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LAST WORDS: Chinatown Idea
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Chinatown Idea
By Mike Cormack

beijingfinance 1400x800 plan 01     如果你喜欢看老电影,那么一定看过著名美国导演罗曼•波兰斯基执导的《唐人街》。这部电影于1974年6月20日在美国上映,由杰克•尼科尔森、费•唐纳薇主演,是惊悚悬疑的电影风格。

     《唐人街》是美国黑色电影的经典之作,拥有复杂的情节、浓郁的怀旧气息以及侦探片所固有的悬疑氛围。导演波兰斯基为影片注入了阴冷彻骨的风格,而高水准的剧本,导、演、摄影以及配乐都使该片散发着浓厚的经典气息。电影讲述了1937年的洛杉矶唐人街,警员杰克因不满警局内部的黑暗,辞职当起了私家侦探。一个自称莫拉雷太太的女子请杰克调查丈夫的外遇,杰克发现霍利斯•莫拉雷原来是当地水利总工程师,正在为兴建水坝问题和当地农民争执。随后有人给了杰克一些证明莫拉雷偷情的照片,隔天早上真正的莫拉雷太太艾弗琳却找上门来要求杰克停止调查莫拉雷。事情变得越来越迷离,不久霍利斯•莫拉雷死在了自家的水池,机敏的杰克感觉事情越来越不简单。在他调查的过程中,令人难以置信的真相接连浮出水面:随着城市的扩张,需水量的增加,一股势力试图将欧文山谷的农民的土地并入洛杉矶。这令我们联想到了北京的迅速扩张——随着城市化进程的加快,北京周边的郊县地区都在迅速地建起高楼大厦,村庄与耕地变为了高价楼盘。电影《唐人街》中的描述多少会令人联想到中国,然而实际的中国发展情况确实另一幅景象。这里的发展不是某种势力的阴谋诡计,而是城市扩大进程的需求。希望未来有人能拍摄出真实的中国城市发展情形,供大家了解。

Though China is gaining an ever-greater piece of the global cinema industry, with Wanda for example buying AMC Entertainment in 2011 to make it the biggest theater operator in the United States, the country’s representation in films remains, I think, tokenistic, or a matter of seeking favour from the powers that be. It’s all very well having a Chinese supporting actor in some comic book action blockbuster, or having some locations set in Beijing or Shanghai or Hong Kong, but this is not really enduring art. By this, I mean it’s not something that speaks about human existence, whether contemporarily or historically, or about the broader human condition.

Taxi Driver 1976Few films have presented a city with as jaundiced a view as Taxi Driver (1976) did when it presented New York as an open sewer, in the year of the bicentennial of the USA no less, but the film remains a towering artistic achievement. It is brutally honest about aspects of human condition – namely, alienation, loneliness, repression and violence - and it captures aspects of the city at that particular time, when porno theatres clustered in commercial areas and when crime seemed an inescapable plague.

beijingThere haven’t been many films to openly depict the negative aspects of life in modern China that have made it into the Western consciousness. The only one I really know of is Lost In Beijing (2007), starring Fan Bingbing. It’s rather a guerilla film, shot on location throughout the capital, and taking in low level corruption and sexual abuse. But a great, realistic, depiction of modern China in popular art on par with Taxi Diver is something we’re still really waiting for.
 

I personally have had a few ideas on how to do this, but for some reason can’t find a way to get them to work. I’ll give you the outline of what I thought was my best idea for a film or book, and explain why it didn’t seem to work.

Chinatown Its a 1974 编辑Have you ever seen the film Chinatown? It’s a 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. The Chinatown of the title is more a metaphorical state than a real location – where police are helpless because they don’t know what’s going on, where any action might aggravate rather than help. It is basically a fictionalized re-telling of the California Water Wars caused by the expansion of Los Angeles in the early twentieth century. As the city outgrew its water supply, water from the Owens valley to the north was brought in on an aqueduct through subterfuge and deceit on a grand scale, destroying the agriculture and bankrupting farmers in the Owen Valley. In the film, the land value of the farmlands would however boom once incorporated into Los Angeles, a fact that the powerful - with knowledge of strategy - sought to benefit from.
 

When I saw Chinatown almost ten years ago I was utterly captivated by it. The script by Robert Towne is legendary, often studied as an exemplar of the craft, and as this was the start of the rapid expansion of the Beijing subway system, it struck me that there could be an exact parallel between the land value of the Los Angeles farmland and villages in the outskirts of Beijing that were rapidly gaining subway stations.
 

As they would now become commuter suburbs, land values would surely soar. The only problem, of course, would be to get farmers and villagers out of the way so developers could build suitable apartment blocks. So you could do a modern re-telling of Chinatown, but set in Beijing! This would, as in the film, require shady deals, corrupt officials, bumbling or complicit law enforcement, thugs, mysterious behind-the-scenes pullers-of-strings, and a protagonist somehow unraveling the truth of what is going on.
 

The last aspect was my main problem is thinking how to create a parallel. As I am British, the protagonist would have to be Western, someone gradually uncovering the truth of what is going on. But this sets up an unpleasant, even racist, dichotomy. The hero, the savior, the bringer of truth and justice, would be Western; the crime and the corruption would be Chinese. This would be frankly ridiculous. But I couldn’t make my hero Chinese, because I could only write the story in English, and it would seem ridiculous to have Chinese characters not talking in Mandarin. Also, I really didn’t know any Chinese person well enough to set the film around them – to know how they would react to uncovering these kinds of events. I tried it with the hero having a Chinese assistant to guide them, but that meant them leading an ignorant foreigner around, which would have been even worse.
 

This problem has proved insurmountable - I just can’t think how to get around it. If anyone can, you’re welcome to use this idea. I won’t even ask for a credit. All I ask is for there to be better and more realistic representations of modern China in popular art like books and movies.

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