Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers

Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers

Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers

Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers


"I always compare filmmaking to cooking. Shooting is like buying the groceries. You buy all kinds of ingredients and the better ingredients you get, the better chance you have of making the movie you want."-Ang Lee, from Speaking in Images

Speaking in Images offers an engaging and rare collection of interviews with the directors who have changed the face of Chinese and international cinema. Michael Berry's discussions with such directors as Ang Lee ( Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Zhang Yimou ( Hero), Chen Kaige ( Farewell My Concubine), Stanley Kwan ( Lan Yu), Tsai Ming-Liang ( Vive l'Amour), Edward Yang ( Yi Yi), and Hou Hsiao-hsien ( Flowers of Shanghai) offer an eclectic and comprehensive portrait of contemporary Chinese cinema.

In interviews that capture each filmmaker's unique vision, the subjects discuss their formative years, the ideas and influences that shaped their work, film aesthetics, battles with censors and studios, the mingling of commercial and art film, and the future of Chinese cinema in a transnational context. Berry's introduction to the collection provides an overview of Chinese cinema in the second half of the twentieth century, placing the directors and their work in a wider historical and cultural context.


Martin Scorsese

As with many other Westerners, my first real exposure to Chinese cinema began in the mid-1980s, when the movies from the Fifth Generation directors started to appear in the West. I must say that I was astonished by these pictures. I'd met Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, and Tian Zhuangzhuang when I visited the People's Republic of China a few years earlier, and I was struck by their eagerness, their passion. But those first films—The Big Parade, Red Sorghum, Yellow Earth, and Horse Thief-—astonished me. It's hard to convey how absolutely new they felt, in so many different ways. A new approach to film language, to storytelling, to character; a new way of looking at people and landscapes. Horse Thief, in particular, was a revelation. Tian's approach was remarkable—intimate yet epic, completely unsentimental yet deeply moving, based on a documentary observa- tion of a world about which, at the time, I knew absolutely nothing, yet universal in its dramatic impact. I liked it so much that when Roger Ebert brought me on his show to talk about my ten best films of the 1990s, I made Horse Thief 'number one, despite the fact that it was made in 1986.1 rationalized this by saying that I'd first seen it in 1990. It was that good.

Over the years, I followed the careers of the Fifth Generation. Although they faced almost insurmountable political difficulties, their mastery only increased. And then, another shock and revelation: Tai- wan. Many critics and programmers began with Hou Hsiao-hsien, but I came late to Taiwan cinema, and the first picture I saw was A Bor- rowed Life, or Do-san, by Hou's writer (later the star of Yang's Yi Yi), Wu Nien-jen—my number 3 picture of the 1990s, for the record. The sense of untouched life as it's unfolding, along with the sense that a story is being told and, once again, the feeling of an intimate epic—the . . .

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