- Ming-liang Tsai’s sixth feature is his shortest at 82 minutes, almost entirely silent (no more than a few lines of dialogue in the film and then you overhear the dialogue from the 1967 Dragon Inn which is the film playing at the theater), little to no camera movements.
- Ming-liang Tsai’s film here is an impressive formal construction, and I’ll borrow from the great Andrew Sarris in the Observer when he says “The real star of the movie is the doomed movie house itself”. Ming-liang Tsai uses that setting, a dilapidated movie house, hallways, basement, projection room as a character. There is constant rain (like that of a doomed fable, Armageddon) like almost all of his films—and these are characters that can’t connect with each other- true to his other works as an auteur
- Ming-liang Tsai thinks this is his best, or favorite—or at least did in 2012 when he voted for himself with this film as a top 10 film for Sight and Sound
- Much to say about cinema, the viewing experience (both collectively and alone)
- It takes confident as a director (Spike Lee has done it a few times) to open your film with footage from another film as Ming-liang Tsai does here
- The detail in the mise-en-scene is admirable, rain, hallways with dim green lighting, and flickering lights. Green paint, Shiang-chyi Chen (simply, “ticket woman”) is drinking from a green drink, shadows and fans
- This is the same theater where Ming-liang Tsai shot a few scenes in What Time Is It There? in 2001.
- There are silent comic sketches that would make Chaplin or Tati proud—as one character tries to watch the movie he gets some feed in his face, loud eating from a row back—and though it is the same joke from What Time Is It There? – in a nearly empty theater some stranger sits next to him (this happens at the bathroom stall as well).
There are silent comic sketches that would make Chaplin or Tati proud
- First dialogue is “Do you know this theater is haunted?” which comes 44 minutes in
- Lingering long takes of wide shots of the theater and empty hallways.
Lingering long takes of wide shots of the theater and empty hallways
- The pacing, it has a great rhythm like all of his works- Ozu, Jarmusch—even with the ticket woman she has a limp and the pace seems to fit her labored walking –
- Ming-liang Tsai is, in many ways, an Ozu acolyte like Hou Hsiao-Hsien. I hate to compare works like this but it is worth noting that HHH’s best works (including 2003’s Café Lumiere) just has much more to often in terms of the beauty of the individual compositions. Far too often we’re lingering on unimpressive images– a lack of awe. Roy Andersson is another comparison and Ming-liang Tsai’s cinematic paintings simply don’t compare.
- Having said that- the final held frame at 77 minutes is a stunner (top of page)- the best in the film. The ticket woman leaves, hobbling in the rain with the green lighting backdrop she moves all the way through the frame like the final shot of The Third Man.
- Highly Recommend