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“Goodbye, Dragon Inn” by Dir. Tsai Ming-liang Essay

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Updated: Jan 23rd, 2020


For numerous decades now, the creativity industry has been playing a significant role in shaping the socio-economic status of artisans involved in arts as well as the entire public.

For instance, movies have essentially improved the social and cultural lives of individuals globally, with most of them providing important lessons that viewers can emulate.

China, Japan, and Taiwan in specific have proven important in propelling the acting field by producing several series of movies that have gained global acceptance.

However, despite the increasing interest in acting and watching of movies and films, very little viewers understand the importance of lessons or can rarely identify the crucial aspects within movies.

This aspect can explain the reason behind the sinking interest in several viewers, who are mainly unable to identify the rudimentary themes in different movies. Therefore, this essay seeks to explore the movie, Goodbye, Dragon Inn to establish lessons relevant to history and culture and to evaluate the mise en scène aspect.

Overview of the Movie

Goodbye, Dragon Inn is quite a mind-numbing movie for the socially upright.

Tsai Ming-liang, who is one of the most acknowledged and celebrated Taiwanese film directors alongside other famous acquaintances in movie directing like Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien developed and directed this chef-d’oeuvre.

The film’s action occurred entirely inside the Fu-Ho Grand, a spacious metropolitan stronghold that directors introduced during its undisturbed days in the film’s preamble. Tsai wrote the movie to commemorate one of the Taiwanese best film directors, King Hu, who passed on in the year 1997.

The movie begins with an introduction of Dragon Inn, one of the 1966 masterpieces produced by Hu, to provide a background into the movie. Tai actually wanted to demonstrate real social issues that are affecting the Taiwanese, Chinese, and Japanese, among other European countries.

Goodbye, Dragon Inn portrays antisocial behaviors including homosexuality, which has been the most religious and politically contested issue in the contemporary times.

Goodbye, Dragon Inn film takes roughly 90 minutes of action, beginning with a humble introduction of the Dragon Inn film that hit the Taiwanese acting scenes way back in late 1960s.

There exists extensive use dialogue techniques applied by Hu in the film Dragon Inn, with a resound of the old movie breaking the silence of a diminishing audience that seems extremely bored. The old and unattractive theatre seems disgusting to film lovers and thus there is hesitance in the lobby.

Before the interested viewers can find their seats for comfort into the theatre, a torrential rain goes down at the entrance of the theatre. The heavy downpour forces the present movie lovers to seek shelter in the cinema hall to evade the harsh weather.

People in the audience noisily crackdown watermelon seeds and start moving around aimlessly. The atmosphere seems strange as male fans creep in the dark revealing how the theatre has become a meeting point for homosexuals.

A female film ticket collector roams around the theatre up and down issuing tickets to the viewers. As the audience commences with their normal film watching activities, a young Japanese boy emerges into the Fu-Hu Cinema house seeking for a homosexual partner in the name of seeking for shelter from the stormy weather.

The young man notices a little audience with men who seemingly appear more interested in each other than the movie itself. Apart from the dirty happenings at the theatre, there are people displaying traits that do not match the social norms expected out of them.

In noticing the presence of men interested in other men, the young man hovers around the cinema hall seeking for attention. Generally, the movie demonstrates homosexuality as its main theme with some Japanese men getting along with this presumably antisocial behavior.

Interesting Parts of the Movie

Goodbye, Dragon Inn film has very few interesting parts as the movie entirely presents antisocial behaviors, despite being Tsai’s most obviously sentimental work of his era.

However, the most interesting part in the movie stands out when Tai presents the old Dragon Inn movie into Hu theatre as a way of showing or remarking the end of the most favorite movie by Hu.

Despite being painful and quite antisocial, to think about the traits portrayed by the juveniles in the theatre, especially the young man who arrives in the cinema looking for fellow gays, this part remains very catchy in the movie.

Entering the auditorium, the young man’s mind is not triggered by the events taking place in the film, but he rather focuses his attention to his fellow gays, who seem interested and attracted to each other.

Instead of noticing the presence of his age mates or his elderly grandfather, the boy gets more overwhelmed to spare his time with people above his age.

Another interesting part, which makes me wonder why human beings are most attracted and eager to achieve what really does not belong to them, is the ticket collection part. Goodbye Dragon Inn is an epitome of movies with funny characters portraying optimism towards dirty sexual behaviors.

The Fu Ho’s crippled female ticket taker is anxiously eager to express her innermost feelings to a young man (projectionist) whom she has been secretly admiring. She spares part of her supper for the projectionist in a bid to make him aware of what she actually feels about him oblivious of the fact that the man hates her deeply.

Being in fantasies with her self, the young woman moves up and down the booth, which is the position of the projectionist, forgetting her task of dealing with tickets. Dragon Inn ends as the woman slums the door into the theatre from her cubicle only to find that the audience has departed.

Relevance to History

Taiwanese people have been associating ghosts with ill or evil things. Historically, dramas concentrated on the character of the dragon to signify evil, thus portraying historical event or biography associated with a real person’s actions.

These series of drama touch on the historical view of Eastern and Western civilization, including mainly Central Asia, East Asia, and India. The use of ghostly figures in the movie communally portrays the ill character of leaders within the historical Asian or even individuals within the society with similar behaviors.

The Taiwanese emerged from historical injustices after going through the era of colonization by the Dutch, the Mainland Chinese, and Spanish with popular dynasties including the Ming and Qing Dynasties demonstrating their political prowess to overcome other colonists in Taiwan.

Dragon horror movies normally link the history with the dark hours that Taiwanese underwent during the colonization period especially during the World War II when Kuomintang (KMT) became the governing policy in Taiwan, and it ended in a great massacre.

Historically, both communities and religious organizations had seriously engaged in antisocial behaviors, including homosexuality, which covers gay and lesbianism.

However, gays and lesbians have consistently insisted that the Taiwanese and the Chinese government should acknowledge homosexuality as a rightful behavior and that government laws should consider this right in their constitutionality.

History behind the rising of homosexuality in Taiwan and China dates back to several years during Zhou dynasty around 500 BCE. The Han dynasty, which served between 260 BCE – 220 CE, adopted this tradition with leaders in the empires practicing this awful act.

The male love pattern persisted throughout the subsequent dynasties with the practice rising to great fame across the world. Currently, the practice is persistent with gays seeking justice through the courts and holding woeful nude processions across Taiwanese major cities and towns.

Taiwan Pride parades in Taipei are the talk of the town and the globe with devoutly Buddhists pushing for gays’ weddings.

Relevance to Society

Following the actions demonstrated in the Goodbye, Dragon Inn film, the society has lessons to learn. As explained in the context of homosexuality, this behavior is unacceptable in the society as numerous religions and communities have significantly opposed it.

Skewed towards traditional, religious, and communal acceptable social norms, there has been persistence in disregarding this behavior. The society of nowadays has identified the dangers involved in engaging in risky sexual habits, especially amongst the youth, who have become a challenge to the society.

Gay and lesbian activities have received constant condemnation, since they pose a threat to personal and public health as a spate of sexually transmitted diseases is rapidly increasing at an alarming rate.

A continuum of healthcare activities across the world has been warning individuals on the rising sexual behaviors that are becoming a challenge to the public health. Homosexuality, as portrayed in the film, remains unacceptable behavior in several communities.

Politically, homosexuality is capturing the interest of politicians to engage in public discussions over the despicable act that has continued to rise in the Taiwanese society. This homophobia culture is threatening to delete the social-cultural landscape of the Taiwanese traditions and replace it with the modern culture that has negative virtues.

Tsai’s demonstration of gay manners in the Fu Ho Theatre becomes a strong political matter that triggers politicization of the social misconduct of the communities revealed in the film.

Despite proving significant in portraying the actual situation in some Taiwan community members, especially of the youthful age, the cast triggers societal conflicts that dissatisfy the public image on the film.

With no inspirational actors who at least could neutralize the situation, especially for the youth to emulate, several communities in Taiwan must have disregarded this film. Socially, the film calls for communal and religious leaders to seek possible solutions to help instill acceptable behaviors amongst the youth.

Mise En Scène

The stage setting aspect in Goodbye, Dragon Inn is quite relevant in the analysis of this film. The mise en scene film aspect conventionally describes the techniques used in describing the design of a film or movie. Mise en scene actually describes the visual theme, or merely anything, that appears on the screen with its arrangement.

In an attempt to express the theme carried in the movie, mise en scene also portrays significant areas of concern that viewers always find interesting and educative. The aspect also demonstrates how the cinematic technologies have evolved to form films and movies that are more presentable.

In the film, there are several aspects of mise en scene unveiled. In the context of Goodbye, Dragon Inn, this section reviews the major setting features eminent in the movie including the films set design, lighting, space, and costume among other relevant features describable in the film.

Set Design and Lighting

Precisely, set design is a feature within the mise en scene film aspect that defines the setting of the scene, especially how the objects appear in the cinema. The set design seeks to elaborate on the aspect of visibility.

The set design eminent in the Goodbye, Dragon Inn film reveals that the movie producer and the director used both set and location shooting that allowed the film to display different images on the screen.

The location shooting is also applicable in the film where the camera concentrates on individual characters, which carry the main theme of the movie. The aspect of the quality of light used in the film is also important.

Normally, the concentration, quality, and direction can significantly influence the value of a film, which further influences the understanding of the audience. Darkness in the Goodbye, Dragon Inn film as used depicts the presence of ghostly images as darkness in normally scary.

Space and Costume

These two features in the mise en scene film technique significantly influence the understanding of characters, actions, themes, and moods portrayed in the film by the audience. Space defines the size of the film and it normally affects the viewers’ perceptions and the reading of the film as well.

On the other hand, the features incorporated in the dressing code, which underscores the costumes used in shooting, generally influences the movie viewers.

Taking a deep look into the space captured in the camera, the production consistently concentrates on the corridors and stairs and one wonders the importance of such features. However, the producer ensures that features in the foreground of the movie provide the insight needed to deliver the theme of the film.

The costumes used are significant aspects of mise en scene especially in the movie where the general theme of homosexuality lingers in the minds of the viewers, as inner wears revealed the whole scenario.


Movies have continuously portrayed the real character of human nature in the rapidly growing world. Goodbye, Dragon Inn is a boring movie for those who are socially decent as watching the movie reveals nasty antisocial behaviors. Homosexuality, being the current socially and politically contested subject, has been the theme in the film.

The film reveals how people, especially teenagers have forgotten important social norms and adopted westernized culture into Taiwan communities.

This aspect is evident as the contemporary world is facing the challenges of making the youth to understand that homosexuality is unacceptable, with several homos fighting to legalize same-sex marriages across the globe.

In the context of the technique used in the film, mise en scene portrays four distinct features in the film, viz. light, set design, space, and costume, which significantly influence the viewers’ understanding of the actions, themes, mood, and characters used in the film.

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