The 1937 Chinese film Crossroads is now available on archive.org.
This Friday I’m going to do something rather stupid: I’m going to sing on a stage for the first time in more than four years, in Chinese. It’s actually just outtakes for a talent contest at school, so it’s hardly important. Anyway, the song is Be Your Man (做你的男人) by Jeff Chang (张信哲) and to prepare I’ve annotated and translated the lyrics, which I might as well share. On a side note, Jeff Chang has a small but important role in the fairly popular film Ming Ming (明明), which also stars Zhou Xun (周迅). See it if you get a chance.
东京纽约每个地点 (Dōngjīng Niǔyuē měige dìdiǎn)
带你去坐幸福的地下铁 (dài nǐ qù zuò xìngfú de dìxià tiě)
散步逛街找电影院 (sànbù guàngjiē zhǎo diànyǐngyuàn)
累了我就帮你提高跟鞋 (lèi le wǒ jiù bāng nǐ tí gāogēnxié)
塞车停电哪怕下雪 (sāichē tíngdiàn nǎpà xiàxuě)
每天都要和你过情人节 (měitiān dōu yào hé nǐ guò qíngrénjié)
星光音乐一杯热咖啡 (xīngguāng yīnyuè yī bēi rè kāfēi)
只想给你所有浪漫情节 (zhǐ xiǎng gěi nǐ suǒyǒu làngmàn qíngjié)
Tokyo, New York, every single place.
Take you for a ride on the happy subway.
Go for a walk, windowshop, look for a cinema.
You’re tired, I carry your high heel shoes for you.
A traffic jam, a power out, it even starts to snow.
I want to spend valentines day with you every day.
Starlight, music, a cup of hot coffee.
I just want to give you an all romantic valentines day.
让我做你的男人 (ràng wǒ zuò nǐ de nánrén)
二十四个小时不睡觉 (èr shí sì gè xiǎoshí bù shuìjiào)
小心翼翼地保持 (xiǎoxīnyìyì de bǎochí)
这种热情不退烧 (zhè zhǒng rèqíng bù tuì shāo)
不管世界多纷扰 (bùguǎn shìjiè duō fēnrāo)
我们俩紧紧地拥抱 (wǒmen liǎ jǐnjǐn de yōngbào)
隐隐约约我感觉有微笑 (yǐnyǐnyuēyuē wǒ gǎnjué yǒu wēixiào)
藏在你嘴角 (cáng zài nǐ zuǐjiǎo)
Let me be your man.
I haven’t slept for twenty-four hours.
I carefully protect
this kind of non-stop passion.
No matter how much commotion in the world,
the two of us hug tightly.
I can faintly sense a smile
hidden in your lips.
做你的男人 (zuò nǐ de nánrén)
二十四个小时不睡觉 (èr shí sì gè xiǎoshí bù shuìjiào)
让胆小的你在黑夜中 (ràng dǎnxiǎo de nǐ zài hēiyè zhōng)
也会有个依靠 (yě huì yǒu gè yīkào)
就算有一天爱会变少 (jiù suàn yǒu yī tiān ài huì biàn shǎo)
人会变老 (rén huì biàn lǎo)
就算没告诉过你也知道 (jiùsuàn méi gàosu guò nǐ yě zhīdào)
下辈子还要和你遇到 (xià bèizi hái yào hé nǐ yùdào)
I’ll be your man.
I haven’t slept for twenty-four hours.
If you’re afraid in the dark night,
there will be someone there for you too.
Even though one day love becomes weaker,
and people grow older.
Even though I haven’t told you, you still know.
I’ll encounter you in my next life as well.
Previously translated lyrics:
Today we visited the China National Film Museum out in the north-east suburbs of Beijing. It’s a huge complex with a three-story exhibition, an IMAX theater, a digital theater and the usual 35 mm theater. The exhibition focuses on the history of Chinese cinema from its beginning more than 100 years ago till the present. Since I am a big fan of Chinese cinema I recognized many of the actors, directors and films that I love.
I was disappointed, however, to find some glaring omissions – one of the best films by the most famous director was mysteriously missing. I’m talking about Zhang Yimou’s To Live, which was banned for its unfavorable treatment of the Party and the cultural revolution. Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Blue Kite suffered the same fate. This makes me wonder what else might have been omitted. In the 1930’s film-making was heavily influenced by the politics of the day – might great films from this time be missing because of aligning with the Nationalists?
Where did The Blue Kite go?
The treatment of Chinese animation was very satisfying. Original sketches from Uproar in Heaven were on display, as well as information on Princess Iron Fan and other old gems. Furthermore there were sections on costumes, special effects and the abomination that is dubbing. All in all very nice, but I should warn that there’s very little information in English. Visit only if you’re a film buff, can read some Chinese and already know a fair bit about Chinese cinema.
Making of Uproar in Heaven
Having been through the 20 exhibition halls, we watched an IMAX 3D screening. It was a 30 minute gimmicky movie about the creatures of the sea, obviously made only to showcase IMAX technology. If you ever go to an IMAX theater, be sure to watch a real movie.
Watching IMAX makes you look stupid
In Sweden I usually demonstrate on labor day, but that’s obviously not an option in China. Instead we went to Houhai, a lake area north of the Forbidden City. I accidentally stumbled upon this big thing:
It’s the Bell Tower and is actually a tourist attraction, but I didn’t feel very attracted to it. There are a lot of Hutongs in the area – Hutong is what the old narrow streets in Beijing are called. More and more of them are destroyed to make room for the modern life, which is a pity in some cases. However, many of them are actually really shoddy. Would you want to live here?
Soon we arrived at Houhai. This area is very un-Chinese with reagge cafes, bars and the like. Nonetheless, walking around the lakes (Houhai is just one of several) is pretty nice.
Feeling kind of bored, we went to Wangfujing to watch a movie. If you get a chance to see Shanghai Red, do pass. It’s unoriginal, slightly pretentious and has corny dialogue, mostly in English (it’s a Sino-American production, I found out too late). Enough about that. I found a huge DVD shop and wandered around for a long time. I was kind of surprised to find Devils on the Doorstep, which I wrote yesterday has never been shown publicly in China. Finally, I bought Mongolian Ping Pong, by the director of the popular hit Crazy Stone.
In all, a great day for the international labor movement (and the international film industry). Last but not least, a warning from the kitchen of BLCU’s dorms:
Jiang Wen (姜文) is a well-known name in China but appears to be fairly unknown to the rest of the world. As an actor he has worked with some of the biggest names in Chinese cinema, including Zhang Yimou, Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi. Out of the films I have seen, I especially enjoyed Keep Cool and The Missing Gun. An accomplished actor as he is, I like him even better as a director. In thirteen years, he has only directed three films, the latest of which has not yet premiered. Despite this, it would not be flattery to call him a master director. His style is his own, he fits in neither with the famous fifth generation directors, nor with the young, hip directors of the so called sixth generation.
Chinese films set during the cultural revolution are generally what might be called “trauma dramas”, heart-breaking films made by directors with dark memories from that era, sometimes to atone for their own complicity. Jiang Wen’s 1994 directorial debut film In the Heat of the Sun (阳光灿烂的日子) stands in stark contrast – it looks back at that time with nostalgia. A semi-autobiographical coming of age story, the film follows Ma Xiaojun (a young Jiang Wen) during his teenage years in Beijing. His father is in the army, which gives Xiaojun great personal freedom. Together with his friends he skips class, watches movies, hits on girls, smokes cigarettes and gets into occasional fights. The main focus of the film is Xiaojun’s infatuation with Mi Lan, who is a few years older than himself. His insecure, trembling voice and slight desperation as is spot on and landed Xia Yu a prize for best actor at the Venice International Film Festival.
In Jiang Wen’s own words, he worships Mao Zedong. The references to the politics of the time are plentiful and this film is quite unique in depicting the cultural revolution as an adventurous and cheerful time. This does not imply that In the Heat of the Sun is a propaganda film made to please the Chinese censors, if you have seen one of those films you will notice the difference. More than anything this is a nostalgic film, longing for the careless summer days of the past.
Compare with the three big “trauma dramas”:
In 2000 Jiang Wen directed and acted in his second film, Devils on the Doorstep (鬼子来了). It is shot in black & white and set during the Japanese occupation of Northern China in the 1940’s. One night, a man who only calls himself “me” knocks on of Ma Dasan (played by Jiang Wen) and leaves a Japanese captive and his Chinese translator tied up and gagged. At gunpoint, he tells Dasan that they must be kept hidden from the Japanese and he will be back to collect them after the new year. Fearing both the Japanese “devils” and the unknown “me”, Dasan seeks the help of the other villagers. There is no lack of comic relief in the film, especially in a scene where they interrogate the prisoners. The solider curses the Chinese and demands to be killed, while his translator instead shouts “He begs you not to kill him!” and so on. “Me” never comes back, and as time passes the Japanese prisoner begins to feel grateful to the townspeople, who treat him well.
Devils on the Doorstep is quite different from most Chinese war-time films. The Japanese aren’t one-dimensional devils and the Chinese aren’t brave heroes. Sadly, because of a debacle with the film censors, it has never been show publicly in China. Jiang Wen competed with it at the 2000 Canne’s Film Festival and won the Grand Prix (2nd prize), but without the film first being approved by the Chinese Film Bureau. This is unacceptable to them regardless of the films content. Furthermore, they allegedly weren’t too happy about the frequent use of “turtle fucker” (王八操的), apparently unable to appreciate such fine humor. I, on the other hand, have approved the film for viewing in all regions!
In a few months Jiang Wen’s new film, The Sun Also Rises (太阳再次升起), will premiere. It spans over about fifty years of history and tells a story in four parts: mad, love, gun and dream. The main storyline appears to be that of Old Tang and his wife who get relocated to the countryside for re-education during the cultural revolution. Tang finds out that his wife is having an affair with a younger man when he overhears her telling him that “my husband says my belly is like velvet”… (Source: 醉生梦死)
Some gossip. Jiang Wen has something of a playboy reputation and actually had a son with Zhou Yun, one of the actresses, late last year. The kid has come to a good start in the film industry, as Jiang Wen added a scene with him after principal photography was finished. What “role” the baby has is unknown to me.
The film was submitted and approved by the Film Bureau well ahead of time, so as to not repeat the previous failure. It was supposed to premiere at Cannes, but surprisingly it was not selected for the competition lineup. Jiang Wen is currently doing all he can to complete the film and hopes to have it included at the last minute. Failure to enter the Cannes Film Festival will likely also delay the public premier, as it would first premiere at some later film festival, such as Venice. (Source: sina)
Today I went to the cinema to see Tuya’s Marriage (图雅的婚事), the film that won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. The film is set in Inner Mongolia and revolves around the willful and witty Tuya. Since the spoken language is not so standard Mandarin and I watched this with only Chinese subtitles I might not be clear on all the details, but the story goes something like this: Tuya’s husband Bater is bound to a wheelchair and can’t help with the family’s sheep or do any other useful work. Out of pity for his wife, Bater wants to divorce so that Tuya can find a man who can better care for her and the two children. However, Tuya cares very much about Bater and will only accept a proposal if the the new husband also agrees to care for him. There are several proposals and the developments that follow put quite an emotional pressure on both Tuya and Bater.
Looking at the poster, I expected this film to be a serious act shot in gray and brown colors. To my surprise the dialogue is often witty, especially on the part of Tuya. The characters and their words still linger in my mind after leaving the cinema, which is certainly not true of all films. The cinematography isn’t bad either, making the dull plains of Inner Mongolia more interesting than they probably are. If Tuya’s Marriage comes to your country (in the cinemas or on DVD) don’t miss it!
My rating: 4 out of 5 sheep
What a few Chinese bloggers are saying:
I just saw on CCTV 9’s Culture Express that Jackie Chan (成龙) is launching a TV show to search for his successor. This is very good news as Jackie Chan was at his peak in the 70’s with Drunken Master (醉拳) and hasn’t been quite so agile lately. The Disciple (“龙”的传人), as the show is called, will be aired on a local Beijing TV channel. If you are of Chinese origin and feel the calling, why not sign up? The top 10 contenders will appear in a movie produced by Jackie Chan, to premier before the 2008 Olympics.