|Secret war in the high country|
|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/10/18 17:25 上海英文星报|
The Chinese cinema this month offers one interesting contrast. Wong Kar-wai's "2046" is dazzling audiences with its cast list of several China's top film stars while Lu Chuan's ``Kekexili'' has neither big-name actors nor any "beautiful people."
And the industry's treatment of the two movies after their release presents another contrast. Beijing cinemas have shown the two films since October 1 in the ratio of two "Kekexili" for every 25 "2046". Shanghai cinemas have put back the release of "Kekexili" from October 1 to this Friday because of the "Kekexili" has earned public acclaim and box office support, and some cinemas are beginning to add extra screening times. And it has now been selected as part of the competition at the upcoming Tokyo International Film Festival. More soul-stirring news is that a campaign on "Kekexili" be a candidate in the Academy Awards. "I feel so happy that it's all been worthwhile," says director Lu, 34. "Making this film put me in a calm, tranquil mood. Shallowness and aggressiveness have "gone with the wind" from my life." Worthwhile? Only he knows. Four months' work in China's most primitive landscape at an average altitude of 4,600 meters. Fatigue, headaches, insomnia plus a serious sequel -- Lu suffered heart disease and began to lose hair because of the hard work making "Kekexili." Perched in the border region of Tibet, Qinghai Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Kekexili is a nature reserve and the domain of the rare animals of the high plateau, such as yak, wild donkeys and Tibetan antelopes. The film depicts the life-and-death struggle between illegal poachers and volunteer patrol teams trying to protect the wild animals. It also features the unique natural scenery of Kekexili ranging from snow-covered mountains, glaciers, lakes, volcanic lava flows and hot springs. "After watching the movie, you will find the poachers and patrols are the same," Lu says philosophically. "They are both groups of ordinary men who struggle to survive on the land. It's not an environmental protection film. It's a film about the stories of the men, the fate of a patrol from its founding to its disbanding. The eight men enter the mountains but only four manage to walk out. They fight with poachers, the environment and poverty. It's a struggle and despair to survivals." Lu rocketed to fame two years ago with his debut film "The Missing Gun," starring Jiang Wen, one of China's top actors, which enjoyed both good box office and favorable criticism. Touched by an in-depth report of the Kekexili volunteers, Lu decided to make that his second film. First he interviewed 10 volunteers and collected relevant documentaries and articles. But the script was a mess. So he travelled to Kekexili himself to write a better screenplay. "Every day I felt great anxiety and despair. I often thought it was "mission impossible"," he says. "We could only finish one third of our schedule each day because everyone was too tired and uncomfortable on the high plateau. I had to reduce the number of scenes and try to tell the story with a minimum of plot. Unexpectedly, it had the effect of making the film more concise and fast-paced." Film reviewer Huang Yong likes " Huang says. "This is real life. This film will achieve an important status in the Chinese film industry. It's straightforward and practical without fabrication." Lu describes making the film as "a physical work." "It was like clumsily pulling a heavy load of wood. I felt alive through sweating but sometimes I felt completely drained of energy as if I were going to die," he says. Lu has been enamored of movie-making since his childhood. He entered a military academy to study English and was lucky to watched lots of Western movies as part of his learning English program. He received a master's degree in film art from the Beijing Film Academy and started to script-writing for television. "In our daily lives, our brains and hearts seem to be coated with a layer of oil," says Lu. "A good film flows like water and suddenly kicks open a door in your heart. Memories emerge and you will flow with the film. At that time you feel really alive. We work hard and have meetings every day, which don't make me feel alive. I hope my film can make audiences feel alive." Huang, however, has some criticism to make -- he feels that the film in some ways shows the lack of experience of this young director. "Master directors can talk to their audiences through their movies. But Lu cannot transmit his thoughts and leaves it to the audience," says Huang. Perhaps Lu has never considered himself to be a "master director". "A director is not an artist but part of the ordinary audience," says Lu. "Open your heart, feel life and record the most vivid, touching parts. That's my job."
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