During the last night for a closing movie theater a few patrons come in out of the rain to watch the screening of a classic film.
I've had "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" sitting around for the longest time but I never could find the courage to watch it because I knew, ultimately, I would be watching a movie about nothing. Not a slam against Ming-lian Tsai or the film, but that is what the movie is about: nothing. The movie's concept is about the last days of a large capacity movie theater playing a classic Taiwanese movie, "Dragon Inn", and about the few people who populate the theater during it's last night. I'm not sure if you could call it a plot but that's what the movie is about and since it's not about anything other than people in a theater which is why it feels like it's about nothing.
Like I said, I'm not slamming the movie. Even though I'm sure quite a few people believe I am because I have the audacity to say that it's meaningless. It would be easy to interpret the few characters and the incidents that occur within the movie to be these great and deep metaphors about life, love, connection or death. Personally, I found more interest in the nothingness. There are less than a dozen lines of dialogue spoken in the film so what we get to do is spend time watching nameless souls meandering about in a massive theater. "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" is actually a rather boring movie.
It's filled with long, static shots of tedious motions for these characters: The ticket woman spends her time wandering up and down corridors, doing her regular duties (checking bathrooms, flushing toilets, cleaning the theater, etc.) and trying to locate the projectionist. And it's the same for the young Japanese male character. You often here people comment about his attempt and finding a homosexual encounter at the theater. Yes, that is what the character's "journey" is about, but still, all you are doing is watching this young man awkwardly shift about in a theater while trying to indicate to other patrons that he's looking for more.
The handful of characters do become interesting in their own right because you are watching the journeys they are embarking on, even if the journey is just going from one room in a theater to another. Will the ticket woman ever find the projectionist so she can share with him her steamed bun (that's not a sexual euphemism either, pervs)? Will the young man find someone to help him indulge in his fantasy? Is the theater haunted? Will the girl eating peanuts manage to find her missing shoe in the dark?! It's a movie about nothing and because it's about nothing it's a boring movie, but because it's unexciting, it somehow becomes interesting to watch. Which I think is because there is nothing going on in the film other than reality. What occurs within the movie of "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" is fascinating because it's an almost perfect reflection of life. Life and existence is extremely boring, whether anyone admits it or not, and one of the ways we help cure that boredom is by watching movies that display these grand stories and life style that we will never experience. We are watching characters do exactly what we are doing.
Now, I'm not saying that's what the point of the movie or that's the message that it's looking to deliver. This is only my perception of the movie and the reason why I managed to actually like and enjoy such a tedious and dull movie. It's not a film I could watch repeatedly but it is one I can appreciate because you don't often see a movie willing to embrace something as monotonous as everyday life. As uninteresting as everything is in "Goodbye, Dragon Inn", it was a good movie that managed to have high and low emotional points while doing very little. It also managed to be visually engaging at times even though the camera never moves. It's as if you were sitting at a window overlooking a city; watching the people scurry about. I want to recommend "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" but it is such a challenging movie that I can only imagine that a handful of people could appreciate and enjoy such a film.