Susan Sontag wrote that movie-going is an essential part of the experience we want from film – the experience of surrendering to and being transported by what’s on the screen. It’s not just a question of the size of the screen; to be properly “kidnapped” in this way by a movie, she writes, “you have to be in a movie theatre, seated in the dark among anonymous strangers.” It’s never the same at home.
Now that there are so many other ways of watching films, the centrality of movie-going to the movie experience is sadly much diminished. This beautiful, mournful 2003 film, a kind of Taiwanese Last Picture Show, is an affectionate tribute to the film medium, cinemas and the pleasures of cinema-going.
The Fu-Ho cinema in Taipei is shutting down. One rainy night, this shabby temple unspools its last attraction to a handful of devotees – the 1966 sword-fighting classic Dragon Inn. A series of encounters play out among the audience and the staff, with the action of the film and the film-within-the-film subtly intertwined. By the end, we’re left with the suggestion that this collection of solitary, all-but-silent characters may be of the ghostly variety.
Taiwan 2003 Tsai Ming-liang 82 min 35mm presentation