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Kenji Lui
Director , Producer , Screenwriter
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From Andrei Rublev to Why I hate Hong Kong cinema (after 97)

just finished watching Andrei Rublev, another challenging epic by Russian cinema master Andrei Tarkovsky, like it very much, perhaps next to Solaris and Ivan's childhood.

I know a lot of people prefer his later works, but somehow I just feel more engaged watching the aforementioned films. These films seem to have a stronger narrative, as compared to say, nostalgia and sacrifice. Tarkovsky's films are always challenging and are filled with philosophical statements, but in his early films, you can still sense his interaction and his desire to express his views on this world, his religion, his appreciation of art and the people around, while in his later films (perhaps after Stalker), they just make you feel he was more and more detached from reality and are much more symbolic (although, if you read his writings on his works, he never openly admits that his films carry metaphorical meanings..), it is like a visualization of an artist's inner consciousness.

While his films are always filled with highly intellectual dialogues (religion and philosophy seem to play an important part in his life) that are perhaps difficult to understand at first glance, one can always find enjoyment through his poetic camera works and the way he manipulates his actors and settings. Take Solaris as an example, the scene where the two protagonists are building intimation during the loss of gravity, the camera movement, together with the use of js bach's Ich ruf zu Dir as the background music, are so beautiful and divine, it is poem!

What I like most about Andrei Rublev is his genuine depiction of an artist's struggle. Since there is little account of Andrei Rublev's life, it is said that this film is only loosely based on this artist, while most of the scripts were written by Tarkovsky and his collaborators. In some senses, it looks kinda like an autobiography of the filmmaker himself, it is about his thoughts on the essence of art and how an artist is able to overcome his struggles at difficult moments with strong faith. It parallels Tarkovsky's life, that is, how he was making films during the soviet union era under heavy censorship and monitor.

Through the film, you realize an artist's persistence in the pursuit of art. Tarkovsky utilizes the last chapter of the film, with the boy erecting the bell without really inheriting his father's skill, to remind both Andrei Rublev, as well as himself, the importance of remaining faithful about his artistic career and does not try to lower himself to increase the accessibility of his works.

This single statement already makes me an admirer of him and his works! And that explains why nowadays' filmmakers are unable to surpass the barrier. Censorship always exists, no matter in Hollywood (Hollywood used to have very strict censorship rules in the old days), China or some other countries, but still, it wouldn't deter real artists from creating their works. However, nowadays, censorship has become an excuse for many lazy artists for their lack of creativity.

Take Hong Kong cinema (after 97) as an example, how many filmmakers dare to make a work  without restricting their artistic freedom? While we are always talking about making films the audience want, do we ever realize if we have underestimated the audience's taste? Do a simple survey, make a count of the number of failing films that are supposed to be made in favor of the audience, and you'll know the answer.

Another problem Hong Kong cinema is facing is the bizzarre practice of self-censorship. And yeah, I mean those so called hk-china co-productions aimed at the "1.4 billion" audiences, those films don't look like Hong kong film, yet also fails to arouse the interest of mainland audiences. The filmmakers try very hard to accommodate the censorship, yet forget their original purpose to create art (who say art cannot be entertainment, and entertainment cannot be art?).

That's why when I saw films like "Election" (黑社會), "After this, Our Exile" (父子) or the recent "The Way We Are" (天水圍的日與夜), I feel so touched, not only coz of the quality of the film, but most importantly, it exemplifies the faith and the fearlessness of an artist in perfecting his craft...

as a side note, I would like to strongly recommend "The Way We Are" (天水圍的日與夜) to anyone who genuinely loves Hong Kong and cares about the people of this place. Buy it! Watch it! Cherish it! We simply need more of it!!!!

(as promised, a chinese version of the entry can be found below, it isn't a straight translation as i didn't just try to translate every sentence when i was writing it...)

最 近 重 溫 了 俄 國 電 影 大 師 安 迪 塔 可 夫 斯 基 的 經 典 舊 作 《 安 德 烈 ‧ 盧 布 耶 夫 Andrei Rublev 》﹐ 一 部 讓 人 感 動 的 好 電 影 。

塔 可 夫 斯 基 的 作 品 一 向 不 易 嘴 嚼 ﹐ 尤 其 是 後 期 (我 認 為 是 在 《 Stalker 潛 行 者 》之 後) 的 ﹐ 更 是 愈 來 愈 脫 離 現 實 生 活 ﹐ 達 到 另 一 個 精 神 層 次 。 作 為 其 早 期 作 品 中 最 為 人 稱 道 的 一 部 (雖 然 我 還 是 比 較 喜 歡 《 Solaris 》和 《 Ivan's Childhood 》) ﹐ 《 Andrei Rublev 》好 看 之 處 ﹐ 不 獨 在 於 其 富 哲 理 性 的 對 白 內 容 ﹐ 以 及 充 滿 詩 意 的 拍 攝 風 格 ﹐ 最 叫 人 讚 賞 的 ﹐ 其 實 是 編 導 透 過 片 中 主 角 Andrei Rublev 不 如 意 的 藝 術 人 生 ﹐ 表 達 出 的 「 夫 子 自 道 」藝 術 家 感 慨 ﹐ 以 及 一 位 藝 術 家 在 艱 難 的 環 境 之 下 ﹐ 對 創 作 的 堅 執 和 忠 誠 態 度 。

影 片 講 中 世 紀 一 名 畫 家 的 生 平 ﹐ 但 由 於 主 角 的 歷 史 記 載 不 多 ﹐ 劇 情 大 部 分 都 是 編 導 自 行 創 作 ﹐ 所 以 在 某 程 度 上 ﹐ 不 免 代 入 了 自 己 對 藝 術 的 體 會 。 透 過 Rublev 曲 折 的 人 生 經 歷 ﹐ 塔 可 夫 斯 基 展 示 了 藝 術 家 如 何 在 重 重 限 制 之 下 ﹐ 衝 破 心 理 和 現 實 生 活 上 的 障 礙 ﹐ 創 作 出 無 數 扣 人 心 弦 的 畫 作 。 這 樣 的 故 事 ﹐ 何 嘗 不 是 塔 可 夫 斯 基 本 人 的 寫 照 ? 他 在 蘇 俄 時 代 拍 電 影 時 ﹐ 受 到 的 監 限 不 會 被 Rublev 遇 到 的 少 ﹐ 但 憑 著 他 懂 得 化 局 限 為 創 意 的 勇 氣 ﹐ 終 於 成 就 一 部 接 一 部 的 經 典 之 作 。

對 比 之 下 ﹐ 同 樣 面 臨 不 少 局 限 和 監 察 (或 者 說 是 自 我 監 察) 的 香 港 電 影 ﹐實 在 太 令 人 失 望 了 。 其 實 電 影 審 查 制 度 一 直 都 存 在 ﹐ 不 管 是 當 年 的 荷 李 活 ﹑ 現 在 的 中 國 大 陸 或 其 他 地 區 ﹐ 但 在 這 些 地 方 ﹑ 這 些 時 代 ﹐ 不 是 都 誕 生 了 無 數 經 典 嗎 ? 真 正 的 藝 術 家 ﹐ 不 應 被 審 查 局 限 ﹐ 創 作 力 也 不 會 受 到 埋 沒 。 相 反 ﹐ 現 在 不 少 懶 惰 的 電 影 人 ﹐ 紛 紛 以 審 查 嚴 謹 ﹐ 作 為 創 作 力 消 退 的 藉 口 。

以 97 後 的 香 港 電 影 為 例 ﹐ 當 大 家 都 一 窩 風 地 虎 視 內 地 14 億 觀 眾 的 市 場 ﹐ 紛 紛 進 行 自 我 監 察 ﹐ 局 限 創 意 之 際 ﹐ 有 多 少 電 影 人 能 夠 維 持 堅 執 的 藝 術 創 作 態 度 ﹐在 電 影 中 繼 續 講 香 港 人 的 故 事 ? 表 達 香 港 人 的 聲 音 ?

香 港 電 影 在 80 年 代 新 浪 潮 時 ﹐ 曾 一 度 湧 現 不 少 真 正 的 電 影 藝 術 家 ﹐在 雅 俗 間 取 得 平 衡 ﹐ 在 維 護 商 業 投 資 者 利 益 的 同 時 ﹐ 也 沒 有 背 棄 藝 術 。 可 是 環 顧 近 年 影 界 ﹐ 又 有 多 少 人 能 夠 做 到 這 點 ? 諷 刺 的 是 ﹐ 當 大 家 都 趕 拍 被 視 為 可 滿 足 香 港 和 內 地 市 場 的 合 拍 電 影 之 際 ﹐ 真 正 能 夠 獲 兩 地 觀 眾 認 同 的 電 影 ﹐ 數 目 之 少 又 會 否 讓 人 汗 顏 ?

近 年 真 正 的 香 港 電 影 是 愈 來 愈 少 ﹐ 像 《 黑 社 會 》﹑《 父 子 》﹑ 《 天 水 圍 的 日 與 夜 》等 不 妥 協 的 電 影 ﹐ 都 讓 人 感 動 。 從 這 些 電 影 ﹐ 我 們 除 了 看 到 高 質 素 的 表 現 外 ﹐ 也 感 受 到 創 作 人 從 事 藝 術 的 決 心 和 義 無 反 顧 。

知 易 行 難 ﹐批 評 總 比 實 幹 容 易 ﹐ 尤 其 在 艱 難 時 期 ﹐ 能 夠 拍 成 一 部 電 影 不 易 ﹐ 這 點 是 大 家 都 不 會 否 認 的 事 實 。 我 的 看 法 或 許 比 較 片 面 ﹐ 也 未 有 細 量 業 界 人 士 面 臨 的 難 處 。 不 過 創 意 不 竟 是 電 影 創 作 的 重 要 一 環 。 無 論 如 何 ﹐ 扼 殺 創 意 對 電 影 發 展 都 是 有 害 無 利 。

over 15 years ago 0 likes  4 comments  0 shares
Mariejost 26 dsc00460
Thanks for your thoughts on the necessity of being uncompromising to create art. I have a caveat, though. HK cinema has always been extremely commercial. There truly has been no place for more artistic directors and films. If it wasn't for the overseas market supporting their films, directors like Wong Kar Wai would have to close up shop. There is truly no market for art house films in HK or the mainland. Some of Wong's films even have a hard time playing to highly educated European audiences (see Snowduck's comments on Ashes of Time Redux at the Asian Film Festival in Germany). Perhaps because HK is so small and has always favored mercantile values over artist ones in its popular entertainment, we see the swelling tide of bloated films designed to appeal to a mass foreign (mostly Mainland) market, and then don't. (This is so similar to Hollywood these days I hardly need to mention it. HK seems to have copied some of the worst aspects of the Hollywood film industry. As with Hollywood product, the majority of films are lame, crass, uninspired and a miserable experience to be forced to watch.) Perhaps in the past HK did manage to produce a handful of surprisingly good films from an aesthetic point of view because of the sheer quantity of films being produced. Even if only 10% of films went much beyond ephemeral entertainment, in an industry that released 250 films in a year that would be 25 films. Now that HK production represents only a handful of releases each year, and those released cost exponentially more than their pre-1997 brethren and so NEED to make their investment back, we get these bloated vehicles that cost a bundle and, in the end, please very few as art or popular entertainment. I hear your frustration, I share your frustration. But, until there is a different model embraced by the film industry in greater China, we are stuck with the current state of things. Re: censorship. Interestingly enough, most countries with strict film censorship produce better films than the same country after the introduction of a more liberal regime. I guess filmmakers faced with institutional censorship have to be more creative in the face of that censorship, and this have a generally positive effect on the end product. Maybe the bottom line is that film in general worldwide is experiencing an artistic crisis. Even established art directors are having trouble finding their mojo in the current environment. Maybe the economic downturn will somehow be the catalyst for better work. We can only hope.
over 15 years ago

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