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goodbye, goodbye dragon inn

C-Prints, 50cm x 60cm, 2007



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In this project, I adopt mise en scène as a photographic strategy for revealing images buried in Tsai Ming-Liang’s film, Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003).


I see three layers of pictures in Goodbye Dragon Inn. The first relates to a scene in the famous martial arts film Dragon Inn (1966) by King Hu . The scene of swordplay is set in 1457 A.D. during the Ming Dynasty. Two men are fighting on screen, while the narrator explains the historical background to the story.


The second layer consists of images from Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003) by Tsai Ming-Liang. The key roles are played by actors Lee Kang-Sheng, Miao Tien and Chen Shiang-Chyi, all of whom also appeared in Tsai’s previous film What Time Is It There? The story is about the run-down Fu-Ho cinema in Taipei, where, on the very last night of business, the classic martial arts film Dragon Inn is screened. The film begins with images taken from Dragon Inn, before revealing that the story takes place in a quiet but packed-out cinema. Chen plays a crippled ticket woman, sitting in her small and dim cashier’s booth. She holds a pink Chinese pancake, symbolising blessings and good fortune. She carefully cuts it in half, hobbles up and down the back hallways, opens and closes doors, searching all the while for the absent projectionist, Lee. When a Japanese tourist enters the story shortly thereafter, it appears that there are actually only a few audience-members in the movie theatre – and rather than watching the film, they seem more interested in smoking, eating, wandering around and cruising. At the end of the story, two familiar faces are shown concentrating on the film: the actors Miao-Tian and Chun-Shih, who starred in the 1966 film Dragon Inn. Thirty years have passed, and neither of them is as young and active as he was on the screen. Sitting alone in the empty cinema, Miao weeps and says, ‘No one goes to the cinema anymore’.


In the third layer of pictures, I see images from Dragon Inn and Goodbye Dragon Inn playing on the screen of my laptop. I see my room in London, a personal and intimate space. There is a gap between the images of Dragon Inn projected on the cinema screen in Tsai’s film, , the images of Goodbye Dragon Inn playing on the laptop screen, and the image of my room that frames the screen. My perception of the film has been mediated and layered by my memories. For example, I recognise the cinema from What Time Is It There? I see not only Lee, Miao and Chen as they play out their roles in in Goodbye Dragon Inn, but also their performances and characters in Tsai’s other films.


Images are juxtaposed; there is a film within the cinema, a cinema within my room, and my memories within the film. I ‘play with’ these images in the following photographic project, Goodbye, Goodbye Dragon Inn.






© 2014 YinHua Chu

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