chen - First published 2007 by Routledge 2 Park Squart‘,...

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Unformatted text preview: First published 2007 by Routledge 2 Park Squart‘, Milton Park, Abingdon, 0x011 0X14- 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routlcdg‘c 1270 Madison Ave, New York. NYlllOlfi Raul/(day it an imprint 19/7/26 Tqylar C9” Framir Group, an {afar/rm business <0 2007 Editorial matter and sclcrtion, Darrell William Davis and Ru-shou Robert Ghent the (imitributors for their contributions 'l'nilrsvt iIi Bitskei'villr by Bookcralt Ltdt StromL (llrmct‘stt‘rshire Printed and bound in Great Britain by Antony Rowe, (Iliippcnhnm, Willshirt‘ All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any (fl(‘(‘[I‘OnlC, mechanical, or other means, now known or llt‘I‘t'HliL‘r invented, including photocopying and recording. or in tiny inlbrmution storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from Ilit‘ publishers. [Milli/l Li/mmi (ill/alrggiziiig [II l’li/I/iz'zt/irlll Data A l‘klllllligut‘ rm'nrtl lbr this book is available from the British Library Ulimpi 13/ Gingham Ulla/ughth in Puli/imlion Data Cinema 'l‘ziiwun: politics, popularity, and state ol‘the arts/Cditrd by Darrell William Davis and Ru—sliou Robert Chen. p. ('lll. lllt'lll(l(‘5 bibliographical rt‘litrenms and index. 1. Motion pir'turos 'llztiwan. 1, Davis, Darrell William. PNl 993.5.'l‘28(15ti 2007 79lxi'l’illllsl2‘ll9 (1622 2006027020 lSBNlU: () 415 41257 El (hbk) ISBN“): 0 M5 »1 I258 7(pbk) ISBN“): ll 203 96415!) X (cbk) Isnxiszemi it its -l]25775(lil>k) ISBNH: um it us 41258 2(1)l)k) ISBNIii: 97:; 1) 203 96439 2 ((-hk) Cinema Taiwan Politics, popularity and state of the arts Edited by Darrell William Davis and Ru-shou Robert Chen S Routledge E Taylor&Franci5 Group LONDON AND NEW YORK 7 “This isn’t real!” Spatialized narration and (in)visible special effects in “double vision”1 Ru—sbou Robert Cbon We 1ch inside an enormous novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is . . 9 to invent the reahty.‘ In the wake of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Columbia Pictures’ Hong Kong (Asia) subsidiary produced Double Vision at great expense. At US$17 million, this film had the highest production cost of any Taiwanese movie ever made. Its production involved actors and professionals from Taiwan, Hong Kong, the US, and Australia. Its total box office sales in Taiwan topped NT$80 million, setting a record for Taiwanese movies since A City ty‘S‘nrlnm. Double Vision thus opened up exciting new prospects for the lethargic Taiwan cinema. Double Vision was positioned by the film company a “serial killing story that takes place in the capital city of Taiwan.” Chen Kuo—fu, the film‘s director, production supervisor, and screenwriter, noticed that the Taiwan market had never had any movies with Double Virion’s terrifying theme. On the other hand, horror movies can be considered the international currency of film, and have an avid fan base in every country. Because of this, some critics feel that this film can be seen as Taiwan’s version of 867672 plus The XFi/cs with an additional semireligious ambiance of rebirth and karma. As a result, the movie is exciting and \iewable as any Hollywood product, and has content worthy of discussion. Chen explained quite frankly in an interview, “I wanted to turn it into something that could be exported?” The title of the movie and the names of the director and actors are therefore given in English in advertisements and publicity materials. and the trailer is dubbed in English. There is no mention that this is a 'I‘aiwanese movie from the beginning to the end. An extensive effort has been made to conceal the fact that Double Vision is a Taiwanese movie. And of course the marketing expenses for this “Hollywood-style Taiwanese movie” were much more generous than for ordinary Taiwanese movies. The general impression was that the production was in line with a Hollywood “A—list” movie budget. The story ofDouble Vision begins with a stillborn child that possesses two pupils in one eye. Three bizarre murder cases then occur. and the three victims are completely unconnected with each other. The sole link bctwccn the three victims is that they all seem to have died from some supernatural causes. The 'l‘aiwanese Spotinlizen’ narration and (in)oitible special gfifects 109 police are forced to ask for help from the FBI. The Taiwanese detective Huang Huotu (Tony Leung Ka-fai), troubled by both marriage difficulties and work- related woes, works with an American FBI detective (David Morse) to help solve the case. After getting some tips from a scholar of religion working at the Academia Sinica, the two detectives gradually come to suspect a secret religious sect, whose members are intent on achieving immortality through committing murder. The mystery deepens when a fourth body is found, and even the reso— lutely scientific American detective is baffled. Finally, Huang must go to the sect’s secret headquarters, the True Immortal Shrine, to get to the bottom of what has been going on. The production of this film conforms fully to the concept of the “new interna- tional diviSion of cultural labor” proposed in Global Hollywood.4 In parallel with the production structure of the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradire as discussed in the book, Hollywood provided the capital for Double lision and brought together labor from Hong Kong, Australia, and the US, as well as Taiwan. As Hollywood develops this type of “runaway production,” it hopes to maintain its ability to control the movie labor market worldwide and (even more importantly) continue to dominate the global box office. This paper will neither explore this subject any further not try to investigate the movie’s marketing strategy in Taiwan. Instead, my research focus is on the high- concept5 advertising slogan for the film, “There is only what you believe,” plus the signature graphic, the stillborn child with two pupils in its right eye seen at the start of the film. The juxtaposition of these two elements reveals that the movie is inter— ested in exploring the concept ofperception, and questions the dialectical relation- ship embodied in the Western proverb “Seeing is believing.” The line Huang Huotu shouts at the end of the film after encountering five weird murders is “This isn’t real!” His agony points directly to the film’s key questions: What is real? How are. we to know? The dualism of the title "Double Vision" consists ofeliminating the boundaries of such dual structures as reality/ fiction, science/ occult, ideas/ content, illusion/ real experience, inner/ outer, rationality/ belief, the US FBI/Taiwanese police, and so on. The films dualism also supplies this chapter’s reading of the film's two viewpoints, which consist ofan account ofthe relationship among time, space, and cause and effect in the narrative, and an exploration of the meaning of special effects in the movie. Re-historicization of cinema With regard to the impact of digital special effects and new media on lilmmaking. Robert Stain feels that “pic-cinema~~ and “post-cinema" are becoming increas- ingly similar." People avidly embraced the birth of movies more than a century ago, and today people arc excitedly looking forward to the emergence of digital cinema. Movies have gone from smutdless to sound and talking, from black—and- white to color over the course ofmorc than one hundred years And this evolution is seen as the effect ofrcpctttcd technological revolutions. Today movies have madt- 112 Ru—s/zou Robert Chen Nevertheless, even more importantly, the appearance of each corpse propels the narrative structure forward another step. This is in strong contrast withordinary Hollywood movies, where the lead character’s activities (such as the daring deeds of a male lead or the progressive discovery of a villain’s hideaway in an action movie) are used to drive the plot. An even more striking difference is the fact that while most Hollywood movies end with the hero’s triumph, in addition to the murdered bodies driving the story line, this film ends with the death of the protago— nist Huang Huotu, which is certainly not a happy ending! . The chaotic and uncertain spaces in Taiwan underscore how FBI detective Kevin Richter must depend on the troubled Huang Huotu when he arrives in Taiwan to help the Taiwanese police crack the case. Richter does not understand Chinese and his freedom of action is tightly limited. As far as Richter is concerned, murder scenes are among the most familiar places in the strange country in which he must work. For him the streets out in the real city are devoid of all meaning. Richter’s only independent action in the movie comes when he unexpectedly visits a cybercafe — so that he can go online and collect information A and the cybercafe is definitely a place where the real and virtual worlds COCXIStl The dual or multiple characteristics of space also figures in other scenes. one example of this is when Huang Huotu uses his office as his house (a conflict between public and private domains). Or, in another scene, after the FBI detectiv: lights a cigarette in a school classroom, he says “there’s an exception to everything while turning off the “no smoking” light (a conflict between laws and their Viola- tion). According to the Double Vision Research Handbook, the art des1gn for Huang 5 home similarly tries to depict both his tense, crumbling marriage and the complex feelings of the wife (Rene Liu), who still tries to love him. Huaiig’s dwelling is there— fore suffused with warm, dusky lamp light that shows his wife’s love for him is contained here. However, the disorderly furniture arrangement makes the room seem like a maze, perhaps representing Huang‘s psychological state.“' The most striking thing about this film is the Taoist temple that was constructed on the top floor of a modern high-rise building, The World Tower. The name of the building specifically disassociatcs itself with Taipei urban milieu. James Tweedie in this volume describes this building as “the most extreme manifestation of global capitalism e the overnight hi~tech billinonaire — constructs a facade for the most traditional philosophies and superstitionsfilt represents not only the conflict between tradition and modernity. but also, for Tweedie, “a spectacle that dazzles because ofits incoherent combination of the mythical past and the mythical present.” I The structure, images, and various canings in this temple are said to have authentic materials, and it was built using the liiluepriiit of a traditional wooden temple from over two centuries ago. The temple is neycrthcless housed in a modern office tower with reception personnel in its entryway. and entrance to the building is through an automatic door. Tim Yip hopes that the juxtaposition of these contradictory and discordant elements will express the fact that what is apparently a Taoist temple is actually controllcd by a modern yet cyil power. Spatialz'zed narration and (inflatable special qfifrcts l 13 Visible / invisible special efi'ects 77w Double Vision Research Handbook aptly uses the heading “Truth that can’t be seen by the naked eye” in its discussion of the use of special effects in the film. This prompts us to look at special effects used in moxies. Audiences actually watch two types of images on screen since the emergence of digital technology: one consists of conventional photographs, which capture real objects as images through the phys- ical principles of optics. Photographs of course carry with them the assumption that the objects they represent really exist. The acquired images are both similar to and related to real objects. The second type consists of digital images {what Robert Stam called post—movies and post—photographs) in which the link between image and reality has been elimi— nated.” The production of digital images doesn’t need to reproduce material- based objects. Instead, “pixels” {the smallest units of a digital image) are used to form shapes via points, lines, and three-dimensional structures. Of course this is not to say that digital technology cannot reproduce real objects, just that objects are decomposed into disconnected pixels that the process of digitization and computer programs reproduce as virtual, lifelike images. And because the. arrange- ment of pixels can be manipulated, it is possible to create so—called “unreal” digital images. This is the strength of digital technology; beyond bringing dinosaurs back to life, it can also let dinosaurs virtually appear with real people in the same scene. The difference between traditional and digital images can also be described this way: while movies once considered it their duty to “capture reality,” digital images use special effects to create “reality that never existed." Digital images therefore wander the frontier between two poles, what we might call “absolute realism" represented by photography and “absolute unreality,” conveyed by pixels. This depends on whether the special effects are intended to be noticed by the audience or not. As far as their production is concerned, digital images can be classified as either visible special effects or inyisible special effects. Over 90% ot‘special effects are actually invisible special effects.” It should be noted that these special effects are generally used to simulate the natural world or real environments that are difficult to create artificially, such as tornadoes and tsunamis. Imisible special effects are also used to depict phenomena that are hard to portray in a controlled manner. such as when a feather slowly drifts out of the sky (in thrit (Iron/1‘. These special effects are supposed to go unnoticed by the audi— ence when done successfully In contrast. \isible special effects are used to depict things that cannot possibly exist in the real world. or at least cannot exist in the real world of here and now. Examples include the dinosaurs ofjummr Par/t and the monsters of Harri Pot/tr scrics. While the audience knows that these things are contriycd ‘or that tlic) are really “not real" . the special effects are the main reason these movies attract so many \‘it‘\\'t‘I‘.\. \Vhen we examine Dumb/r lit/on from this point ofyiew. we see that the movie is full ofspectacular \(‘t'11(‘.\. rcllccting its genre as a horror film. Visible special effects play a big rolc from [he stillborn child with double pupils at the beginning ofthe movie to the slaughter ol‘j'ioliccmen in the 'l‘aoist temple at the cud. These special 1 l4- Ru—slzou Robert Clzm effects are intended to satisfy the audience’s curiosity. We get close—up views of three bizarre corpses, a medium shot of a bullet entering a skull in a spray of gore, and a severed tongue. Special effects enable the audience to view the slaughter in the chaotic temple scene: we see swords cut off heads, hands, and feet, and we see half of a broken skull. The movie’s Australian special effects team did a very good job of creating gruesome scenes such as these that both attract and repel. While this film does not employ invisible special effects to simulate natural phenomenon, they are used to depict the illusions seen by officer Huang Huotu. Huang bears his wife scold his daughter in one scene. When Huang pulls his wife’s body around, she has changed into the mysterious Xie Yali. Xie then pulls Huang’s daughter from her bed and prepares to stab her with a knife. Not only is he unable to stop her, Huang also finds his own body moving backward, and the space around him is instantaneously transformed from his bedroom to a corridor at the police station. A gun also appears in his hand. Huang fires the gun, and the bullet hits Xie Yali. His daughter falls down, and the spatial environment trans- forms again, this time into the Taoist temple. While this is all an illusion, Huang actually fires his gun and actually wounds Xie. This action takes place very quickly (in less than ten seconds), which enables the audience to sense Huang’s trance—like state, and also gives them the sense of being there. The effect is like another layer of cinematic experience. Let us look back again at the birth of cinema. Apart from the documentary film conventions established by the Lumiere Brothers, we shouldn‘t forget how George Melies created an unreal style by combining movie technology with magic perfor— mances. More than a century ago Melies had already figured out how to use tech— niques such as inverted film, multiple exposures, time exposures. splicing, and filming a scene over after turning off the camera (which allowed him to adjust the actors and props while the camera was off) to enhance the vaudeville magic he captured on film. Mélies sometimes made people disappear or made pictures on cards turn into real people, who then walked out ofthe cards. Melies also portrayed adventurous journeys to the Moon, the core of the Earth, and the bottom of the sea. He actually used special effects similar to those used in Double Vision, only he had to rely on physical manipulation instead of computer processing. The tech— nology was different, and the effect was also different. It’s ironic that regardless of whether visible or invisible special effects are used, it’s sometimes still very difficult to accurately simulate the extraordinary things of real life. Double Vision contains a very good example of this: fungus was discovered on all of the corpses (this may have been what Xie Yali sprinkled on Huang and caused him to suffer hallucinations). The director wanted something that was “grayish—black in color and able to float in the air, but possessing an intangible quality.” After trying all kinds of possible substances (including real fungus‘v. but failing to achieve the desired effect, the movie personnel finally found that sesame powder worked. M It seems inconceivable that computerized special effects fail in the very last instance. But if we compare this with a claim made by a special effects specialist who worked for famine Par/c, we will understand that human interwcntion is sometimes better Spotializeo’ narration and (in)visil7le special flats l 15 than any technology. He was quoted as saying (the exact interview data is no longer available) that the hardest special effect to make in the movie was when a Glass of water shook and ripples were created resulting from the footsteps of an apprchhing dino— saur, They solved the problem by having someone tapping the table underneath Similarly, real sesame powder was used in Double Pinon to achieve the effect of verisiIn-I ilitude. Nothing else, be it visible or invisible special effects, is necessary. Notes 1 2 5 UI \132 9 10 I l 12 13 H The first draft of this paper was presented at the “Focus on Taiwanese movies‘ Interna— tional Seminar on Taiwanese Cinema” (November 28-30 2003) The author would like to acknowledge feedback and comments from the seminar partici ants J..G. hallard, “Introduction.” in Cum/ISA ,szrl (New York: Picador 9LlDOI) Lin VN er: and zeng Baolu, "'l‘aiwan’s Film Director with the Best Head for lilarketino“ €014”! won Dti:ect01‘.Clieii K-uo‘fu .Changes from Artist into Marketing W izard.” _ 003 Cinema 16(1) 800/: 211 Republic QfC/lllla (Taipei: National Film Archive 9003) +959 Toby Miller, 9; (ll, Global Hollywood (London: BFI, 2001:. T 3 ‘- So-called “high concept" means that a concise phrase can be used to sum u '1 movie and allow tlieaudierice to immediately know what it is about and what its sellinp c oint is An example from this chapter is Double Iiiz'on = Sr7erz + 7722.1'Hler. In recent \‘eagrEHoll wood‘s golden rule has been that a successful high concept is the secret to hot-sell'ri ' movie. The flip side ofthis is that ifit takes a lot ofwords to explain a movie clearly auldig- cnces areunlikely to welcome that movie. See justin Wyatt, Hid/1 Come/21‘ illo'z'i'or and .llarl‘elmg m Hollrzvoozl (Austin: University ofTexas Press. 1.99452. 0 i i in Robert Stam. liilm "171505123111 Introduan “London: Blackwell. éOOOt, 314M397 Silaude Levi-Strauss. "The Structural Study of the Mvth." in Alli/Impologii’ ilrurlzmzle/ Miran/ml .inllzmpologr. trans. Claire Jacobson and Broke Schoepf (Netti York' Basic l9b3. 202 ‘212: David Haney, 7716‘ (.‘olm’iliolz Pot/modernity (London: Blackwell. Entitng'l'ing. 77w Double 17mm Renoir/1 Haiti/lion}: fTaipei: Kadokawa-Taiwan. 2002) 4‘) 1(. i m lbid.. 60-1. Ibid.. 76. Stam. op. cit.. 317L327. See Thomas Elsaesscr. “Realism in the Photographic and Digital Imam: (jurassic Park and l he Lost \Yorld in Slur/ring (.iuztevn/zonq‘i'.ilmezirmz Film: (1 guide to .lfi/z‘irdliolrs‘ir. eds. Thomas lilsaesser and \Yarren Buckland London: Arnold. 2002‘}. 210. Huang. op. cit.. 108. i ...
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chen - First published 2007 by Routledge 2 Park Squart‘,...

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