Taking refuge from the pouring rain, a Japanese tourist enters a run down cinema screening King hu's 'Dragon Inn'. Most of the audience, though, are not interested in what's happening onscreen.
Taiwanese helmer Tsai Ming-Liang has never felt the need to hurry his mischievous takes on the increasing pointlessness of modern existence.
Those unaccustomed to his musings might feel time hanging heavy in this comedy of loneliness, which recalls Jaques Tati with its democratic takes and gradual evolution of what turn out to be frustratingly mundane events. Yet this is a beautifully composed, near-silent ode to a bygone era of filmmaking and movie-going.
Achingly melancholic, it laments both the passing of cinema as a communal experience and the increasing alienation of urban individuals, as a club-footed box office clerk's bid for romance proves as futile as a cruising Japanese gay man's forelorn search for consolation.
For those not adverse to looking at the darker facets of humanity, the rewards are there in what is ultimately a beautifully crafted piece of work. Wry and haunting.