An excerpt from the booklet essay by Tony Rayns

Tsai Ming-Liang has long been interested in ghosts. He seems to be somewhat superstitious himself, and he’s fascinated by the superstitions which permeate Chinese societies. Back in 1992 his first feature Rebels of the Neon God (Qing Shaonian Nezha) showed a crumbling tenement in Taipei with an elevator which always stopped and opened its doors at the fourth floor, whether that button had been pushed or not. Residents consequently referred to the fourth floor as “haunted”. The root of the superstition is a homophone: the word for ‘four’ (si) sounds exactly like the word for ‘death’. Some Chinese elevators don’t have a ‘4’ button at all for that very reason; some also omit a ‘13’ in deference to western superstitions.

We should start by noting that Goodbye, Dragon Inn is something of a stand-alone title in Tsai’s filmography. Since he moved from television into film-making, Tsai has liked working with the same core of actors: Lee Kang-Sheng, of course, as his protagonist (usually called Xiao Kang, a diminutive of his real name), Chen Hsiang-Chyi as his potential love interest, Miao Tien as Xiao Kang’s father, Lu Yi-Ching as his mother. The regular appearances of this ‘stock company’ has given the films since The River (Heliu, 1996) something of the character of a series, and Tsai has played on that by providing teasing narrative continuities from film to film. For example: in What Time is it There? (Ni Neibian Ji Dian, 2001) Hsiang-Chyi buys a dual-time-zone watch from Xiao Kang before she moves to Paris. Then, in the short film The Skywalk is Gone (Tianqiao Bu Jianle, 2002), Hsiang-Chyi returns to Taipei and looks for Xiao Kang on the pedestrian bridge where she bought the watch, only to find that it’s been demolished; Xiao Kang has meanwhile given up selling watches and auditions to act in porn movies. And then, in The Wayward Cloud (Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun, 2003), set in a time of extreme drought, Hsiang-Chyi rents an apartment and struggles to crack the lock on her suitcase while Xiao Kang is deeply exhausted by his sexual athletics in porn movies. Each of the films has its own integrity, but there’s also a playful sense that they form a serial.

Made between What Time is it There? and The Wayward Cloud, this film stands apart from those continuities. Lee Kang-Sheng and Chen Hsiang-Chyi are still in central roles, both without dialogue (this time she has the crush on him), Miao Tien turns up as a member of the audience, taking his grandson to see a movie that he acted in 36 years earlier, and two of Tsai’s regular guest stars appear in cameos: Yang Kuei-Mei is a woman in the audience noisily snacking on baked watermelon seeds and Chen Chao-Jung (the object of Xiao Kang’s crush in Tsai’s first two films) pops up at the mid-point to smoke a cigarette and tell the Japanese kid that the theatre is haunted. (Aside from King Hu’s soundtrack, it’s the first line of dialogue spoken in the film.) But none of them is in the role or narrative configuration that Tsai usually puts them in, and Goodbye, Dragon Inn is anyway focused less on narrative or performance than on mood, space and duration. If it didn’t have so much to offer as a theatre-of-cruelty comedy and as a lament for things we have lost, it could easily pass as Tsai’s most formalist film. It certainly goes further than his earlier films in long, hard looks at people and places.


Tony Rayns' complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.

Disc Info

Taiwan, 2003
Goodbye, Dragon Inn: 82 mins
Special feature: 72 minutes
Sound (Blu-Ray):
5.1 DTS-HD master audio /
2.0 Stereo LPCM (48k/24-bit)
Sound (DVD): Stereo 2.0 /
5.1 Dolby surround
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Language: Mandarin
Subtitles: English

Blu-ray: BD50 / 1080 / 24fps Region ABC (Region Free)
DVD: PAL / DVD9 / 25fps Region 0 (Region Free)

DVD £12.99 / Blu-Ray: £19.99
Release Date: 23 Nov 2020


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