I watched Dragon Inn (1967) at home Friday night. On Saturday I was the only person who bought a ticket to Goodbye, Dragon Inn which is entirely set in a nearly-empty movie theater that is playing Dragon Inn… then I was the only person at West Side Story (2021), which is of course a remake of the 1961 movie. So, both of the newer movies are resurrecting the 60’s in their own way, both feature people watching their younger selves (actors from Dragon Inn are in the Goodbye audience, and 2021 Rita Moreno has a big scene with Anita, Rita Moreno’s 1961 role)… and both feature coin-operated fortune-telling machines.
Goodbye was my first Tsai film, watched originally on a blurry DVD, which inspired my first pre-blog web writeup. This week I’ve seen it twice – or, one a a half times, the second being a Metrograph stream in the background while I read Nick Pinkerton’s book on the film (and on so many related topics). Reading while the movie plays feels like a good idea, not only with the other Fireflies/Decadent books, but with books in general, which I should maybe always be reading with a Tsai film playing behind them. This movie seemed so slow and empty twenty years ago, and now it seems very full – and I wrote “so many cuts” in my notes, so my definition of “slow” is obviously very different now.
Apichatpong is a big fan, and I thought of his actress Jen when the crippled ticket taker was making her way around the theater. The first words aren’t spoken until halfway through, and they’re about ghosts. Later, our Japanese cruiser encounters a seed-chewing woman who may be a ghost, and he runs straight out of the movie. On the same day I watched this movie where a guy is confronted by a loud eater, a Florida cop was acquitted for killing a guy who threw popcorn during a movie argument.
“No one comes to the movies anymore.” Surprised at how small Lee Kang-sheng’s projectionist role is here, and how much of the movie takes place not in the screening room but the surrounding hallways. Despite being set in the back alleys of a haunted crumbling building, it’s at least as gorgeous as the King Hu film, probably more so.