanie Zacharek, Salon