In the film “gently down the stream”, I was most captured by the text scratched on film and I especially appreciate the fact that they are punctuated one word after another; it conveys a message in a way that is raw,honest, personal and emotional. Together with the reoccurring collaged images/actions, they push forward a strong presentation of the filmmakers’ personal perspective on female gender roles, sexuality and homosexuality. The film takes a very subtle approach on the correlation between text and image; to me, they don’t match literally at all. They can appear confusing or even conflicted at times but that’s the nature of a personal voice. When I write a diary, I often tend to write in a stream of consciousness way, while the visuals in my head could be quite repetitive images or actions without sound, that has nothing to do with what I am writing. The film indeed leaves lots of blank spaces for viewers to fill in between and it being silent also adds more to its unpredictability.
I have previous known about Jia Zhang Ke through his film called “Platform”. When I watched Xiaowu last Monday, I was constantly reminded of “Platform” perhaps because of they were shot in simliar locations( a small town in Shan’xi) and time period(around the culture revolution in the seventies). The lead character Xiao Wu, also has a similarity to the lead character portrayed in that film. He lives in a very realistic world but remains a very unrealistic person: He still believes in his bond with his old pal Xiao Yong, who later became very rich doing cigarette business, while Xiao Yong is ashamed of their past as thieves and don’t even want to invite Xiao Wu to his wedding. He fell in love with the girl at the Karaoke club, and trusted her but she left without saying goodbye for a better life, perhaps with another richer man. One of my favorite scene in the movie was when he asks his friend to weight the wedding gift money in the red pocket and tells the story about his promise to Xiao Yong. The back story is so well portrayed just through their conversation and Xiao Wu’s narration, and it also leaves me plenty of space to imagine the close bond bewteen Xiao Wu and Xiao Yong in the old times, as well as Xiao Wu’s deep attachment to his idea of brotherhood. I can’t help put this scene into a larger, historical, political context. Mainland China at that time is undergoing a very rapid change in both economy and pop culture. Even a small isolated town has started to accept new western business ideas , technology and public media: Xiao Yong’s success in cigarette business, pop songs played all over the streets on television and radio, Karaoke and dance clubs, use of pager/mobile devices. All these influences are changing people ‘s communist mind set while there’s still a deep ongoing reinforcement of communist ideologies, which is represented through the public propaganda radio announcements, Street advertisements, and portraits of Chairman Mao, that has been shown throughout the film.
Here are some of the notes from reading the book that I think is helpful for me as a filmmaker:
1.The filmmaker may control setting in many ways. One ways is to select and already existing locale in which to stage the action, alternatively may construct the setting. The overall design helps/shapes audiences’ understanding of the story action.
2.Much of the impact of an image comes from its manipulation of lighting. It’s more than just the illumination, but it creates the overall composition and it guides audiences’ attention. It articulates texture of objects.
3.In many respects, a film shot resembles a painting. It presents a flat array of colors and shapes. But it differs from painting by having movement.
I have always paid great attention to all aspects of mise-en-scene in films I watch. mostly because I want to work in the field of art direction. In the film “Xiao Wu”, everything is really well composed but also look really natural and real. For example, I especially like the scene of hundreds of people riding bicycles on the street, which is really typical in China; it brought me back to China where I grew up.
My favorite films from Mainland China include Red Lanterns, Not one less, Hero.