• THE ASSASSIN: Personal reflections from James Udden

    Monday | June 1, 2015   open printable version open printable version

    Chen 500

    The Assassin (Nie Yin Niang; Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015).

    DB here:

    Last week there was a big Hou Hsiao-hsien event in Belgium. A seminar hosted by Tom Paulus of the University of Antwerp and the Photogénie blog featured many speakers along with Hou and his collaborator Chu Tien-Wen. (I was scheduled to go but was felled by bronchitis and couldn’t travel.) That event was followed on Wednesday by a master class with Hou, Chu, and Olivier Assayas at the Royal Film Archive of Belgium. Under the auspices of curator Nicola Mazzanti, the Cinematek, as it’s known, has embarked on restoring Hou’s oeuvre and is currently playing a retrospective. (The accompanying catalogue is here.) Wednesday evening was capped by a gala screening of The Assassin.

    One of the seminar participants, Jim Udden, is no stranger to this site. His was the first book in English on Hou’s career (No Man an Island) and he contributed an on-set visit to this site when Hou was shooting The Assassin. Over the years he has built up a strong personal relation with Hou and Chu. Here are his initial impressions after the Brussels screening.

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    Films by Hou Hsiao-hsien are usually to be experienced first, and understood only much later, and often after some effort. This premise applies with special force to The Assassin.

    It is about the most direct experience of a film I’ve ever had. I didn’t understand very much of the plot, or even the language. The subtitles were only in French, and the Chinese was – while recognizably Mandarin – so classical in nature, so foreign in syntax and rhythm compared to vernacular Chinese today that even native Mandarin speakers are going to need a subtitled translation. Even then, those who could read the French subtitles admitted that much of this eluded their comprehension.

    Yet I was curiously grateful for the linguistic barriers. I found myself resisting looking down at the subtitles for fear of missing the sheer surfeit of details. I was confronted by a string of arresting image/sound couplets that would make even a dedicated sensibilist blush. For those who seek the comforts of linear narratives, The Assassin, comprised of images and shots so ravishing, so exquisitely wrought, so overwhelming in their layered details, will smack of empty formalism. But if you’re open to the deftly poetic, or rather to defiant poetic obliqueness, and if you’re willing to follow cinema beyond the confines of narrative, you will encounter a film unlike any others–including other Hou films.

    The Assassin is not Flowers of Shanghai, the other Hou film replete with almost unfathomable beauty. The new work marks a return to the glorious landscapes of Hou’s earlier films, taken mostly on locations in mainland China. These landscapes are melded seamlessly with interior shots, erasing the divide between indoors and outdoors. The two large sets built in Taiwan that I saw back in December of 2012, when the team commenced shooting in Taipei, were not closed off from the outdoors. They were open-aired sets with only grates and panels acting as walls. This arrangement allowed maximum flexibility, so that the same two buildings could stand in for dozens of interior locations in the finished film.

    Only watching the film last Thursday did I detect a deeper purpose beyond the already demanding task of capturing historical details of the Tang Dynasty. That purpose becomes evident in a scene midway through the film where Nie Yingnaing is attempting to assassinate her cousin. Long takes are shot through diaphanous veils with a shallow depth of field that makes for an unpredictable and undulating texture. Evidently Hou and company filmed this scene only when a gentle wind could waft through those semi-opaque veils. When the veils were in front of the camera, they revealed flickering candles stirred by unseen breezes. Yet gentle winds at times opened up the veils and the image would appear with a new clarity. The interior shots are in effect landscapes themselves, albeit human ones. They doubtless owe a great deal to the remarkable assistance of Huang Wen-ying, Hou’s production designer.

    There were two opposing traditions in classical Chinese painting. The court painters favored urban settings and rendered human action in vibrant colors. Alternatively, the scholarly painters employed subdued colors or monochrome schemes to render lonely hermits engaging in Taoist retreats to Nature. Hou, working with Huang Wen-ying and Mark Lee, defies both of these.

    True, the exterior shots reveal craggy rocks, and the mists and the human forms are dwarfed by nature. And yes, Hou said he had an interest in landscapes only after he visited China and realized these landscapes were actually “realistic.” Still, just as the interiors look nothing like court paintings of the past, these exteriors are utterly unique. No Chinese landscape painting–no actual Chinese landscape for that matter–has a palette quite like these. In Hou’s earlier films the landscapes, while beautiful, were all undeniably real. But these are almost hyperreal. Do places in China actually look like this? If the tourism board on the mainland is hoping this film will boost visits to these stunning locales, this could very well backfire. Seeing these places in person could not match how they appear in these frames.

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    It is hard to know whether The Assassin is indeed a swordplay film (wuxia pian), that most venerated of Chinese genres. Aside from the brief instances of the Nie Yingniang, the female protagonist, jumping down from challenging but not impossible heights, and aside from one incident involving a sorcerer, this is indeed a film “grounded in the earth” as Hou himself described in the Master Class. If this is a historical film, this is most decidedly not the nationalist bluster of recent big-budgeted historical films coming out of Mainland China. This film does not flaunt flying errant knights, or celebrate the bombast of past Chinese historical glories. This is the grandeur of sheer, subtle, seemingly boundless beauty. It has to be seen, it has to be watched, it has to be experienced. It does not necessarily have to be understood.

    In the end, The Assassin is a film by Hou Hsiao-hsien, and yet it is unlike any film he has made before. It has the signature long takes, yet he seemingly has reinvented them. The fight scenes do have a great deal of editing, yet they remain oblique through both staging and montage, and strangely beautiful.

    This is the same Hou I encountered back in 1989, my first year in Taiwan. Long before I decided to become a film scholar, I was an unsuspecting viewer about to see a film called City of Sadness by a director I had never heard of before. A film I did not understand, but which I experienced at a very deep level. It is a film that changed my life. A film that was a beginning of a journey, even if I did not know it at the time. That journey continues with these words, written by a scholar who cannot really analyze what he has just experienced. He can only, slowly, emerge from an intense cinematic rapture.


    We hope to post more about the Antwerp event and Hou’s career over the next week or so. In the meantime, here is Hou at a press conference discussing his plans for his next film.

    Shu 500

    The Assassin (2015).

  • 金色梦乡 - [师夷长技]

    2010/12/07

    日本有两部著名小说是以披头士的单曲命名的:挪威森林和金色梦乡。

    我很厌恶前者,也很厌恶村上春树,这本书自恋、矫情,致使我连村上其他的书也没兴趣看了。

    我很喜欢伊版幸太郎这哥们,有想象力,黑色幽默,玩世不恭。

    而且他和我有一个共同点,爱看电影。

    《金色梦乡》有一个很棒的结尾,在今年看过的小说里,堪与《龙纹身的女孩》媲美。

  • 《坏人们》 - [师夷长技]

    2010/11/06

    精彩。

    超越零的焦点的松本清张。大师,折服。

    每次阅读松本清张就会感到东野圭吾和宫部美幸的火候还不够。

  • 贫民富翁能在今年强手如林的情况下,勇夺数项大奖,我心里是有些不服气的。

    今天偷偷猫起来看了,心里还是很佩服,不要冷静下来想这个故事有多扯淡,问题在于如何把这种梦一样的故事拍的扣人心弦才是最难的。虽然我告诉自己,这情节太假了,但我仍然被爱情所感动,只能说,导演把人内心对于虚假爱情梦想的渴求抓准了。

    确实,情节的理想程度削弱了本片的艺术价值,但是这正是奥斯卡的宗旨——造梦。专家?艺术?还是先靠边站吧。如果导演都像杨德昌,好莱坞就别吃饭了。

    在技术上,在立意上,在爱情模式上,都是奔着得奖去的,这么交圈的一部“得奖相”作品,想不得奖都难。

  • 说说马丁斯科塞斯吧,这位导演算是纽曼的晚辈,马丁谈起纽曼也是一脸的崇拜:

    “我和自己的偶像人物只合作过一次。保罗·纽曼出演了我1986年推出的[金钱本色],扮演把汤姆·克鲁斯带坏的台球经纪人。我花了一段时间,才学会怎么和纽曼交流。伍迪·艾伦把这种现象叫做“21岁以下综合症”,他认为所有你在21岁之前在银幕上看到的人,都会让你感到紧张。听到这话,我想笑。但对偶像的崇敬确实会对工作构成影响。片中有一处纽曼面部的推进特写镜头,表现他听到台球碰撞声音的表情。纽曼完全吃透了角色当时的复杂心理,用不着我对他废口舌。当我在样片里看到这个画面时,我暗想:噢,上帝!这就是美国的偶像。”

    不管怎么说,其他导演不管铸造了多么灿烂辉煌的纽曼,让纽曼真正把男主角小金人捧回家的,是马丁斯科塞斯。

    我还想插一句,《金钱本色》里的纽曼,是我见过最帅的老年人。

  • 把纽曼拍的最有魅力的导演,当属乔治 罗伊 希尔 (George Roy Hill)。

    一部《虎豹小霸王》,一部《骗中骗》,把巅峰状态的纽曼记录了下来,那是一个人见人爱的纽曼,一个略带沧桑的纽曼,那是一个男人最灿烂辉煌的时代!

    当然,导演本人也迎来了自己事业上最大的辉煌。

    此后,他们又在77年合作过《火爆群龙 Slap Shot》,我并没有看过,但可知此部影响力与之前已经难以同日而语。对了,79年那部可爱的《A Little Romance / 情定日落桥 / 小小罗曼史》,片头播放了法语版的《虎豹小霸王》,也算是导演对于往昔的缅怀,对于自己的一份带有幽默感的“自吹自擂”。

  • 为了纪念Newman,把他生前那一部部闪光的作品重新发掘出来,我搜集了很多资料,也淘到了N多影碟。尤其是看了shukei的博客,颇多得著。

    与Newman合作最多的导演是马丁瑞特(Matin Ritt),两个人合作的影片共有六部(其中第三部是客串演出)。

    1、The Long, Hot Summer / 夏日春情 / 漫长的炎夏(1958)

    2、Paris Blues / 巴黎狂恋(1961)

    3、Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man/少年歷險記(1961)

    4、Hud / 原野铁汉 / 牧野枭境(1963)

    5、The Outrage / 西方罗生门 / 雨打梨花(1964)

    6、Hombre / 野狼(1967)
     

    下面文字摘自shukei的博客:“如果以合作次數論交情,瑞特應是他最深交的導演了(二人政見相同,思想都帶點左傾,烈特更一度被非美活動委員會列入黑名單)。未知這是否解釋了他在《牧》片裡甘冒犯難之險,乃出於對烈特的信任與支持?”

  • 迷上东野 - [师夷长技]

    2008/12/02

    东野圭吾是当今世上最好的作家,我愿立此存照。

    近日读完了《嫌疑人X的献身》与《白夜行》,都是杰作,都令人手不释卷,但叙事方式却又截然不同。

    前者更像一段“相声”,围绕着一个语不惊人死不休的包袱(但这里的包袱可不是笑料,而是让人瞠目结舌的案件真相)展开,这类故事的叙述技巧的核心就在于如何把观众(读者)的思路支开,离真相越远越好。最后达到“意料之外,情理之中”的结果。可以说,东野完成的相当出色,震撼。本书作为日本本格推理横空出世的杰作当之无愧,甚至可以说是“神品”。

    而《白夜行》就像是一部评书,更讲究叙事本身的趣味。“真相如何”、“凶手是谁”只是一个肇始的驱动力,究竟怎么回事已经不重要了,读者的全部兴致已经全部转移到了叙事方式上(自然,是作家理想的读者,只想看本格推理的读者可以走远了)。在叙事上,已经达到了“坦诚的暧昧”的境界(电影大师库布里克说过“对我来说,真正的艺术性的、坦诚的暧昧性——如果容许我用这样一个自相矛盾的字眼的话——才是最完美的表达形式。”)。恩格斯也说过,“艺术越是隐晦,越是具备其自身的价值”。所以,一味追求一个“明确的解释”,把故事条分缕析的透明那便不是艺术了——即听故事的重点不在于情节究竟如何,而在于故事是否“耐人寻味”。

    在这部书的前几章,几乎每一章都有时间上的更迭,有新人物的出场,这些新人物的出场又带来更多的谜团,让人觉得整个案件的背后有一种极其黑暗的力量,蕴藏着一个不可思议的阴谋,随着故事的推进这种感觉越来越强烈,叫我紧张的不敢把书放下,必须一口气读完!而随着故事的发展接近尾声之际,这些看似无关的片断又能全部联系起来,连其中的每一个细节都是有逻辑根源的(作案者的动机),滴水不漏。正如一位评论家所说:“故事结实的无话可说”。

    真相是在叙述过程中一点点猜测出来的,读者必须要有一种思考的主动性才能获得乐趣,才能像书中人物一样去置身那个世界,去体验无边的黑暗、凄凉。《嫌疑人》一书给我的感觉是:在整个阅读过程当中你都企图和作者去拼智商,到最后你终于失败了。而《白夜行》不同,不仅要和他拼智商,更要和他拼情商,而且你注定不会胜利……整个阅读过程是充满趣味的但我情感上也是充满压抑和痛苦的,当《白夜行》读完的时候,感觉自己被一种无边的绝望笼罩。那种感觉,他奶奶的,真是“无语问苍天”哪。

    东野叙事的口风冷静、犀利,对于残忍的描述也是同样的毫不留情,让你感觉这似乎是一个毫不人道的作家。但读到结尾,掩卷长思,你才能感到作家对于主人公悲惨命运和不幸遭遇的无限感慨与同情,而这种关怀是深沉的,不着痕迹的,就像书中人的作案手段一样。

    想极力推荐一部好书,却又不能泄漏任何情节,这确实是很劳神的一件事,希望我做到了。

  •  

    我觉得奥巴马的长相是丹泽尔-华盛顿和姜大卫的合体。

    而姜大卫又是梁朝伟和周杰伦的合体。

    你看出来了吗?

  • 昨晚拉了一波同事完整的看了一遍,看电影的时候简要作了一下笔记。震撼的半夜还睡不着,于是动笔把整部电影的脉络梳理了一遍。喜欢这部片子的人不是很多,因为大家都反应看不懂,和闪灵/发条橙子比起来,这部电影有着很大的不同,隐喻更多也更费解。但一旦钻进去了,其乐无穷。

    你喜欢《大开眼戒》吗?果然是另有雅趣。
    大开眼戒的场景总结笔记:
    1/舞会(夫妻双双被诱惑,因为出众,所以容易被选择)
    2/接吻+卧室之争(经典男女对话,比尔被妻子语言刺伤,原来妻子为了出轨可以抛弃一切)
    3/慰问丧者(巧妙的位置置换,自己成了出轨的对象,再次刺激)
    4/街头(被小混混嘲弄,男性自尊被刺伤)
    5/召妓(决定出动选择一次出轨)
    6/酒吧(与老友谈话,引出神秘聚会)
    7/租衣店(rainbow概念的浓缩,诡异的女孩和利欲熏心的父亲)
    8/豪宅奇观(全片高潮)
    9/返家,妻子噩梦(梦与现实的不谋而合,让人不寒而栗)
    10/调查:咖啡店+酒店+租衣店+豪宅(一无所获,比尔被警告)
    11/返家,诊所(妻子教育女儿,潜意识)
    12/二访暗娼家(第一个妓女艾滋病,为低层次的选择付出的代价)
    13/跟踪(妙笔,神秘/悬疑)
    14/选美皇后之死(应对晚会的事情,比尔更加恐惧)
    15/台球厅谈话(揭示晚会真相,对中产阶级再讽刺)
    16/回家(夫妻坦白)
    17/圣诞商场(仍在选择的场所,人如同琳琅满目的商品,夫妻对话,绝望的结局)

  • 风林火山 - [师夷长技]

    2008/10/13

    《影武者》这碟收了2年半了,慑于近3小时的片长,加之对日本战国历史知识的匮乏,从不敢问津。昨日读毕《德川家康》第四部《兵变本能寺》,忍不住拿出碟来看。

    好,真好,每隔几分钟就有一次赞叹。自杀未遂的黑泽明果然在境界上又突飞猛进了一次。我有这么几点感想:

    1、扮演伟人的特型演员,心灵定会不由自主的向伟人靠近,受伟人之感染,还是那个主题:人的非人性化倾向;

    2、由外而内的表演训练方式果然见效;

    3、黑泽明选演员真厉害,信长和家康的气质极其准确,仲代达矢的表现更是惊天地泣鬼神;

    4、老黑的电影语言明确而富有力量,有一种直指人心的气势。比如最后那面“风林火山”的大旗,至今搞得我精神恍惚;

    5、中国别拍历史大片了,黑泽明这道坎,真迈不过去。

  • 两个电影金童,都是我的偶像。

    傻马兰第六感拍出来的时候,如日中天,而诺兰的记忆碎片虽然犀利但票房不可能和前者叫板。从此以后,戏剧性出现了,傻马兰每况日下(而他的艺术水准却在蹭蹭的上涨),诺兰一部比一部要彩(当然他的功力也日趋炉火纯青)。

    当《破天·荒》被职业影评人们贬斥的一无是处的时候,《暗夜骑士》把《教父》从imdb的首席拉下了马。票房直逼《泰坦尼克号》。

    imdb的TOP100里,已经有4部是诺兰的作品,要知道,这哥们一共才拍了5部长片啊。

    风水轮流转,Every Dog Has His Day.

  • 最近读到《德川家康》第二本。

     

    这段话非常棒:
    “人们会因为从别人身上看到相似的脆弱而欣慰,认为那是“人之常情”。然而,当他们发现可堪依赖之人的软弱时,心底便会动荡不安,心灵也将无所皈依。我是否也会软弱?家康深深反省。于乱世中立国,必须强而勇。如此才可聚众心于一。”

  • 老库满80 - [师夷长技]

    2008/07/26

    在我最喜欢的导演排行榜上,老库稳坐头三把交椅。 摘一则笑话纪念他的八十大寿。

     

    伟大的斯皮尔伯格直到死后才知道库布里克有多高——那天斯皮尔伯格去了天堂,在天国门口被圣彼得拦住。圣彼得说,上帝非常喜欢你的电影,他希望你过得愉快,有什么要求我会帮你实现。斯皮尔伯格说,我只想见库布里克。圣彼得说,你怎么要求这样的事?你知道,库布里克不愿意见人。斯皮尔伯格非常沮丧,突然,他看到一个满脸大胡子的人骑着一辆自行车过去。斯皮尔伯格喊道,那不就是库布里克吗!圣彼得摇着头说,斯蒂芬,那不是库布里克,那是上帝,只不过他一直以为自己是库布里克。

  •  

    俺们亲爱的诺兰新作面世,已经被捧上了天。

    影评出人意料的出现了一边倒的现象,而且均是狂赞,重要的是都不是头脑发热的影评,而是有理有据,有棱有角,有文有武。

    石琪狂赞,云中的博客贴出来6分钟的片花。妈的,好看到爆。据说国内不引进,难道真的要去趟香港?

    我觉得,我需要冷静一下。

     

  • 这期的《看电影》午夜场是阿尔帕西诺做封面,老爷子越看越英俊。

    他的自传文章里贴出了幼时与父母的合影。

    阿尔帕长得真像他的父亲,也很像他的母亲——他的父母真的很有夫妻相。

  • 年度最爱影片终于出现。

    我国的电影工作者似乎钻入了死胡同(据说即将上映的《投名状》也很“寒”,疑似黄金甲的泥土血腥版),不是底层劳苦大众(而且还是伪的)的血泪,就是烈士暴徒的血泪——这次连李安都得算上——我真不厚道。为什么不能在讲故事的时候轻松幽默一点呢。就像捷克导演伊利·曼佐(Jiri Menzel) 这个老顽童一样。
    温情而充满人生智慧的东西始终是我最喜欢的,这部片子便是如此:温暖中透着凄凉,甜蜜中带着苦涩,骄傲中露出浮夸,幽默里还夹杂着讽刺。这位老导演也是个语不惊人死不休的主儿,每一个镜头都得搞出点动静才行,有点像isu或是swalt的风格。

    总觉得那个可爱的小男主角在哪儿见过,今天突然一拍脑袋:他不就是捷克动画大师ZdenekMiler笔下的那只小鼹鼠么?

  • 几个猛片 - [师夷长技]

    2007/12/09

     

    1、天堂的日子

    泰伦斯·马里克的长片处女作,真搞不清楚这哥们是如何搬动如此牛比的合作资源的,能请到楚福的御用摄影和莫尼康配乐,这得多大面子啊。

    2、Frenzy 和Family Plot

    俺最死忠的希治阁的最后两个作品。力量、控制都有,可是就是觉得没特点了。怎么看都没那么带劲了。对了,Family Plot最后一个镜头我提前猜出来了。

    对了,在howie博客上看到了马丁斯科赛斯借尸还魂的一个短篇http://www.scorsesefilmfreixenet.com/video_eng.htm,怎么那么好看呢?简直是热血沸腾。

    3、杀出个黎明

    搞不懂为何到如今才看到这片子。太带劲了。 

    女孩:你要去哪儿。

    昆汀:墨西哥。 

    女孩:墨西哥有什么?

    昆汀:墨西哥人。

  • 彼得威尔的早期作品集一直没舍得开,昨天给开了,共有两部片子,《The Cars That Ate Paris》和《The Plumber》

    关于前一部,网上影评已经很多了,不多讲。片子从头至尾都很压抑,虽然这是导演的成名作也常被引用,但我并不喜欢。

    而管子工一片却是如此的有趣,看得我目瞪口呆,此片对我情绪的掌控明显强于前者:

    一名行为诡异但并无恶意的管子工青年引起了一家女客户的强烈不满,她渐渐的绝望了,失去了对老公的依靠,对管子工充满了敌意,只能出下策陷害管子工。

    很简单的一个故事,却把文化的冲突,绝望的产生,人性的阴暗展现的惊心动魄。人为什么害人??想起金庸的一句话“无一人不冤屈”。其实伤害,根本上是由个体的差异所致。