《有谁在云路上飞,在云路下也飞》Who Flies Above and Below the Clouds?

《有谁在云路上飞,在云路下也飞》

崔子恩

 

Who Flies Above and Below the Clouds?

Cui Zi’en

 

1, 云引

 

汤尼﹒雷恩(Tony Rayns)在径直把片名<浮云>翻译为Zero Thousand Li Under the Clouds and Moon,用典40年代<八千里路云和月>.<浮云>发生地之一是世博会期间的新上海. 王为一导演<八千里路云和月>的发生地是国共日三方角力的旧上海.都有国际背景.翻译延展了历史.

 

0千里和8千里,一个多,一个不仅是少,而且是无,可谓泄尽”浮云”天机.他为我的<少年花草黄>改过英文片名Withered Lads in a Blooming Season,也有典故和引文,此不赘述.

曾经,《我们害怕》和《目的地,上海》是一枚金币的正反两面,正面是价值,背面也是价值。但是,<浮云>浮现以后,金币的刃楞挥斩出圆弧的线条,把价值归0.

 

是否修平道路,还是随云路瞬息兴灭曲折反转?

 

0千里路,铺展在云层和星月之上.

 

是行走,还是云路本身就在高速掠走?

 

2,浮云

 

<浮云>原名<雍布拉康>.雍布拉康是坐落在西藏山南地区行署所在地泽当镇的觉姆扎西次日山头上的西藏第一座宫殿——雍布拉康,始建于公元前2世纪,距今已有2200年的历史。相传是苯教徒于公元前2世纪为第一代藏王聂赤赞普建造,后来成为松赞干布和文成公主在山南的夏宫,五世达赖时改为黄教寺院。

 

以下是出自导演的简短陈述-影片取材于真人真事,由三段构成:女作家是个孤儿,在一次采风中结识了嫁到青海玉树的上海女人,并认其为干妈。干妈在返回上海接受女作家采访时,突然坐化。遗嘱中,干妈请女作家将一串红念珠带回玉树,交给她的上师,以此来超度她的灵魂。大伟被医生告知得了癌症,只能活3个月。大学毕业时,大伟曾和同学翔子约定:在离开这个世界前,彼此一定要见一面。而此时,翔子已扎根玉树支教二十多年。小宝从小就对外星人和UFO感兴趣。一天晚上,外星人托梦给小宝,让他去玉树。外星人说在那里,他们会把小宝带离地球。三个人为了各自的目的,在唐蕃古道上相遇、相知、分离……沿途,青藏高原美幻绝伦的浮云如影随形,春风化雨般地洗涤着天地人间。

 

外景地从上海北京那样的核心都市,迁移到藏区,聚焦于雍布拉康.程裕苏在受访时说:藏区地广人稀,冬季时间长,人们之间缺乏交流的机会。静默修行,成为他们日常的一种生活方式。《浮云》这部影片中,就引入了静默禅。

 

区域广阔,时日漶漫,寺庙旗立.对应的是全球化,大都会,信息时代,信仰危机.影片的影像,坚定地把云层主角化.程裕苏的社会批判,尽在其中.当然,他不去多语,不去道破,以免自限于教派教义,自陷于繁复的老生常谈.

 

被导演剪辑掉的素材和隐藏起的剧情有:小宝外婆被风吹走的线索,女作家的作品,大伟和翔子的同性情谊.那些错综复杂的故事线,那些世间的轨迹,原本存在于<雍布拉康>中.云层浮起的时候,扫荡了这些似是而非的故事.

 

这部影片用4K的Red One拍摄.影片技法有很强烈的冲突.都市的人,戏剧的拍法,戏剧化存在;藏乡的人,纪录的拍法,真实的存在.寻找道路的人,貌似步履宁静,实则心事重重;祷告的人,步履蹒跚,内心却与高云一般澄净.高清凝止,对应了Red One的某些物理影像.

 

浮云若世,原本对应的是,浮生若梦.

 

汤尼﹒雷恩(Tony Rayns)说,这是一部佛学公路电影.我说,这是一部云路片.云路片的特征是神马?多云少人,人类成为浮云的镜像.

 

我曾经为浮云作为人生的喻体而不平.<浮云>援助我还原人间性与浮云性的互喻修辞.

 

人物之上的云层是真正的主角,不仅仅是在影片中出场的时长,和连续性,不是逻辑主语,是宇宙关系.它与UFO结盟.UFO是地球外围的另一种浮云.影片时间年代清晰,人物流脉曲折可见,但是完全被配角化.在云层之下,地球种种,都为光与影的残迹.

 

3,我们害怕

 

这是一部拍法很飞的影片。灵动的手持摄影,飘飞的影像,俯拾可见的随机拍摄的段落镜头,演员不加修饰的即兴表演,以及剧情间的刺痛和才华,使《我们害怕》从第一个镜头开始就呈现出一种十分异质的品性。

 

一个美丽的上海少年和他的友伴们在上海吞吃了用三块钱购买的摇头丸。他们快乐了,在迪厅里摇摇摆摆,快乐无限。尔后,贝贝开始肉体不适。他无端地怀疑自己得了艾滋,不敢见人,不敢回家,也不敢去医院检查血样。闻知消息的棉棉和菲菲满腔关切地将他保护起来。她们出于对艾滋的愚昧无知,把他藏匿起来。妖怪告诉她们,得上艾滋的人要像麻风病人一样被关到小岛上,与世隔绝。她们不愿让乖乖的、温良的、美妙的贝贝身陷小岛。她们带着他东躲西藏,并且私下里探听到在香港可以医治艾滋。她们开始为他筹措赴港看病的经费。无计可施的时候,棉棉要菲菲去找过去的傍家,向他开口要钱,菲菲不肯,因为她已经与他了断了关系。无钱赴香港治病,贝贝似乎只能等死。绝望勾起了贝贝周围人一个又一个悲伤的记忆,有的来自于爱,有的来自于家庭,有的来自于婚姻。他们在绝望之余,听说北京的一位医生既可以为病人检测IHV是否呈阳性,又可以为病人保守秘密,便大着胆子把贝贝送去抽血化验。检测结果出来,贝贝安然无恙。虚惊一场的人们一时失去了可以依存的中心事件,百无聊赖起来。幸亏贝贝似乎永远有独自解决不完的问题:他在因特网上观看相关幼女的色情网页,被棉棉发现,在回答她的追问时,他坦白说,他会与幼女发生性的关系。这个时候,我们看到棉棉在画中画的DV屏幕中抱出了自己未满周岁的女儿。类似的问题还有:他自认为不是一个同性恋者,却喜欢一个叫杰的跳舞男生,想与他有一夜性爱,而杰表示,如果同他上过一次床,他就会失踪,让他永远也见不到他。棉棉把杰吸收到他们的队伍里,期望他能与贝贝相互珍惜。在杰参与的家中聚会上,菲菲和妖怪记忆起相关于美好的命名和出生,双双流下悲辛交集的热泪。然而,杰在影片结尾,还是失踪了,不知是带着爱,还是带着对爱的恐慌与拒绝。

 

程裕苏不仅用DV作为载体,也作为观念,相当彻底地划破真实与虚构、记录片与剧情片、写实与寓言的界限,营造出一个既真切又超乎于真切之上的影像世界。当他把影片中的上海作为一个寓言来看待的时候,寓居其中的人物便有了几分寓言色彩,上海寓言着现代上海,棉棉寓言着上海关怀,贝贝寓言着艾滋时代的上海恐惧,菲菲则寓言着上海由来已久的伤害与愈合。当他把片中的人物作为现实来看待的时候,贝贝、菲菲、棉棉、妖怪和杰便一一具有了自传色彩。镜像中的人物相像于现实中的人物,或者说,真实的人物进入了镜乡。演员们掏出的是私藏的故事和绝无表演的血泪。

 

这部影片是编、导、演对记忆与才华全无保留的一次集体大消费。

 

不是储存,不是累积,不是铺垫,就是一泻千里,就是才情横溢。

 

4,目的地,上海

 

《我们害怕》通篇用SONY 150P拍摄,镜像语言冲绝而幽微,贯通着创作者的呼吸和血流的热温。手持摄影的身体性完全摒弃了电影传统中的“机械主义”,在掌温和胸温的烘烤中,上海的重重夜色鲜活起来,流丽起来,颤动起来。“客观”在这里,被扫荡得一干二净。《我们害怕》的纯净透明,因此而骤然升起。

 

然而,对于被胶片电影拉动百年的国际影坛来说,《我们害怕》的轻盈与青春姿态,毕竟太过朝气,太过冲动,太过无法无天,太过不认胶片祖师,太过挑战电影传承。它激怒了很多“权威”,当然也得到像汤尼·雷恩那样的“权威”的赏识与赞誉。于是,到了《目的地,上海》,程裕苏开始游戏电影传承,运用它,再消解它,回收它,再报废它,再重构它。无论如何,程裕苏这个电影坏孩子显示了他技艺超群而全面的悉尼本色,一种在悉尼电影学院浸淫多年,对电影传统了如指掌的“学院派”根基。其实,这原本是他不想显露也不屑于显露的电影注脚。当然,如果作“眉批”那帮子人要依赖它,不妨事先注明,以免他们多方苦苦索求,终于不得要领,索然起来。

 

《目的地,上海》开篇的辉煌,痴迷了太多痴迷红尘、痴迷于声色犬马的“观众”。追随它的放映现场,我发现了“热爱电影”的另一层含义:热爱宫殿生活,无论前宫后宫,正宫偏宫,热爱殿堂般的堂皇风景。厌恶棚屋,厌恶贫穷,鄙视清苦,是“热爱电影”的潜台词。

《目的地,上海》将外滩的上海与苏州河畔的上海,将政治风云多变的上海与经济风云多变的上海,将中国特色的上海与全球化进程中的上海,将平民的上海与崇尚富贵的上海,将写实的上海与寓言化的上海,有点有线有饱满有余白地呈现出来,构织了一组组“上海后现代百态百媚图”。

 

如果说《我们害怕》是程裕苏的个人主义表达,《目的地,上海》就是程裕苏对上海社会众生的观看与关注。《我们害怕》里的“我们”,在泛个人的单一“小群体”里,对抗着十分具体的恐怖原——HIV阳性,诉说着各自童年的创伤和青春的欲想。《目的地,上海》责把视野推广到远大宽阔的“社会”,在繁华与落寂、消费与被消费、角落里的失语与场面上的喧嚣、悄然的死亡与顽强的奋斗之间,织造出抽象的社会现实与具象的社会现实鲜活联通的影音实现。

 

电影国际的固定或流动成员们,透过《目的地,上海》,看到了一份无奈、挣扎、黑暗然而依旧坚实的城市空间,它其实并不外在于影片中的阿玲、乖乖、平原和林达。它也是那些人物内在中的城市,一个不能不居住、不能不共存的“目的地”。

 

深入到《目的地,上海》的万花筒构造里,程裕苏作为编剧的才能兀然凸显。煌煌空镜中“他在”的都市,由一个主观的画外叙事所主观化。片头如是,但是,一进正片,这种视角便蓦然消隐,“主观”缺席,“叙事者”缺席,SONY 790 BETA 数码摄像机固定在珍尼芙的“黑店“里,如同无人监控的监视器,拍摄下一场黑暗、酷砺的男妓招聘会。从此以后,影片的这种客观化立场便相当残酷地耸立在人物的肩头,不进逼,也不关怀,不施暴力,也不施温慰。无助中的人物开始了一幕又一幕自助或互助的行动戏剧,程裕苏只需顺应他们的出出没没,就可以看到万花筒内人众熙熙攘攘的变化和结局;一个又一个人物出现,又不知所终,一个又一组人际关系开展、绽放,然后又悄然凋零。在影片的结尾,一大片黑暗代替了所有的荣耀与耻辱、繁荣和伤败。黑片加歌声,与片头的浓墨重彩加歌声的格局相呼应,工整而变迁,体现着电影传统中令人津津乐道的“大师手笔”。

 

“异端”的力量来自于那个姐姐,平原在街上遭遇而追随的一个美女。她兀自掌握起主观叙事的“特权”,拦腰将影片一统的叙事风格切割或粉碎。在向电影传承靠拢的步骤间,程裕苏难抑电影革命的本能冲动,让“姐姐”拦在影片当腰,在画外娓娓独语起来。平原的故事,那个父亲是酷儿,母亲坚持婚姻、操劳不息的家庭,突然变成了她的叙述对象。在《我们害怕》里,程裕苏也曾对影片的叙事系统进行过这种篡夺:观众从未谋面的导演突然在篇尾出现,以叙事者的身份介入,开始了寻找“杰”的工作。当然,“姐姐”的摇身一变,兼职起人物与叙事人的双重角色之后,《目的地,上海》的品质也悄然转换了:无助的人们开始受到关怀。然而,关怀着依旧在不失时机地自我放浪——如同“姐姐”当着小平原的面与男友做爱一样——关怀者加重了受关怀者的孤独无援。于是,平原的小狗在同平原一同经历了姐姐的那夜女欢男爱之后,死去了,平原也发起了高烧。程裕苏的人道主义努力失败了。他只好回归着、回归到影片的基础定位上:超越人道主义关怀,让现实的上海作为一个群体化的城市漠然耸立。

 

骨头里,程裕苏坚硬的后结构主义立场不停地抗击着电影精英主义的侵蚀,但是,电影精英主义又不断地将他推向职业电影的道路,激发他拿出相应的策略和手段与之抗衡或游戏。这种尖锐的冲突,体现在程裕苏身上,缩写了一个影像时代:从胶片精英主义到DV大众主义、从电影经典主义到DV反经典主义、从影像精致主义到DV真实主义的拉锯时代。

 

由义无反顾地使用PD150、全数手持摄影、不使用人工灯光和调音设备,到选择790高清晰数字摄影、高保真调音台和现场高静音的拍摄方法,从很少用后期加工手段到大量启用后期加工软件——调色、滤光、三维、音乐配置,程裕苏从“真实”回归了“静美”,又在用新启的、数字化的精美,超越胶片所能达到的精美极限。

 

质疑人生的、生活的“目的地”何在的同时,程裕苏也在向电影的“目的地”提问。

胶片与DV,到底存在着怎样的血源/亲缘关系?DV革命是否可以全无依凭?由国际影展所建立起来的评价体系,是否有足够的准备和实力迎接DV的八面劲风?

 

5,也浮云

 

在上海拍上海, 是地平线视角,是平视,在平视中破界.是为<我们害怕>.

 

从澳洲飞下来拍上海,是俯视,在俯视中沉寂.是为<目的地,上海>.

 

在地面上拍云,是云路下的仰拍.在云层上航拍,是云路上的俯拍.我试过在云间拍摄,云立即化成雾,云路终结或者消隐于雾.

 

程裕苏穿云破雾,使人际成为云层的镜像.是为<浮云>.

 

云如雾.

 

云里雾里.是一个电影辞格,一种佛哲学境界.在假花盛开全无境界的世代,有人选择浮于云上.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Flies Above and Below the Clouds?

Cui Zi’en

 

《有谁在云路上飞,在云路下也飞》

崔子恩

 

Prologue

 

When Tony Rayns translated the film title Floating Clouds (fuyun) into Zero Thousand Li Under the Clouds and Moon(Zero Thousand Li hereafter), he probably had in mind Eight Thousand Li Under the Clouds and Moon(Eight Thousand Li hereafter), the classic Chinese film produced in the 1940s. The story of Zero Thousand Li took place in contemporary Shanghai during the World Expo, while Eight Thousand Li occurred in the old Shanghai where the Communist Party, the Nationalist Party and the Japanese fought to have their own shares in the city. The two Shanghais are both international cities. Translation expands history.

 

In comparison to eight thousand li, zero thousand li exposes its scarcity, or rather its void. This seems to be revealing the secret of Zero Thousand Li. Tony Rayns translated one of my film titles into Withered Lads in a Blooming Season also with specific references, a story that requires further elaboration elsewhere. Two other films made by Andrew Yusu Cheng, Shanghai Panic and Welcome to Destination Shanghai, are like two sides of a gold coin: both its head and its tail have values. When Zero Thousand Li emerges, the gold coin is split in halves and its value immediately returns to zero.

 

Shall we pave the roads, or shall we follow the transient and forever-changing clouds?

 

Zero thousand li of roadexpands beyond the moon, the stars and the clouds.

 

Are we walking, or are clouds floating past us continuously at high speeds?

 

Zero Thousand Li under the Clouds and Moon

 

The original Chinese title for Zero Thousand Li is Yumbulakang. Yumbulakang is a Tibetan Palace located on the mountaintop in Tibet’s Tsedang County. It was believed to have been built by Bonismo monks for the first Tibetan king Nyatri Tsenpo in 2 BCE. Later, the palace became the summer palace for the then Tibetan king Songtsan Gambo and Princess Wencheng. Later, the fifth Dalai converted the palace to a monastery for the Gelupa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

 

According to the director, the film is based on a true story, or rather, three true stories. The first story: a woman writer, an orphan at her birth, befriends an old woman from Shanghai who had been married to a man from the Tibetan region of Yushu in Qinghai Province and moved to live there. The writer soon addresses the old woman as “godmother.” The old woman dies peacefully in meditation on her trip to Shanghai for the writer’s interview. In her will, she asks the writer to take a chain of red prayer beads to her guru in Yushu so that he can release her soul from purgatory. In the second story, Dawei is diagnosed with cancer and has only three months to live. He remembers his promise with his university friend Xiangzi that they should see each other again before they die. Xiangzi is based in Yushu and has been working there as a teacher for more than twenty years. In the third story, Xiaobao had developed a strong interest in extra-terrestrials and UFOs since childhood. He is told by ETs in a dream that they will take him away from the earth if he travels to Yushu. The three stories intersect and intertwine when the three people meet, get to know each other and then depart on the ancient Tangbo Road which leads to Yushu. The forever-changing clouds on the Tibetan Plateau accompany their journeys and they clean and purify the mortal world.

 

The film’s shooting locations shift from metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai to the Tibetan region in northwest China, with Yumbulakang being the final stop and the central focus. In an interview, Cheng explained the importance of Buddhist meditation as a way of life for local Tibetans as a result of remote locations, scarce populations, difficult travelling, and long and harsh winters on the Tibetan Plateau. That is why meditation is frequently used as a theme in the film.

 

The Tibetan Plateau with its stretching land, never-ending time and forever-flowing monastery flags is juxtaposed with big cities shrouded by globalisation and information age and devoid of beliefs. The film makes the clouds its central character. The director’s social critique is implicit; he remains silent about his critiques to avoid being trapped in dogmas and clichés.

 

Some storylines are cut or treated with ambiguity: the mysterious disappearance of Xiaobao’s grandmother in the wind, the woman writer’s works, the same-sex intimacy between Dawei and Xiangzi … those complicated storylines and traces from the mortal world existed in Yumbulakang. When the clouds rise, they wipe away these ambiguous stories.

 

The film is shot with a Red One 4K camera. It utilises different filming styles and shooting techniques for various locations: the scenes in big cities are shot in a dramatic style to represent urban dwellers’ dramatic existence; the scenes in Tibetan regions are shot in a documentary style to indicate the Tibetans’ authentic existence. The urban travelers seem quiet and confident; they are in fact burdened with countless worries. The praying Tibetan travelers seem to walk slowly and unsteadily; their minds are as noble and carefree as high clouds. This contrast is vividly manifested through the physical features of Red One.

 

Floating clouds are like the world. This line is a parody of the widely known Buddhist motto: floating lives are like dreams.

 

Tony Rayns describes the film as a Buddhist road film. I suggest that it is a ‘cloud film’. The characteristic of a ‘cloud film’ is its abundance of clouds and scarcity of human beings. Human beings are in this instance merely mirror images of clouds.

 

I have once complained that people often compare human lives to clouds. Zero Thousand Miles reveals the inter-metaphorisations between mortality and cloudality. The true character of the film is thus the clouds instead of the human beings. This is manifested not only through the temporality and continuity of the cloud presence in the film. The clouds are not substitutes to other things; they point to certain cosmological correlations. They make alliances with UFOs, which are in fact clouds outside of the earth’s hemisphere. The film has a clear timeframe and a distinct storyline made up of people’s lives, which are made completely insignificant. Everything below the clouds are merely traces of light and shadows.

 

Shanghai Panic

This is a free-flowing film in its shooting techniques. Hand-held camera, fast-flowing images, ubiquitous random shots, spontaneous acting, as well as the pains and talents manifested in the screenplay … from the first take, Shanghai Panic demonstrates its heterogeneity.

 

Beibei, A beautiful young man from Shanghai, manages to get some ecstasy at the price of three yuan and he shares them with his friends. They are all overwhelmed with happiness after taking the drugs so they dance around with abandon in the discotheque. After that Beibei feels sick and suspects that he has contracted HIV/AIDS. He fears going out, going home, or going to the hospital to have his blood tested. Knowing nothing about HIV/AIDS, his friends Mianmian and Feifei hide him in order to protect him. Hearing from their mutual friend Yaoguai that those infected by HIV/AIDS will be isolated on a desert island like people with leprosy, Beibei’s friends try to hide him and raise money for him to make a trip to Hong King for treatment. Mianmian suggests that Feifei get money from her wealthy ex-boyfriend, but Feifei refuses as they have already broken up. Despair overwhelms everyone; they are reminded of their sad memories associated with family, marriage and love. Almost in despair, they send Beibei to a doctor based in Beijing who offers HIV/AIDS test without disclosing the patients’ identities. Beibei learns that he is HIV-negative after the test; it turns out that everything is perfectly normal with his health. After this incident, the friends lose their motivation for living and soon become bored again. Unfortunately, Beibei seems to have endless problems: when Mianmian finds Beibei browsing porn websites with little girls’ nude pictures, Beibei admits that he has sex with underage girls. The audience then sees Mianmian carry her baby daughter out of a hand-drawn DV screen. One incident happens after another: Beibei does not identify as gay, but he falls in love with a male dancer called Jie. Jie tells Beibei that he will disappear and will never be seen again if they have sex with each other. Mianmian tries to extend their relationship by including Jie in their friends’ group. She invites Jie to a home party where Feifei and Yaoguai shed tears while recalling the naming and birth of Meihao. Jie disappears at the end of the film, either feeling loved or fearing to be loved.

 

For Cheng, digital video is not only medium but concept as well. It disrupts the boundaries between reality and fiction, documentary and feature film, life and allegory. It constructs a visual world that is both real and unreal. Shanghai is treated as an allegory in the film; so are the characters living in the city. Shanghai symbolises modernity; Mianmian symbolises care in modern life; Beibei symbolises fear in the age of HIV/AIDS; Feifei symbolises trauma and reconciliation. If we read the characters in the film against reality, all of them seem to be autobiographical. The characters’ stories in the film correspond to the actors’ and actresses’ experiences in real life; in other words, real people enter the cinematic world. In this sense, actors and actresses present their own life stories without having to perform.

 

This film marks a collective and unreserved consumption of the memories and talents of the scriptwriter, the director, the actors and actresses.

 

It is not storing up, nor accumulating, nor building up the momentum; it is expressionism without restriction and creative talents overflowing beyond the film.

 

Welcome to Destination Shanghai

 

Shanghai Panic was made with a SONY 150P camera. Its visual languages are idiosyncratic and unique; they are intertwined with the life experiences of the filmmakers and actors/actresses. The bodies with handheld cameras discard the technocentrism of cinematic tradition. Warmed up by palms and chests, the cold nights in Shanghai become refreshed, fluid and dynamic. “Objectivity” has been swept away completely; the film thus displays its purity and transparency.

 

Shanghai Panic, with its dynamic revolt against the cinematic traditions formed during the celluloid era, appears too undogmatic for the international film community. It outrages many authorities in the field and is appreciated by some others, Tony Rayns included. In Welcome to Destination Shanghai, Cheng toys with cinematic traditions by borrowing, discarding, reusing, destroying and reconstructing them. Cheng, as a “bad boy” of cinema, displays his excellent academic training in film in Sydney. However, he is quite critical about, and even contemptuous of, his academic background as a film major. The “traditions” and techniques are only used to help film critics to understand and to “annotate” the film in case they cannot follow it.

 

The rather grandiose beginning of Welcome to Destination Shanghai fascinates many audiences who are obsessed with the spectacle of wealth and pleasure. At its screening venue, I discovered another meaning, an implicit one, of “loving films”: love of splendid palaces and luxurious lives and contempt for dilapidated residential neighbourhoods and poor lives.

 

Welcome to Destination Shanghai juxtaposes a Shanghai on the bund with a Shanghai on the Suzhou River, a Shanghai of changing political climate with the Shanghai of unpredictable economic development, a Shanghai with Chinese characteristics with a Shanghai as a global city, a Shanghai for the ordinary people with a Shanghai for the rich and the powerful, a ‘real’ Shanghai with an allegorical Shanghai … all of these pictures are presented with great complexity and precision; together they constitute a picture series of multi-faceted and polymorphous postmodern Shanghai.

 

If Shanghai Panic is characterised by Cheng’s individual expression, Welcome to Destination Shanghai presents Cheng’s perspectives into, and concerns about, social life in Shanghai. The “we” in Shanghai Panic (the Chinese title is Women Haipa or We Fear) is a small group of individuals combating a big and powerful HIV virus and telling stories about childhood trauma and youthful desires; Welcome to Destination Shanghai pushes the lens onto a broad “society” by weaving together abstract and concrete social realities in sound-image combinations, rife with prosperities and declines, consumption and being consumed, silence of the margins and noisiness of the central scenes, and quiet death and persistent struggles to survive.

 

Permanent and temporary members from the international film community see from the film a sense of helpless and desperate struggles, as well as dark and concrete urban spaces. These urban spaces are not outside of main characters such as A Ling, Guaiguai, Pingyuan and Linda; they are inside the characters. They are urban spaces impossible not to live in and to live together in; they are “destinations.”

 

The kaleidoscopic narrative structure of the film fully displays Cheng’s talent as a scriptwriter. The film begins with an off screen narrator’s perspective, which subjectifies the city and presents it as the “other.” The perspective suddenly disappears when the story unfolds, resulting in the absence of subjectivity and the narrator. The SONY 790 BETA digital video camera is fixed on Jennifer’s “business premise” like a CCTV monitor, ready to shoot the next scene of the male prostitutes’ competition. From that moment, the film presents a sense of objectivity by focusing the camera lens above the characters’ shoulders. It refuses to become a close-up; there is no sympathy or comfort; nor is there violence. The helpless characters perform their activist theatres scene by scene, in solos or in groups. Cheng only needs to follow their entries and exits. Without much effort, Cheng displays the wanes and waxes of the crowd in the kaleidoscope: one character appears and disappears after another; one set of social relationship starts, blossoms and withers quietly after another. At the end of the film, a blackout concludes all the glories and humiliations, prosperities and failures. The blank screen with off screen music is juxtaposed with the grandiose scenes with music at the beginning of the film. The film appears structured but with variations; the beginning and the end of the film shows signs of maestros in film history.

 

The ‘deviance’ of the film comes from the ‘sister’, a pretty young woman whom Pingyuan meets on the street and follows. She suddenly grabs the ‘privilege’ of subjective narration and breaks the coherence of the film’s narrative style. In his acknowledgment of cinematic traditions, Cheng cannot help resisting the impulse to revolutionise films. Pingyuan’s story and the story of the family in which the father is gay and the mother refuses a divorce and works hard to support the family become part of her narrative. The technique of disrupting narratives also appears in Shanghai Panic, when the director suddenly appears at the end of the film as a narrator and starts looking for Jie. In Welcome to Destination Shanghai, the “sister” assumes the double role of the character and the narrator. After this, the tone of the film starts to change: the helpless is taken care of. The “carer”, however, spares no chance to indulge herself in pleasure and this deepens the sense of loneliness and helplessness of the cared. The “sister” has sex with her boyfriend in front of Pingyuan; Pingyuan’s dog dies after that and Pingyuan falls ill with a high fever. Cheng’s humanistic endeavor has failed and he has to return to the starting point of the film: moving beyond humanistic concerns and presenting Shanghai as it is, a strange collective city.

 

Cheng has been resisting relentlessly against the erosion of cinematic elitism with his solid post-structural spirit. In the meantime, cinematic elitism pushes him to be a professional filmmaker and inspires him to come up with more strategies to negotiate with cinematic traditions. This conflict serves as a metonymy for the Digital Video Age: this is an age when celluloid elitism and DV populism, cinematic classicism and DV anti-classicism, as well as image-professionalism and DV realism fight against each other.

 

Cheng starts his filmmaking career with a hand-held PD150 digital video camera, natural lighting and sound, with little post-production editing. He later switches to a high-definition 790 digital video camera, with hi-fi mixer, studio-environment recording and extensive post-production editing (in colour-mixing, light-filtering, three-dimensional presentation and music composition). Cheng thus returns to “beauty” from “reality” and starts to explore the capacity of digital videos in presenting refined and sophisticated images.

 

As he raises questions about the “destinations” of lives, Cheng also raises questions about the “destination” of cinema.

 

What is the relationship between films and digital videos? Does the DV Revolution need to build on something more traditional? Is the film industry established by international film festivals ready to meet the powerful challenges from digital video?

 

Floating Clouds

 

Shooting Shanghai in Shanghai is a horizontal shot. Shanghai Panic breaks the limits of horizontal shots.

 

Shooting Shanghai on a plane from Australia is a crane shot. Welcome to Destination Shanghai presents a birds’ eye view of a silent Shanghai from the sky.

 

Shooting clouds from the ground is a low-angle shot; shooting clouds from above is a high-angle shot. I have tried to shoot between the clouds; the clouds turn into mist; the roads disappear into mist.

 

Cheng sees through these clouds and mists; he makes humanity into the mirror images of clouds; hence Floating Clouds/ Zero Thousand Li.

 

Clouds are like mists.

 

In clouds and mists. This is a cinematic rhetoric and a moment in Buddhist enlightenment. At an age when artificial flowers compete to blossom, Cheng chooses to fly above the clouds.

 

[英译: 包宏伟 English Translation: Hongwei Bao]

 

 

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