Friday, September 15, 2006

Bu San

(81 minutes)(2004)(Not rated)

Tonight, taking a break from doing nothing, I decided to take a peek at a new movie I just added to my vast collection of movies. It's a foreign movie and I had no idea what it was about. The English translated name is "Goodbye Dragon Inn." It is always fun to peek into a movie without any prejudged idea of what it could be. Of course, I had my share of unpleasant surprises, and forced to watch movies of dubious quality. Once in a while, it's a good one, but that is rare. This one? I am still trying to decide. You be the judge!

After about 15 minutes into the movie, I thought there was something wrong with my DVD player. It seems like the playing is in slow motion. This can't be. What is this? Time to look it up on the internet. I like a trusted movie site (imdb) that seems to have detailed information about any movie that you would ever need to look up, so I go there to get this:

The subject of cinema, of the mix of loneliness and connection that is part of being in a movie audience, is the concern of this sad, beautiful, minimalist composition by Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang (WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?). The action takes place Inside a Taipei movie theater operated by a lonely clubfooted woman (Shiyang Chi-Chen) whose slow steps echo through the empty corridors and aisles, as if measuring out the feet of celluloid that make up the film itself...

Not Rated

Theatrical: Sep 17, 2004
Video: Feb 15, 2005


Foreign Films, Chinese/Mandarin, Action, Theatrical Release, Cinema, Film About Film

So, for a start, this is saying the movie is good! Really? I couldn't tell and I am watching it! So, the next natural question is: What does "Rotten Tomatoes" say about Bu San?

To my big surprise, it got a high rating: 81% as it is rated a rare "Fresh" as in "Not Rotten." Wow! There is something I am missing here!

Fresh 81% by Rotten Tomatoes

So, let me try to convey to you a taste of this strange movie in the hope that you would be incited to look for it and watch it yourself, if you would dare. In this movie, one character is a woman (later it turns out that she is quite attractive looking) with a pronounced impediment in her right leg so she walks very slowly in the manner a person walks with a prosthetic limb.

In one of the scenes, I sat to endure the director showing this woman walking up three flights of stairs, one slow step at a time to end up following a long corridor and finally disappearing behind a door whose shot lingers for more than a minute. Each scene cut must last about 2 to 3 minutes.

But that was not all, in a following scene, the movie shows a wide shot of the inside of the theater which is the main subject of the movie where the woman starts at the X. Step by step, she stumps to A, turns left to B and proceeds to C, all in one LONG static shot.

This first scene starts at 02 minutes 19 seconds...

This scene above ends at 06 minutes 53 seconds so this long static shot lasted a whopping 4 minutes 34 seconds!

Then the frame above is shown another 3 - 4 minutes where NOTHING happens. I thought my player froze!

With infinite patience, I was very curious to see how all this turns out, so I sat through this movie in its entirety. The end, after 81 minutes, was worth it and I was rewarded with a nice song that ended the ordeal. If you listen to the sound track of the song Chong Feng rendered by Ge Lan below, you can get a flavor of the pace of this strange movie by noting that the song began after almost a minute of rain audio.

The words are from the subtitle, and I hope that it does say what the song says...

Chong Feng
by Ge Lan

I remember
Under the moon
I remember
Before the flowers
So much of the past
Lingers in my heart
Half is bitter
Half is sweet
Year after year
I can't let go
Can't let go
Can't let go
Under the moon
Before the flowers
Can't let go
Can't let go
I'll remember with longing forever

I remember
Under the moon...

Amazingly, the first line of dialogue appears 40 minutes into the film. For me, this is a first.

Below is what the page from "Rotten Tomatoes" web in which expert movie critics opined about "Goodbye Dragon Inn:"

A droll gem that celebrates movie love with feeling and deadpan humor.

It certainly stands as Tsai's most skillful work -- he manages to keep viewer attention for a full 81 minutes with a minimum of action and dialogue.

A movie of elegant understatement and considerable formal intelligence.
This is one of the most gorgeous and maturely composed movies you'll see this year.

Its simple, meticulously composed frames are full of mystery and feeling; it's an action movie that stands perfectly still. What really sticks with you is the picture's aura of twilight vibrancy, and the deep pleasure Tsai takes in savoring subtle emotions that other filmmakers might not even register.

Though the film's deliberate pace is sometimes frustrating, it casts a quietly powerful spell and the memory of its images lingers provocatively long after they've flickered into darkness. A masterful meditation on both the singular and collective experience of going to the movies. Tsai's elegy to a now-departed Taipei theater is also a beautiful love poem to the movies.

Ming-liang writes an eloquent billet-doux that has the heart-felt sensibilities and emotions of what loving and living with film are about.

Hypnotic in effect but ultimately rather irritating, Goodbye, Dragon Inn will entice those viewers who like oblique, allusive cinema.

This is a funny, sad, stunningly smart movie about the end of movies, made in Tsai's inimitable, unblinking style.

Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang's stunning "Goodbye, Dragon Inn," which takes place in a faded, decrepit Taipei movie palace on the night of its last-ever showing,

"Goodbye, Dragon Inn" is virtually wordless
The theater in which Tsai filmed the movie -- it's called the Fu-Ho
"Goodbye, Dragon Inn" is openly elegiac, and yet it's far from depressing.

Bu San won quite a few awards, so the critics were not alone in their rave:

Special Jury Award
Chicago International Film Festival Gold Plaque
Chlotrudis Award
Golden Horse Award
Golden Tulip
Award of the City of Nantes
Venice Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize

I am quite puzzled and I know what I need to do: watch this movie a few more times. Do you believe me?

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