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光影里的中国太极

中英对照版 2017年第5期 郭闻捷 2017-09-07

“每个中国导演都有一个武侠梦。”“武侠”的核心是侠义精神,主体是武术,也就是名扬海外的中国功夫。

电影的出现极大激发了武术爱好者的想象力,武术的招式第一次真正从想象变成了现实,武侠电影也成为了华语电影最重要的类型之一。数年来中国最蜚声国际影坛的明星几乎都是从功夫片走出:李小龙、成龙、李连杰、杨紫琼、章子怡,最先被奥斯卡奖青睐的电影也是在竹林间轻盈飞过的《卧虎藏龙》。随着电影工业的发展和越来越多影人的加入,武侠电影越来越市场化、细分化,几乎每一个主流武术种类都拥有自己的系列电影,比如南拳有《黄飞鸿》系列、咏春有《叶问》系列、太极拳也有《太极》系列。

20世纪70年代,在拍出《大醉侠》《独臂刀》两部经典新派武术电影后,香港邵氏兄弟电影公司将目光放在了太极拳上。在此之前,太极拳一直被视作强身健体的养生拳法,未曾被搬上银幕。1974年《太极拳》上映,由大导演张彻的摄影师鲍学礼担任导演,《独臂刀》编剧、著名作家倪匡出任编剧。

在如今看来,邵氏版《太极拳》结构简单,表演方式粗糙,太极拳的动作设计除了“推手”外,基本和别的拳法区别不大,但是这部电影依然具有相当重要的意义。

十年之后,1985年,西安电影制片厂也拍摄了一部太极拳题材的电影《太极神功》。又过了近十年,香港武侠片改朝换代,出身武术世家的袁和平对老派功夫片的打斗套路进行创新改良,使武侠片在90年代焕发了新的生机。1993年,导演袁和平、男主李连杰、女主杨紫琼的搭配,造就了太极拳系列中目前为止最经典的一部电影——《太极张三丰》。

以《太极张三丰》为代表的一系列香港武侠片不仅招式好看、剧情复杂,而且还加入了诸多幽默元素,增加了观赏性。比如对一代宗师张君宝为何又叫张三丰的解释,是他因内疚而精神失常,一日要固定疯三次,所以称为“三疯(丰)”。

2010年以后,制片人陈国富与导演冯德伦携手重塑了“太极”这个大IP,斥资2.2亿元,采用两集连拍连映的罕有制片模式。从表面叙事上看,第一部《太极1:从零开始》讲述异姓人杨露禅进入陈家沟,苦学“不传外人”的太极拳法的故事;第二部《太极2:英雄崛起》以杨露禅离开陈家沟,接受各大门派挑战为主要内容。导演冯德伦放弃了几十年来武侠电影的写实主义美学,放飞想象力,将自己热爱和擅长的游戏、动漫风格融入影片,使得这个系列作品在叙事节奏、镜头语言、电影配乐等方面完全不同于以往武侠片。

时代发展到今天,太极又回归到强身健体的本义,成为公园晨练里最常见到的中老年运动之一。在这里,不得不提一部与太极相关的非武侠电影,就是“华人之光”李安导演拍摄的《推手》。《推手》与其后的《喜宴》《饮食男女》并称为李安导演的“父亲三部曲”,都以父子关系为切入点,探讨中国传统文化的困境。面对代际矛盾和文化冲突,《推手》没有提供解决问题的答案,留下了一个怅然而意味深长的结局。

Tai Chi on the Silver Screen

Chinese-English No.5 2017 Guo Wenjie2017-09-07

“Every Chinese director has a wuxia dream.” Wuxia is a sort of knight errant in Chinese folklore, with wu meaning “martial” (as in martial arts), and xia , “a chivalrous swordsman”. By fulfilling his wuxia dream, a director helps to popularize Chinese Kung Fu throughout the world.

The invention of films aroused the imagination of wuxia fans, as it marked the shift of martial arts moves from literature to reality, and wuxia films soon became an important staple of the Chinese cinema. Over the years, most well-known Chinese film stars got their big break in Kung Fu films: Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, and so on, and the first Chinese film to receive an Academy Award was a very traditional-style Kung Fu film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon . With the progress of the film industry, a greater number of filmmakers joined the bandwagon, and wuxia films became more commercialized and specialized, so that most of the mainstream types of martial arts became represented by their own film series, e.g. for nanquan there’s the Once Upon a Time in China series; for yongchun there’s the Ip Man series; and for Tai Chi Chuan there’s the Tai Chi series.

In the 1970s, after releasing two classic newage martial arts films, Come Drink with Me and One- Armed Swordsman , the Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong) Limited set their sights on Tai Chi Chuan. Prior to this, Tai Chi Chuan had always been regarded as a form of exercise and health preservation, and thus had never been featured on the big screen. The film Tai Chi Chuan , released in 1974, was directed by Bao Xueli, who had previously worked as cinematographer for renowned director Chang Cheh, with renowned author Ni Kuang, the writer of One-Armed Swordsman , penning the script.

By today’s standards, the Shaw Bros. version of Tai Chi Chun is relatively simple in structure, with rather poor performances. With the exception of “pushing hands” moves from Tai Chi Chuan, the martial arts choreography differs little from other films. However, it still carries very significant meaning because of its pioneering in featuring Tai Chi.

A decade later, in 1985, the Xi’an Film Studio made a Tai Chi-themed film, called Magic Tai Chi. Almost another decade later, Hong Kong wuxia films underwent a renaissance: director Yuen Woo-Ping, who came from a long line of martial artists, updated the fight sequences of old-fashioned Kung Fu films in new and innovative ways, leading to a resurrection of wuxia films throughout the 1990s. In 1993, director Yuen Woo-Ping, along with the male-female duo of Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh, created the most classic Tai Chi film to date: The Tai Chi Master.

The series of Hong Kong wuxia films, represented by The Tai Chi Master, featured not only visually pleasing action and complex stories, but also many elements of humor, making the films much more enjoyable. For example, in the film, when explaining why Zhang Junbao, the founder of Tai Chi Chuan, was also known as Zhang Sanfeng, it is said that he suffered from mental disorder due to guilt, and every day he would go crazy exactly three times, hence the name “Sanfeng” (san means “three”, and feng has a homonym which means “crazy”).

After 2010, producer Chen Kuo-fu and director Stephen Fung got together to reproduced the series of Tai Chi as a source of creative arts, with a reported investment of RMB 220 million yuan, using an unconventional format in which two films were shot and screened at the same time. In terms of the plot, the first film, Tai Chi I tells the story of Yang Luchan as he enters Chenjiagou (literally the “Chen Family Gorge”, settled by the Chen family), where he learns the art of Tai Chi Chuan, which is normally not passed on to members of other lineages; the second film, Tai Chi Hero , focuses on Yang Luchan’s departure from Chenjiagou, as he accepts the challenges of other various major sects of martial arts. Director Stephen Fung abandoned the realistic aesthetics that had been implemented in wuxia films over the decades before, letting his imagination run free, and added elements which he loved and was skilled at, like video games and animation, to the film. The result was that the series featured pacing, cinematography, music, and many more elements, completely unlike previous wuxia films.

The development of Tai Chi today has brought it back to its original status as a form of health-keeping exercise, and it remains one of the most commonly seen morning park workouts of the middle-aged and elderly. There is an important Tai Chi-related film which is not a wuxia one, namely, Pushing Hands by the Taiwan director Ang Lee. This film and The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman are known as Ang Lee’s “Father Knows Best” trilogy, since they are all based on father and son relationship, from which perspective they explore the difficulties of traditional Chinese culture. In the presence of intergenerational and cultural conflict, Pushing Hands does not provide an answer to such issues, but leaves the viewer an open end.

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