Film

Woody Allen 版的《理智与情感》 by HUA SHANG

这部电影中文翻译成是午夜巴塞罗那,而它的本名其实叫 Vicky Cristina Barcelona。 在我看来这是一部发生在Barcelona 由两个纽约来的美国妞所出演的现代版 Sense and Sensibility (理智与情感)。 代表理智的Vicky,在故事的开始,一心期待着在巴塞罗那的学术进展以及与靠谱纽约暖男Doug 计划已久的婚姻生活的开始; 而代表着情感的Cristina 则是期待着Barcelona这个未知城市能够给她带来的新的inspiration,让她找到自己所属于的领域和生活方式。

然而让两人没有料到的是, Barcelona之行并没有带给Vicky 和 Cristina 她们所期待的,而是狠狠的反问了她们一个问题 “what do you want?”

对Vicky而言,那种通过理智可以预见与规划的稳定平和的婚姻生活是她安全感的来源 。而在预见Antonio 之前, 她把这种安全感与爱情画上等号, 并笃定这样的“爱情” 就是她所想要的。而生性多情而浪漫的 Antonio 却撼动了Vicky 对爱情的定义。 在这让人头晕目眩,心跳神迷的全新爱情体验中,情感是高于理智的。 正如你所说, Vicky所爱的Spanish guitar, 高迪的建筑,都暗示着蕴藏在Vicky 内心里的情感的小火苗。而Antonio的出现让星星之火以燎原之势蔓延开来,将Vicky 心里原本的规划的爱情道路烧的无从寻觅。曾经的安全感在这场与Antonio 的爱之火烧过后化成了无趣感。

而Cristina ,她对“what do you want?”这个问题并不陌生。Cristina是个永远在找寻自己的人,她不知道自己想要什么,却又迫切的想要找寻到,可是一次次的尝试只是让她明白自己不想要什么。随情感而浮动的不确定性是Cristina吸引爱人的魅力源泉, 因为她充满好奇心,来者不拒。但这也是将爱人据之千里的致命武器,因为一旦她肯定那是她不想要的,她便会会决绝的离开,重返找寻的道路。 一个不知到自己是想要什么的人, 可以找到短暂的爱情,却往往很难觅到相守的爱人。可是我们什么时候能够确确实实的找到自己的想要的呢?这个问题也困扰着我。

片中还有两个女性角色不得不提。一个是才华横溢却感情泛滥难以自控,动不动就要杀人自杀 的艺术家Maria Elena; 一个是精明务实却难掩生活苦闷的富太太Judy。 如果说理智与情感各是在数轴的两端,那么这两个角色又比 Vicky和 Cristina各自向这两个极端更近了一些。然而理性的Judy 却梦想着不顾一切的爱情;感性的 Maria Elena 亦期待着让爱情平衡点的出现。 Judy 看到 Vicky 像是看到了自己,于是她暗中撮合Vicky 和 Antonio。而Maria Elena则是通过帮助发掘Cristina潜藏的摄影天赋,来平抚Cristina内心不确定因素,从而找到自己和 Antonio 爱情的平衡点 。  然而Cristina没有如所以Maria Elena 所愿成为稳定爱情的调剂品; Judy 盼望的 Vicky 和Antonio 的浪漫爱情故事也以闹剧收场。由此看开,梦还是要自己去做的,把自己的梦强加于他人往往没有什么好结果。

以讽刺到底见长的Woody Allen 不出所料没给我们一个如理智与情感那般的大团圆结局, 理智到底还是没能和情感达成最美妙的平衡。 “what do you want?”生活突然丢来的问题,把Vicky 和 Cristina, 尤其是Vicky问了个措手不及,面对生活的发问,曾经的笃定与计划变成了一个谎言。

电影的最终两人带着怅然若失的表情离开了巴塞罗那。至于将来的她俩会怎样?Vicky 是否会变成下一个Judy? Cristina 又是否会是另一个 Maria Elena, 我无从得知,唯有为她们送上普希金小诗一首《假如生活欺骗了你》。

Microscopic View by HUA SHANG

In Abe’s book Woman in the Dunes, he deconstructs the world in reality, restructures the components to a new landscape, and lures the readers with his poetic languages to look into this new landscape from his microscopic view.

 

The film, with its greater capacities for “isolating physical data and reaching their climax in representing it” (Kracauer, Theory of Film, p.298), adds to visualize Abe’s microscopic view of world. The film version of Woman in the Dues opens with a microscopic close-up of sand grains. With their cameras, Filmmakers represent the sand by deconstructing it to diverse minerals. This opening scene, like a nutrition facts label, introduces the microscopic nature of the world that Jumpei presents in. Moreover, the film’s visual images further enrich the textual feature of many elements in the book: the water, the sand, and especially the skin. The microscopic close-up of the skin maximizes the sexual tension between the man and the woman. Now, the skin truly becomes an individual force powerfully penetrating protagonists’ and viewers’ senses.

Woman in the Dunes is loaded with symbols. To balance such symbolic heaviness, Abe strings all his carefully carved metaphors with a straightforward storyline; Teshigahara unfolds the story in a single location with simple yet vibrating images; and Takemitsu injects souls to these images and make them dance with his minimalist abstract painting-liked musical language. Viewers, lured by forces of all these languages, look deeper and deeper into this microscopic landscape. Some unfortunate fellows may end up trapping inside this landscape, essentially a mind maze built up by artists’ languages, just like Jumpei is trapped in the bottom of the sand, and later on in his own ideas.

A journey “home”__Tokyo Story by HUA SHANG

In Tokyo Story, we follow an old couple traveling from Onomichi to Tokyo to visit their grown-up children. In my eyes, this journey is not about a new adventure to explore the metropolitan Tokyo but rather an attempt to return, returning to a “home” that the old couple once shared with their children. However, the old couple’s journey is actually a journey without destination. Such a sense of “home” is deeply rooted in the old couple’s memory but sadly not in their children’s. They fail to return to this “home” when living with (shuffling by) their children in Tokyo. To this old couple, Tokyo becomes a city too far away, a city with too many people, a city they cannot truly find a sense of belonging. 

Ozu, like us viewers, also accompanied this old couple along their journey. To him, born and raised in Tokyo, this is actually a journey home. However, was he also riding a train leading to nowhere? The Tokyo in front of Ozu’s camera, which was rebuilt after the earthquake and bombings, was not the same hometown he cherished in his memory. Ozu, an aged man himself, was taking a train back home to Tokyo. During the trip, he came to realize that his hometown Tokyo could no longer be reached in real life. Therefore, he got off the train and started to walk towards his memory. By using very limited shots of contemporary Tokyo scenery, he wished to preserve or reconstruct the old Tokyo in his and older generation’s memory. For viewers who do not own these fragments of memories, Ozu offered a chance to get a glimpse of the city’s vibe through displaying its domestic settings. In this way, the director could revive his memory to a maximum extent on the silver screen.

As the journey continues, it seems like that it no longer matters whether there is a destination or not.  Realizing their children could possibly turn out to be worse, the old couple starts to accept what they have in life with grateful hearts.  When they make the decision to go back to their home in Onomichi, sitting on the seawall in Atami. Their figures are seen melting into the nature, peacefully and harmoniously.

The film starts with a shot of a river running through the frame; it ends with a shot of the same river running through it. These two scenes echo on the screen, as if saying that all the gatherings, separations, laughter, and tear would be drifted out into the ocean of time. And those drifting movements are patiently recorded by Ozu’s stationary camera.

Gazing upon the “beauty” in distance by HUA SHANG

representations of women in KokoroSnow Country, Child's play, Sisters of the Gion, and Tokyo Story 

 

Women, in most of the readings and films we have encountered, are subjected to male protagonists’ or viewers’ gaze. Under all the gazes, women are either reducible to an idealized object of male desires or become marginalized figures lacking full-fledged selfhood. No matter whether they are being spotlighted on the pedestal or being shadowed in the corner, those women are kept in distance from male protagonists, viewers and even themselves. Moreover, a sense of helplessness is also pervasive in both cases, following those women as their own inescapable shadows. Strangely, such a mix of distance and helplessness somehow generates a sense of “beauty”, alluring us to step further into the stories.

The male idealization of women lifts women up onto a pedestal against or without inquiring women’s own wishes, which widens the distance between men and women. In Soseiki’s Kokoro, woman is idealized as man’s last resort to seek innocence and beauty within life and human nature. The wife of the sensei is idealized as the purest person in the world by sensei. She is treated as delicate glassware, carefully preserved by sensei. A piece of sensei’s internal monologue after his friend K’s suicide shows his intense idealization towards Ojosan, who is about to become sensei’s wife: “I was glad that she had not witnessed the terrible scene immediately after his death. I was afraid that a beautiful person such as she could not behold anything ugly and frightful without somehow losing her beauty” (Kokoro P.181). Sensei shelters his wife at home, and protects her from the real world, which he thinks is full of ugliness, dirt and danger.  Sensei’s betrayal of K compels sensei to drive his wife further away from his inner world, which he also considers as an ugly and dirty place. From sense’s wife’s conversation with the narrator (student), we can tell that she is not as fragile as sensei assumes and she is helplessly searching for ways to narrow the distance between herself and sensei. However, she does not know that the distance between them is actually vertical. Long ago, Sensei putted her up on a pedestal and has taken the ladder away the day K died.

In Kawabata’s Snow Country, women are idealized as a source of aesthetic experience. And keeping a distance is the essential practice to obtain such aesthetic pleasure. The emphasis of cultivating distance is revealed at the very beginning of the story, by the way Shimamura, the male protagonist, first “see” Yoko. “The light inside the train was not particularly strong, and the reflection was not as clear as it would have been in a mirror. Since there was no glare, Shimamura came to forget that it was a mirror he was looking at. The girl’s face seemed to be out in the flow of the evening mountains” (Snow Country P.10).  Instead of looking at Yoko directly, Shimamura chooses to gaze her from the reflection of the train window. This distanced way indulges him to envision a sort of imaginary beauty, a beauty that should melt into a dreamy nature rather than flourish in an earthy world.  While Komako, the young geisha Shemamura encounters in Snow Country, who has gradually developed her characters and became too real for Shimamura, is ruthless abandoned due to her strong sense of presence. The idealization of women in this story indeed fabricates an aesthetic “beauty”. However this “beauty” is as “cold” as the winter in the snow country. It is hard for us to appreciate this sort of “beauty” without feeling chilling and guilty.

Various female idealizations also generate and widen the distance between women and themselves. In Sisters of the Gion, the elder sister Umekichi, who maintains her loyalty toward her broken patron Furusawa, strictly follows the idealized Geisha code from the beginning to the end. She is an unconscious victim of the male idealization, who came to lose part of her own being and constantly shrouded by shadows, softly yet gloomily.

A blessing or a curse, some of these women still maintain certain degrees of self-consciousness about their true self and idealized self. Struggling to narrow the distance between her own -being and the idealized self, they are helplessly tortured by such internal conflicts. Noriko, the “paragon” of filial piety in Tokyo Story, who always wears a benevolent smile, confesses in the end to being selfish, no longer thinking constantly about her dead husband but rather about her own life and what would become of it. It already took Noriko a long time to reveal her painful and helpless inner struggle, how long would it take her to truly resolve this struggle?

The starting point of women’s self-distancing is gently and cautiously captured by Ichiyo, the only female storyteller we have encountered so far. In Child’s Play, Ichiyo provides us, for the first time, the opportunity to gaze the world through a female character Midori’s eyes, without layering any disguise or creating any distance. We witness her initial moment of growing up from a girl to a woman, the very moment she starts to lose part of her being-ness. “There were things Midori could not talk about. Sad thoughts accumulated, vague thoughts that she could not define herself -thoughts that would never come to the Midori of yesterday… She hated it, hated it, she hated grow up. Why did she have to grow old?” (Child’s Play, P.108) Midori is rather sensitive to notice such unspeakable sadness, and sense such a loss. However, soon the notorious thief “time” will sneak in with its tick-tock footsteps and callously steal this precious string of sadness, which Midori holds so tight in hand at the moment.

“Who are these women? What are their stories? What are their thoughts?” I can’t help asking. Greedy and unsatisfied, I am not pleased with just gazing upon those women from distance and indulging myself in their blurry and man-made “beauty”. I am longing to approach them, to take a look closer, to hear them speak for themselves, and to gaze the world from their perspectives. And I hope the day they ultimately step down from the over-lighted pedestal and walk out of the shadowy corner, we can obtain a broader perspective, a perspective not constrained by gender. 

 

 

 

Growing Pain___I was born but…生れてはみたけれど by HUA SHANG

For most of Ozu’s I was born But…, we see through the eyes of two boys. We, as viewers, soon come to acknowledge the existence of two worlds: the world of the children and the world of the adults. Both worlds have hierarchies. In the children’s world, the power play seems to be more violent and brutal, yet with higher mobility. As long as you are a good fighter or have more sparrow eggs, you can get your way in this world. For adults, the power game is certainly more civilized. However, it is also less socially mobile or less “fair”.  It is a system beyond the control of the individual. People are often found stuck in their positions, like the truck in the opening scene, for better or for worse. For the first part of film, the children’s world rarely intersects with the adults’. The clash of the two worlds happens at the film screening. And the father is not just a father but also one of the employees of the boss, while the sons are not just sons but also the “boss” of a group of children. The illusion of the “powerful” father figure in two brothers’ heads is dashed by the cold reality. A mix of denial, humiliation, confusion, and anguish filled two boys, especially the elder son’s heart. They initiate a protest, challenging the authority of their father as well as questioning the rules of the adults’ world.  The protest eventually ends with a reconciliation. However, Ozu still leaves us with some hope for the future of these boys by offering a warm “open ending”.

Space and Story__Sisters of the Gion 祇園の姉妹 by HUA SHANG

The space within a story can echo and support the story itself. Sometimes, it can even serve as an independent “narrator", adding another layer to the story by telling the story in its own language.

 Mizoguchi was certainly mindful of the beauty and delicacy of the language of space (maybe it’s because he was living at a time when a number of people still inhabited in a world of shadow and communicate with poetic languages?)  Furthermore, he masterfully translated this language of space into moving images through sophisticated camera manipulation. The camera shots in Sisters of the Gion are artfully composed with careful framing maintained. In Mizoguchi’s hands, the long shots, shots with a fixed camera, and long takes turn into lines sketched by great architects, which give the space structure and form. His approaches make us, the viewers, aware of the space and it’s significant role within the story.

 What intrigues me most is Mizuguchi’s intentional creation of distance. Seeing Sisters of  the Gion, I feel like that I am pulled away from the characters and forced to become one of the distant observers. “Why did Mizuguchi try so hard to generate and maintain such distance?” I could not resist asking myself.

 The distance creates noticeable contrasts.  A limited number of close-ups are mostly given to Omocha, highlighting her progressive and uncompromising spirit as well as her unfair sufferings. The distance may also imply the social separation and distance of two sisters, whose figures are constantly seen vanishing in an alley filled with shadows. In addition, I believe, the distance reinforces an interesting contrast between mobility and fixity within the story. Most of the interior spaces in the film are revealed through windows and shoji. From these perspectives, the camera captures characters constantly moving in and out. However, is this “flow of space” necessarily free? As Burch’s To the Distant Observer suggests, the dominant aspect of Japanese architecture can be a ‘static and crystalline’ definition of space.  If so, then Mizoguchi’s fixed frame and long shot further enhance the level of such steadiness. In Mizoguchi’s camera, those protagonists are like goldfishes trapped in a giant glass bowl. They can move freely but only within the container. Omocha, the only one who dares to attempt to jump out of this glass bowl, ends up in hospital with a broken leg, helplessly cursing unfairness in the world of Gion.