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百年的標本:黃飛鵬與雨傘世代導演

2019/2/28 — 10:23

黃飛鵬《冬蟬》。(《十年》提供,劇照攝影Andy Wong)

黃飛鵬《冬蟬》。(《十年》提供,劇照攝影Andy Wong)

【文:陳耀成】

作者簡介﹕影評人/導演 陳耀成的最新記錄片是《我們有雨靴》(Film critic / director. Evans Chan’s latest documentary is We Have Boots.)

黃飛鵬!不期然想起黃飛鴻。

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上世紀四十年代末期,木訥的關德興於中共建國之年推出《黃飛鴻傳》。依稀,最早的黃飛鴻是流放華人的電影偶像,為英屬香港華人社區 —— 在李小龍現象之前 —— 帶來傳統文化之力與權威。到九十年代,六四之後,迄香港主權移交前後,徐克的黃飛鴻突然變為身影清晰的殖民地末代的「自強」公民 —— 周旋於腐敗的舊帝國與奸險的洋人之間,智取力敵,化險為夷,劈出生路 —— 可以說已經反映着一種強烈的「本土」意識。但當年的「本土」只展露兩大國之間的「夾縫人」銳意發奮圖強,沒有今天年青「本土派」的迫切,甚至聲嘶力竭,大概因為青年人眼中,今天香港似乎已經淪為任人魚肉的少數民族社區。

拙作《撐傘》出現禁映風波之時,我曾經向《紐約時報》記者說:「香港愈來愈像西藏。」當時有人說我誇大。但當然,我指出的相似之處,並非是兩地遭受軍事鎮壓的嚴峻程度(相較之下,香港的硬力「鎮壓」算是溫和),而是在強調 — 面對逆境之時,香港與西藏之間,「少數民族」認同感之下,那物傷其類的危機感。

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以《十年》中 《自焚者》 一段為例。難以想像這橋段 ——《十年》是落托邦(dystopia)式的「科幻」電影 —— 不受西藏的悲劇性抗議文化,及獨立運動的影響。《自焚者》以外,片中的《方言》及《本地蛋》 都是富於議題性的爭議之作。黃飛鵬的《冬蟬》較為「文藝」、具歐洲藝術片的抽象思維性,但有其資深的支持者,例如影評人石琪。

私見以為,《冬蟬》是要連結着這位出色的年輕導演的作品,才更能顯示其效果,顯示其代表着的、悲情瀰漫的新世代視野。

不久之前,與友人談起,近期港片從《一念無明》到《淪落人》,都充斥着身體及精神有病障的邊緣人物。但此等邊緣人物出現於影視畫面的頻密程度,彷彿成為近年港片的主流。我只直覺懷疑,那是否創作人於下意識中,把「外患」轉為「內憂」的轉折投射?而那些無助的角色,是否賦予無力感纏身的香港人一點自我慶幸,一點「命運自主」的保證及安全感?

病障的人物,是黃飛鵬於今為止,幾乎每一部劇情片中,不論長短,皆會出現的角色。首作《池之魚》裡,有位似乎患有自閉症的青年;《寂靜無光的地方》注目一位有學習障礙的中學生;《一雙》的倒敘故事出自一位在護理院中,雙手被縛於輪椅上的老人;《泥菩薩》內,主人翁的祖父,要不是痴呆老人就是位中風病人;而主人翁的母親依稀是位精神病患者,不是意外遇溺,就是自沉殞命。而黃飛鵬的所有作品中,所有非殘障的人物往往飽受(常是生計的)壓力,煩躁不安 ——《池之魚》中那位業途最順景的哥哥,最後因為好友的車禍,頓覺迷失。片中那位工作愛情都不如意的女孩子,則經常在閱讀黃碧雲一篇不快樂的小說。

相較之下,《冬蟬》隱約是沒有病障角色的例外。然而,其構思是從黃碧雲式的寫實的沉鬱,轉往韓麗珠式的陰汵「科幻」(沒有人說,文藝應該是快樂的,所以不是負面的批評!)。片中兩位博物學者,似乎活在廢墟之中,而常生夢魘。某刻,男的問:「我是消亡的還是活生生的生命?」他的答案是採取行動 —— 請女伴/ 共事者把他變成他自己個體的標本!

黃飛鵬是香港電影新浪潮名將譚家明的高足。但譚導演當年刻意經營的《愛殺》及《烈火青春》中的唯美、浪漫,在弟子作品中,基本欠奉。那不是黃飛鵬不能為之(黃的短片《紅樓夢》就很風格化),而彷佛是黃於他的故事片中,不願為之。而那不像是肇自製作成本的問題,而皆因他的創作靈感來自日常生活中的斷瓦頹垣,那許多細碎的創痛。

怎麼說呢?最近在一次訪問之中,今天已經是「大叔」的我向記者說:「我與香港的關係是 —— 生於憂患,見過安樂,然而今天又再見憂患!」

我不會像我輩的一些朋友們,捶胸頓足地自責:是我「負了新一代」!我不認為自己曾參與或製造他們今天的逆境。個人如今所謂「上了岸」,也只是歷史的意外,虛長幾歲的無端的運氣。若他們問:「為甚麼今天的香港,沒有達成更高度的自治,甚或舉旗獨立?」那是因為他們成長於互聯網的世代,往往對歷史缺乏興趣。只要請他們去翻一下舊檔案,就可以見到自49 年建國以來,北京政府對舊帝國版圖的堅持,對在香港引進任何民主的抗拒!

我不認為我負了新一代,但卻為新一代感到深切的遺憾,皆因他們成長之時,「安樂」似乎已經成為上一輩的,或富豪高幹及其子弟的專利品。(然而我想指出,此時此刻,基於全球資本主義災難性的演進,到處的新一代都是憤怒不安的!)

這樣的背景,成為瀰漫於黃飛鵬作品中的許多本土(也是國際)的失意與幻滅!而他視野的強靱之處卻是,於情節上,往往抗拒妥協性的逃避。《一雙》中的老人最後仍是雙手被綁;《寂靜無光的地方》的老師,最後妥協,放棄保護自閉學生等。

請大家試想,《冬蟬》的意義是甚麼呢?

是於死亡之後,成為標本,仍能保持完整的自我?

想起九七之前,風之后李麗珊為香港殖民地奪得有史以來(而包括如今的廿年之後!)唯一的一面奧運金牌。某篇社評讃嘆:「百年空白處,卿留萬世名。」《十年》內的黃飛鵬短片,倒令我感慨,是否「百年空白處,冬蟬自留名」?

冬蟬是香港,是寒蟬效應下的香港?是否只淪為值得後人哀悼獵奇的,一個百年香港,從殖民到後殖民的標本?有評論家形容某本納布可夫(Nabokov)的小說:「?面沒有任何東西是可愛的,唯有文字本身。」我也想說:黃飛鵬電影的內容,可以說並不「可愛」,然而他出色的構圖,細密的剪輯,是可愛的;而他對香港現實頑強的直視,是可敬的!(他的美學是桑塔格[Sontag] 最重視的攝影特色 —— 與沙龍攝影絕對相反的 —— 是於科技媒體碰接現實之時,貌似寫實地化醜為妍的超現實美學!)

終極而言,這也是藝術的任務,即是對任何現實 — 不論是太沉重,或令人沉溺安逸的現實 —— 的抗議!

我想說,這也是雨傘世代創作者,包括黃飛鵬及其他,帶給香港及香港電影的希望!

祝福,期待!

 

英文版

Specimen from a Hong Kong Century: Wong Fei-pang and Directors of the Umbrella Generation

Evans Chan

Wong Fei-pang! His name inevitably reminds me of the filmic warrior Wong Fei-hung.

In 1949, the founding year of the People’s Republic of China, Kwan Tak-hing, upright and wooden, personified Wong Fei-hung – a well-known Kungfu practitioner in Southern China at the turn of the twentieth century – in the first installment of what would become a seventy-seven-film serial. Back then, Wong Fei-hung emerged as an idol for the Chinese diaspora, and a symbol of traditional culture, strength and authority for the Chinese community in British Hong Kong, before the arrival of Bruce Lee. In the 1990s, after the June 4th Tiananmen Square Incident and before Hong Kong’s 1997 decolonising changeover, Tsui Hark, in his Once Upon a Time in China series, transformed Wong Fei-hung into a sharp-edged colonial fin de siècle self-reliant hero who, while hemmed in by the corrupt old Chinese empire and fiendish white men, deployed his wits and physical prowess to overcome lethal challenges to bring about a better tomorrow. One might say Tsui Hark’s Wong Fei-hung films already delineated a strong, budding

sense of Hong Kong’s “localism.” Yet times have changed. Whereas Tsui’s “localist” hero survives by carving out some autonomous space between two competing and oppressing worlds, today’s young “localists” only seem strident and a bit desperate, for in their eyes, Hong Kongers under Chinese rule have increasingly become a persecuted ethnic minority.

When the Hong Kong premiere of my documentary, Raise The Umbrellas, was suddenly cancelled in the fall of 2016, I told the New York Times, “Hong Kong is becoming more and more like Tibet.” At the time, many people said I was exaggerating. However, the similarity that I pointed out was not about the severity of military oppression — by comparison, one might say hardline suppression in Hong Kong has been mild. I simply wanted to emphasize that in the face of adversity, Hong Kongers have a growing empathy with Tibet.

To take the Self-immolator section in the omnibus film Ten Years as an example, it is hard to imagine that this dystopian “sci-fi” tale is not influenced by the tragic protest culture and independence movement in Tibet. In addition to Self-immolator, two shorts – Dialect and Local Egg – have been controversial. By comparison, the Season of the End segment, directed by Wong Fei-pang, is less talked about, maybe because it is abstract, less anchored in real social conflicts, and closer to European art films with its meditative style. In any case, Season has found some influential supporters, such as the veteran critic Sek Kei.

Personally, I think that Season of the End has to be viewed in conjunction with other works by this outstanding young director in order to evaluate its full impact and its vision, which, I’d argue, is probably more emblematic of today’s Hong Kong youth, in its searing pessimism, than the other sections of Ten Years.

Not long ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine and we agreed that many recent Hong Kong films, ranging from Mad World to Still Human, have featured characters afflicted by physical or mental disabilities. The regularity of such characters’ appearance has made this phenomenon a major trend in contemporary Hong Kong cinema. My suspicion is that it is a kind of displacement – the creators of such films have turned external threats into domestic tragedies. Wouldn’t these helpless characters offer a sense of comfort to Hong Kong audiences who themselves might have feelings of political and social powerlessness? Would these stories give the dispirited viewers a sense of security in thinking that they are at least better masters of their own fate than are the disabled?

People with disabilities have appeared in most of Wong Fei-pang’s narrative films to date, be they feature-length films or shorts. In his debut feature, An Odd Fish, a young man seems to be autistic; Leave Them High and Dry focuses on a student with learning disabilities; A Pair Of is the flashback story of an old man in a nursing home, whose hands have been tied to his wheelchair “for his safety”; the protagonist’s grandfather in Martika is either suffering from

dementia or certain post-stroke symptoms, while the protagonist’s mother appears to be a deranged person who may have drowned by accident or suicide. In Wong’s films, even characters without disabilities are faced with enormous – often employment-related –pressure. In An Odd Fish, the older brother with a promising career feels lost after his good friend’s death in a car accident, and a young woman, tethered by her unrewarding job and romance, keeps reading an unhappy novel by Helena Wong Pik-wan.

By comparison, Season of the End does not feature any people with disabilities. However, the film’s conception moves from the realistic gloominess embedded in Wong Pik-wan’s novels to the dark sci-fi imaginings of Hon Lai-chu’s stories (nobody said narrative art should be happy, so this is not a negative criticism!). The two archivists in Season could be living in some sort of ruin and have been assaulted by recurring nightmares. At one point, the male archivist asks, “Am I dying or am I alive?” His answer is to take action by asking his female colleague/companion to turn him into a specimen of himself.

Wong Fei-pang studied with renowned Hong Kong New Wave director Patrick Tam Ka-ming;, yet in Wong’s works, the mannered aesthetics and romanticism found in Tam’s films – such as Love Massacre and Nomad – are nowhere to be seen. This doesn’t seem to be a lack of skill (Wong’s short A Dream of Red Mansions: The Long Goodbye is a very stylish piece), but probably stems from Wong’s unwillingness to go in that “glossy” direction. This also doesn’t seem to be a budget issue; apparently Wong’s films are inspired by, and endeavour to reflect, the ruins and the fragmented, mundane, and hurtful aspects of everyday life.

In a recent interview, I mentioned this old Chinese saying about wishing “to be born in troubled times and to die in peace and prosperity.” Now as an “uncle” to the younger generations, my experience with Hong Kong has been: Yes, born in troubled times, saw some peace and prosperity, but alas, here come troubled times again.

Unlike some breast-beating friends of my generation, I’ve never blamed myself by claiming that I have “let this generation down,” for I don’t think I have deliberately contributed to or played a part in creating their present hardship. The fact that I am in a better place, socially and economically, is simply an accident of history – the dumb luck of being born a couple of decades earlier. If young people were to ask why Hong Kong does not enjoy greater autonomy or even independence today, I would reply that they are too uninterested in history. All they need to do is look up historical records and they will see that since the PRC’s founding in 1949, the Beijing government has been determined to maintain the territory of the old empire and has always resisted any proposal to introduce democracy into Hong Kong.

While I won’t say I have let the new generation down, I do, nevertheless, feel deeply sorry for their having to confront the world in which they grew up. The fact is when most of them came of age, “peace and prosperity” had already become the privilege of the older generation or the rich and powerful and/or their offspring from across the border. (I’d also like to point out that at this present moment, global capitalism has wreaked havoc everywhere, causing young people all over the world to be similarly angry and dissatisfied!)

This is the backdrop to the feelings of local (and international) disappointment and disillusionment that permeate many of Wong’s works! Yet the strength of his vision lies in the fact that he refuses to shy away from or offer cheap compromises to problems. As the film ends, the old man in A Pair Of is still tied down, and the righteously indignant teacher in Leave Them High and Dry has given up trying to protect his abused autistic student. So on and so forth.

Let us reconsider the ultimate message of Season of the End.

Does turning oneself into a specimen enable one to preserve one’s integrity – to and beyond death?

I remember the year before 1997, when wind-surfer Lee Lai-shan became the athlete to win the only Olympic gold medal in the history of Hong Kong – still true two decades later! – a newspaper editorial enthused about Lee’s “filling a century’s blank by leaving her name for ten thousand generations.” Now Wong Fei-pang’s contribution to Ten Years makes me think –  hasn’t Season of the End injected itself into history as a time capsule, filling the blank of a (boom-to-bust?) Hong Kong century?

Is this film – with its Chinese title translating as Cicadas in Winter – evoking a Hong Kong suffering from the chilling restrictions on the freedom of expressions? In transiting from coloniality to postcoloniality, the only way for Hong Kong to “preserve” itself is to become a lifeless specimen, to be mourned or viewed as a curiosity by posterity?

A critic once said of a Nabokov’s novel, “There is nothing lovely in it, except its language.” The content of Wong Fei-pang’s films is often not lovely, or lovable, but his craft and his tough confrontation with Hong Kong’s present-day reality is, if not “lovely” or “lovable,” actually admirable. (His aesthetic stems from what Susan Sontag values most about a strand of photographic art – distinct from the romanticised, subject-dictated “beautiful” photography and allied with the aesthetics of surrealism, which finds beauty in ugliness.)

In the end, this is the responsibility of art – to be a protest against reality, especially when reality becomes too weighty for some and too seductively cushy for others.

I think that this could be the hope that some artists of the Umbrella generation, including Wong Fei-pang himself, bring to Hong Kong and Hong Kong cinema.

Good luck and I look forward to following Wong’s (and their) career(s).

(English Translation: Simon Chung)

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