Who Flies Above and Below the Clouds?
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.
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.
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”。
Who Flies Above and Below the Clouds?
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.
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?
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]