Film is a critical medium of communication that can be used to pass on important information. It is through film that one can reach a wide audience and impart them with a chosen message. For a long while, people have been captivated by motion pictures and they focus more on information carried via this medium because it is usually very engaging to the mind particularly the audio visual centers of the brain critical to memory. Film directors play a key role in bringing this message to life and are tasked with ensuring that the main content is passed on in the best manner possible and its key points are driven home.
The movie industry in China is quite massive due to the fact that it has an extensive and wide viewer target. With the Chinese population at over a billion people, it is imperative that all stakeholders realize its enormous potential. It is on this note that the Chinese Government has maintained a keen eye on the film industry not only to pass critical messages but also to ensure that the values enshrined on in their socialist doctrines are inculcated in the population. From the days of the socialist victories Chinese film scene has been dominated by movies that depict the heroism and bravery of the nation that has kept oppressive forces and enemies of the state at bay (Clark, 1987).
It is on this note that many cinema directors are keen to see to it that they propagate such pro state ideology in their films so as to advance the nationalist and state socialist agenda. Most film directors have an entrenched sense of duty to the state hence time and again have produced films that are in line with traditional government aspirations and wishes. However, a few directors who have lived and worked outside the Peoples Republic of China may have developed different ideas and notions. The key question that ought to come to mind is whether such transnational directors (as we shall refer to them) have produced works that are in nature different from those whose directors who have lived and worked in China wholly and completely. For this research we shall focus on two transnational directors Tsui Hark and Ang Li to find out whether the movies they have directed are similar or different to those by mainland directors.
A typical Chinese war movie usually plays along an indoctrinated script whereby the nation is invaded by a powerful enemy with a far superior army and armaments. The invading army then terrorizes the people and commits numerous atrocities on the local folk at which point they seek a nationalist hero to save them from the villainous invaders (Zhang, 2004). It is at this point that the directors bring in a courageous Chinese Army which is dedicated towards the protection of its citizens. The nationalist army though smaller and greatly outweighed in terms of equipment fights off the larger army using strategic brilliance and rare bravado. At the end of the filmed narrative the Chinese Army wins the day amidst jubilation and joy from the locals who idolize the soldiers for putting their lives at risk in the service of fellow man (Spence & Chin, 1996). Such a depiction of sacrifice towards a fellow citizen is the ultimate statement of communism.
The Taking of Tiger Mountain is a 3-D movie directed by Tsui Hark and is based on Qu Bos 1957 novel Tracks in The Snowy Forest that would go on to inspire films during the Peking era. Various renditions of this film were made by Xi Tieli in 1970 and Brian Eno in 1974.The film revolves around the character Yang Zirong a Peoples Liberation Army soldier played by Zhang Hanyu who is under the command of Shao Jianbo or captain 203 as he is symbolically referred to, the feminine heroine in the film is Yu Nan who acts as Ma Qinglian.The main protagonist in the production is Tony Leung Ka-Fai depicted by the symbolic name of Hawk the commander of the oppressive militia. The plot of the narrative is one of sheer heroism and mental will as it is a David and Goliath scenario that pits a small outnumbered band of Peoples Liberation Army soldiers and heavily armed militia under the control of Hawk.
The setting of the film is soon after the Japanese surrender at the closure of World War Two where many warlords have taken control of previous Japanese arsenals. A group of 30 soldiers arrives to retake such arsenals under the command of captain 203.They defeat local bandits then receive reinforcements in the form of Bai Ru and Yang Zirong. The soldiers are welcomed into the local village and taken care of as the villagers hope they will protect them from the overlord Hawk. Zirong then decides to work as a spy passing messages to Hawks soldiers just to gain their trust when in reality he wants to infiltrate their ranks and discover the best way to take Tiger Mountain- the Fortress where the bandits are holed up in.
Zirong passes a group of tests including one where Hawk sends Ma Qinglian to tempt him but he soon recognizes her as the mother of the boy his company of soldiers saved and befriends her. Qinglians insistence on an escape are overhead by Brother Two played by Shai Yanneng. His accusations on Zirong are countered by fabricated evidence which Zirong plants on his person. Qinglian is quick to accuse Brother Two and the Hawk accepts the evidence against Brother Two as treacherous and orders his execution. The tempo shifts now to an attack on the village which Zirong overheard and tactfully sent a message to warn the Peoples Liberation Army soldiers. They set traps and defeat the larger invading force of nearly 300 men at a collateral cost of a few soldiers.
Such rousing defeat infuriates Hawk and the arrival of the bandit spy makes things worse for Zirong but he convinces Hawk that the bandit spy is lying since the PLA soldiers had a much larger army than the spy had reported. The warlord commands Zirong to kill the bandit spy. The film comes to a crescendo when the PLA soldiers receive a plan from Zirong that outlines the attack on Tiger Mountain. The soldiers with the help of the boy find a weakness on the fortress wall and defeat the warlord and his bandits.
The director here presents the villains as crude, sadistic and inhumane psychopaths who do not have a care in the world about the people. The villagers suffering is clearly brought out in their cries to the army soldiers upon arrival. A viewer of the film is made to believe that the innocent civilians are under an oppressive system that kills and takes away what is rightfully theirs. The communist Chinese soldiers on the other hand are depicted as selfless and heroic nationalists who give their lives for the people and volunteer on dangerous missions. Pro-socialist views are hammered into the mind of the viewer and the viewer is made to believe in communist doctrine that the state is indeed the peoples best friend. An individual is taught that they are under constant threat but only the state with its love for the masses has their interests at heart and would like to see them thrive.
The films visuals are top notch and modern with the firepower coming out as one of the strengths that have so far made it a great three- dimensional experience. The visual effects team delivers high quality bloody spurts that are produced after bullet impact. Many of the adrenaline pumping scenes involved thrilling acts such as use of zip lines and fast movement of fighters on skis. The artillery show is heavy and resonates with the sound effects to demonstrate the use of serious firepower.
One sees the Tsuis attempt to create a new kind of nationalist revolutionary idealism. The director seeks to re-invent Chinese war story narratives in a newer and more creative way. However, the director finds it difficult to do this due to strict control by the establishment who are not eager to modify the revolutionary narrative. A supporting manifestation of this, is the bookending of the film that follows a graduate from a university in China; Hang Geng also known a Jimmy. He sees the 1970 movie rendition and travels to his homeland of Northern China to re-imagine how the final showdown between Hawk and Zirong would have happened.
Ang Li is a transnational movie director whose views are quite different from the norm experienced by mainland directors. From the start one can see the liberal direction and that the directors work of art is free and uninhibited in its expression. A look at his movie Lust, Caution is crystal clear evidence of his unhindered creativity. A clear demonstration of the way his movies go against the norms and values propagated by the Chinese establishment.
Lust, Caution is a 2007 movie based on the book Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang published in 1979.The revolutionary movie is set during post World War Two era when Japanese Occupational Forces installed a puppet government in China. Set mainly in Hong Kong and Shanghai the story follows a group of university students out to fight for the sovereignty of the Chinese people.
The plot of the movie revolves around Wang Jiahzi a young Chinese girl who joins a patriotic drama club that turns her into a covert affairs agent in the service of her motherland. After her father leaves her, she escapes to Lignan university in Hong Kong where Kuan Yuming introduces her to the club that will change her life forever.
She is tasked with an undercover identity as Mrs. Mak and her mission is to aid in the assassination of Mr. Yee who is responsible for collaboration with the enemy. They plot to use her seduction charms then lure him into a deathtrap. Mr. Yee has a change of mind then moves to Shanghai with the plan soon backfiring. Mr. Yees assistant learns of this plan and the plotters kill him to protect their cover.
Three years later, Wang meets Yuming in Shanghai this time he is working undercover for KMT. History repeats itself as she is enlisted to execute Mr. Yee who is now head of the secret police. She successfully seduces him into falling in love with her clearly demonstrated by his deep affection for her. He even buys her an expensive diamond ring and the climax coincidentally falls on the time they are going to collect it. Resistance agents have laid ambush at the jewelry store ready to kill Mr. Yee but Wang changes her mind and warns her lover of the imminent threat to his life enabling him to flee unharmed. The unexpected twist to the natural flow of events is due to her realization that Mr. Yee truly has deep affectionate feelings for her. An ending to the film comes sooner rather than later when Wang, Yuming and other KMT revolutionaries are executed by Japanese soldiers.
Ang Li is a liberal movie director who has spent most of his working career in the United States and his films portray less staunch pro- establishment leanings. From the movie Lust, Caution the director is able to inspire nationalist sentiments and thoughts but these are overtaken by love. The viewer is made to feel that love conquers all and is more important than ideological orientation.
The passion in the story is compelling as it takes most of the scenes leaving very little time for crucial development of other themes in the plot. It is worth noting that sex in the movie is nearly eclipsing the political story and dominating the film. From stunningly athletic sexual positions to bondage, the manner in which the characters copulate is too much for a general audience movie. One is made to feel raw sexuality at its peak with exposure to frontal nudity scenes where the characters are barely covered in any article of clothing. It is on this aspect that the director spent nearly a hundred hours just to shoot the sex and nude scenes. ('Fang'Lee:cruel but true, 2008).
The film was edited to suit Chinese establishmen...
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