Messiah for Taiwan movie industry?
Discussion on Taiwan movie industry and some parts translation of the article
“A star, a gangster, and a prodigal, all can be a sweetheart Lama”,
an interview with Director Niu Cheng-Ze on his movie What On Earth Have I Done Wrong?
Yes, We have Hou-Yang-Tsai (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang, Tsai Ming-Liang), and we have Ang Lee; we shall have confidence in our Taiwan cinema. But, since when does going Taiwanese movies become Bourgeois activities? Since when does going Taiwanese movies become high-art support? Since when do audiences bear the responsibility of “saving Taiwanese film”(ROC Government Information Office’s policy promotion)? Since when was such simple pleasure loaded with those cultural burdens?
Again, some mention that we need Messiah for Taiwan movie industry. So, what the critiques of Messiah? Which meant big money? attracting audience back? “rescuing” the Taiwanese cinema? Or, who is winning the title of Messiah? Is the burgeoning gay genre in Taiwan? Or Mr. Chao’s (Jay Chao) enthusiasm for movies? Or the new generation after Hou-Yang-Tsai? Or the audiences who are “brave” enough going cinemas to support Taiwan movies? Or the mythologized belief of new president “magic Ma” (Ma Ying-Jeou), since he is Ma, everything would turn a new leaf immediately after he taking presidency? I shall stop here, and give a no-no answer to those over-simplified questions. The whole “plight” of Taiwan cinema couldn’t be categorized into the discourse “it’s economics, stupid!”. [Apparently, living in the speed of click-and-show, what make things easier is merely to provide yes-or-no answers.]
Recently, there is a new Messiah appearing, Director Niu Cheng-Ze’s What On Earth Have I Done Wrong? (Chinese Title: 情非得已之生存之道, literally “last resort” ); Director Niu's popular mockumentary (pseudo-documentary) provided another thoughts for those questions. Famous for being a prodigal son in his early days, Director Niu now is another prodigal son blurring the genre of art and commercial movie in Taiwan. In his interview with Pots post, he explicitly explained that, he is no Messiah and honestly sharing his view on Hou-Yang-Tsai.
The interview is posted on POTs paper, titled “A star, a gangster, and a prodigal, all can be a sweetheart Lama.” [Original Text]
My translation on selective parts:
Director Niu began his early stardom when he was nine, took part in many classic films such as Growing Up, Boys from Fengkuei, Banana Paradise, The Personals, and Millennium Mambo. After directing several successful idol dramas, he began his mockumentary on celebrities, What On Earth Have I Done Wrong?. Unlike other Taiwanese art film style, What On Earth Have I Done Wrong is highly entertaining in mocking Taipei life. Though commercial and amusing, this film has already won 2008 Rotterdam Film Festival "Best Asian Film award" and the 2007 Taipei Film Festival “FIPRESCI Prizes”. All in all, the best compliment is from PTT villagers [the largest online discussion forum in Taiwan] :” this is my first time going to Taiwanese movie ever since Dragon Ball (1989)”
Pots: Many actors started their career in the heyday of Taiwanese movie (abbr. TW movie) have their personal comprehension of the massive change in recent decades. You are also the one entering film industry in Hou’s era, how do you feel this moment calling people to “support” our national cinema?
Niu: Wow, your question is too heavy, I don’t think myself qualified enough to answer. In order to echo their concurrent environment and respond to their inspiration deep inside, every single generation would have varied characteristics of their works. We have Hou-Yang-Tsai, but I don’t want to be another Hou-Yang-Tsai. Sometimes it is rather ambiguous to describe the whole situation right now, of course I can analyze it rationally and systematically. But I think it’s too dangerous for me to express that much. Of course I can bullshit you that how about French government, Taiwan government, what alienate our audience, blabla. Of course I have my own observance, but I don’t think I am qualified to discuss about it.
The things matter to me are my life, my true feeling and my state of mind; thus I accept the result full-heartedly under this condition of interaction. The only thing I can say is “ I am ready”. As long as I already have been an actor for a long time, and also worked as TV series director, I am quite knowledgeable of technology field; therefore, I can execute my film in requirements. Especially no one holding gun force you to do that, if you don’t want to shoot movies, then don’t. I don’t want to call on everyone to support TW-movies, we cannot take advantage of using the discourse of compassion, moral sense, or patriotism to drive the audience into cinemas but bored them to sleep.
When I was a kid, I adored Director Hou and his personality of great stature. I remember a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe, saying like: I like church, I like black color, I like the monk in black color, but I don’t want to become that monk in black. That specifically explains how I felt about Director Hou. Of course I was confused halfway; like, shit! Is that the only way to win awards by shooting this kind of movie?
There is only one Director Hou, a very controversial Hou. Some think he brought TW movie to an unprecedented height, and some think he kills TW cinema. BUT, he is merely an artist, a creator. He never wants to become any type of Hou. As to myself, I am soapy, emotional, sensitive and very dramatic. I certainly hope the audience can give a look on my movie, to smash the curse and to expel the fear of “award-winning TW movies”. I felt puzzled already when I was a young actor and audience, that is, why nothing exist between Director Hou and Director Zhu (Zhu Yan-Ping, a (in)famous Taiwan commercial director)? There are many attractive story lines, and smooth shooting scenes in foreign movies, and you can still grasp something significant within, such as seeing your living environment, etc. The commercial movies should be something more than a laugh, or a joker. When I was young, I already said that” I want to make a film with laughs and tears.”
At least I have one advantage! I went to Rotterdam Film Festival and visited many young directors, who inspired me a lot to make movies. Then I started to sweat like a hail, sell house, borrow money, apply government founding, so on so forth. In this environment, how much strength does one have? How many times can one withstand? I often tell some young staff of mine who want to be directors as well, (btw, I cant share this words with too many people, otherwise people would think “ fuck, who do you think you are? you merely shot some damn soapy dramas”. ) I often told them that, in terms of being a director, the later the better. Only when you accumulate enough life experiences, technology skills, resources, then you can initiate your career. “To be or not to be ” is not an issue of personal reputation, it regards more that Taiwanese audience can not tolerate another disappointment. Thinking the situation in Taiwan, you see the infinite passion for movies, but how about going details? Do you know how to communicate with the actors? Do you know how to fulfill your expectation?
After watching my movie, how much you felt enlightened is another thing. At least you won’t feel embarrassed, bored, and sleepy when watching it. Moreover, you can share tears and laughs with me. And, those are derived from my sincerity, bravery, technology knowledge, and life experience.
Part II (Besides of Hou-Yan-Tsai, more about Director Niu and his movie.)
Niu: Years before, I loved to talk some serious topics like “History will give us an opportunity”, “Taiwan envision Great China”, “Marketing through whole Asia”. Wow, CommonWealth Magazine interviewed me these! Me talking about the future industrial development?? Me, me me, fuck, what do I think I am? Here comes my another mask unconsciously. Through the years pursuing success, money, career; I’ve already become a rotten cheeky vicious bastard. Just like my movie, myself in middle age crisis faces another collapse in forties; and topping on that, my beloved women left me. Then I don’t know how to make myself happy, I blame all mistakes to others. Fuck, our life collapse because Bian sucks (Taiwan former president), politics sucks, media sucks, our fucking girlfriend/boyfriend sucks.
Fuck! What on earth have we done wrong? We've already got used to deal with those frustrations and defeats, thus we escaped. Go escaping, dancing, shagging, drinking, drugging, go chasing larger success, go searching woman loves me, and imagine the wonderful world with her company. Eventually, even the women really appears, we don’t know how to love her. Because we don’t know how to treat ourselves nicely, we are incapable of loving ourselves. Since we can’t get along with ourselves, then we can’t get along with the world. I film my movie with this epiphany, and destroy “Director Niu” myself. Only by confession can I face my later life, and avoid myself being somebody but doesn’t know who he really is.