Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Movies: Bu San (Goodbye, Dragon Inn)

I had this DVD in my possession before I finally watched it, on my laptop, in bed, the motor’s heat radiating into my thighs as dusk fell to dark out the picture window in front of me. Ironically, this ultra-intimate viewing seemed ideal for this slow and quiet film, a kind of Tarkovsky treatment of a Wong Kar-wai subject, in which a semi-incapacitated young woman drags her leg down long hallways and an isolated young man, afflicted with either Asperger’s or latent homosexuality, sits uncomfortably in a mostly-empty movie theater, always surprisingly near to the few other moviegoers. It’s ironic, of course, because the film is about a movie theater, its big, vacuous space, a vaguely unpleasant cavity between damp concrete slabs, as so much of China seemed to be when I was there (and when I procured this DVD, which I did not watch until now).

Tsai Ming-liang is known for these long, quiet shots, which make us as uncomfortable as the woman with the limp, or the man subjected to the sound of a vixen in the row behind him, shelling sunflower seeds between her teeth. Whether one finds this titillating or tedious depends on one’s patience and state of mind; I’m certain that, had I watched this film with someone else in the room, or in a theatre filled with shifting bodies, I would have loathed it. Tsai’s melting reds and greens are as beautiful as Wong's, but In the Mood For Love, with its similarly quiet and repetitive sequences, draws us to its characters (enabled by its haunting string theme, which, though it repeats constantly, never wears). We don’t feel much of anything for Tsai’s characters—they are pariahs, really, which is why they are there in the first place, cleaning out the stalls of the bathroom, lurking in the hallways, waiting in the projection room, dreamless, deadened. They are unpleasant people, detached from their own longing.

1 comment:

Joe Sylvers said...

I agree with you on most of this, especailly the drearyness and the emotional distance of the characters, but there is a scene were two actors who are in the movie are shown tearing up while watching it, and they meet brefily after the films and shake hands. It was one of the very few warm scenes that show how movies connect people. Nice review, its a good film for rainy days.