Text | Ling Hu Boguang
At the end of March, and the beginning of April, another wave of new films was released, we first excluded foreign films released in China, and the remaining domestic films released I don't know if you have noticed one thing, that is, they are all the works of new directors in the mainland.
"Great Night" Ma Kai is 89 years old, "Space Exploration Editorial Department" director Kong Dashan is the same year as him, and "Loyal Dog Bagong" director Xu Ang is older than 77 years, this can also be added to the previous "More than Endless" Wang Jing, and "Keep You Safe" post-80s director Dapeng.
Of course, the quality of these movies is mixed, and word of mouth has ups and downs, but one of them is still very worth talking about. That is the Space Exploration Editorial Office. Because everyone knows that the producer of this film is Guo Fan of "The Wandering Earth 2", and now the movie Douban score is 8.5, which can be said to be the highest-rated domestic film since 2023.
Although the box office of this film is average, it is predicted that the final box office will be less than 50 million. But I think its appearance is very important, because it marks that after "The Wandering Earth 2" took over the banner of "Zhang Yimou" to take over the commercial blockbuster, it is now also going to take over the class of literary films.
"The Wandering Earth 2" for the breakthrough of China's heavy industry blockbusters, leading is already a recognized thing, and even officially recognized. If Kong Dashan and other new-generation directors can also achieve such results in literary films, then the replacement of "Zhang Yimou" will really be completed.
From "Heroes" to "The Wandering Earth", from the fifth generation to "no generation"? Chinese cinema has changed
Chinese commercial blockbusters still have to start from Zhang Yimou's "Heroes" in 2002, because the films of mainland films, that is, the films of the fifth generation of directors represented by Zhang Yimou, are literary and art films, and "Heroes" is recognized as the film that opened the era of Chinese commercial blockbusters.
Subsequently, Zhang Yimou's "martial arts trilogy" until 2012's "Jinling Thirteen" was the leading film in China's commercial blockbuster. Until the failure of the Sino-US co-production "The Great Wall" in 2016, Wu Jing's "Wolf Warrior 2" in 2017 created myths, which was a symbol of a watershed in China's commercial blockbuster in the new era.
The subsequent "Operation Red Sea" and then to 2019's "The Wandering Earth" are just pushing, what does this mean?
Probably before "The Great Wall", Zhang Yimou's film is still the top commercial blockbuster in the Chinese market. But everyone recalls whether it was not Zhang Yimou's movies that dominated the mainstream after "Wolf Warrior 2" (Feng Xiaogang, Chen Kaige are the same). We all know that films such as "Wolf Warrior 2" have replaced the market position of Zhang Yimou's blockbusters, but we still feel that all aspects are a little worse, and they have not yet reached the point of watershed.
The later "Changjin Lake" series had a chance, but the film was a cooperation between big directors from both sides of the strait and three places. Until the appearance of "The Wandering Earth 2" in 2023, it has been recognized as a watershed for Chinese commercial blockbusters in the new era. Just like "Heroes" opened the era of Chinese commercial blockbusters.
So, how did Zhang Yimou lose to Wu Jing and Guo Fan in commercial blockbusters.
The fifth generation of directors because of the relationship of the era of their lives, their essence is to deconstruct culture, deconstruct grand narratives, and reflect the flaws of grand narratives through small characters who are far away from temples and marginalized. Its excellence is to reflect the fate of small people in the context of the big era, national narratives, cultural changes and so on.
The limitation is also the powerlessness of the little people, and this sense of powerlessness drives a kind of anger, which corresponds to the realism of the sixth generation of directors, and the small person movies of magical realism also appear.
The nonsensical comedy unique to Hong Kong comedy Stephen Chow is actually a small character movie. But Stephen Chow's movie little people still maintain upward energy, and they can also amuse themselves in ordinary hardships, so that people can see their own shadows while continuing to adhere to an optimistic life, which is also the reason why many young people like to watch it.
The fifth generation of directors has never been able to walk out of the end of self-liberation in the deconstruction, and needs to end from the perspective of self-reflection, and finally goes to the path of deconstructing history and deconstructing the nation by small people.
You see that "Manjiang Hong" seems to be this expression, and their understanding and practice of the film and television industry are also different from Guo Fan.
Therefore, they can't make a heavy industry sci-fi blockbuster like "The Wandering Earth" in the end, and even "Wolf Warrior 2" can't be filmed. Zhang Yimou has not yet made a film with a clear main theme, Chen Kaige's new film "Great Victory" has not yet been released, and it remains to be seen how the quality will be.
If the quality is also like "Day Meteor of Me and My Motherland", I am afraid that the result will still not be too good. Because the heavy industry war blockbuster with a macro narrative is really contrary to their narrative and expression. It may still be good at the box office by then, but word of mouth and evaluation will be further reduced.
Seriously, I personally don't want to see the last generation of big directors in the mainland, as well as Hong Kong big directors making blockbusters with the main theme.
The first half of life is brilliant, and the second half is full of controversy? How the fifth generation of directors "lagged behind the times"
"Chen Kaige said in his early years that he was able to shoot "Farewell My Concubine" at that time because he particularly understood the state in which a person is incompatible with society - people who do art cannot be too smooth, they are satisfied with everything, and when they become high-class people with red faces, they often can't do anything."
Each generation has its own limitations and imprints of the times, and the times have given opportunities to catch fire, but if you can't constantly deny yourself, you can't constantly renew, sooner or later you will be denied by the times, and you can only grow old with the group of people who hold them.
Of course, these directors have also been cattle, "Alive", "Big Red Lantern Hanging High", "Farewell My Concubine", "Red Sorghum" and so on are undoubtedly classics of Chinese film history. The online consensus is that Zhang Yimou is just a photographer, all supported by the excellent original works at that time. Then you can't explain that a good photographer can shoot about ten film history classics.
In the past thirty or forty years, Chinese directors are not as good, are you belittling Zhang Yimou, or are you praising Zhang Yimou?
However, Zhang Yimou and other five generations of directors arbitrarily gave the light when filming the former, and in the new era, they were confused and could not find the north. I feel that the fifth generation of directors flashed a few times when the times hit them, and they wanted to grasp it but failed to surpass themselves, so it was not easy to do so a few times.
The fifth generation of directors, the early works are mainly reflective, the style of the works is mostly dull and depressing, but under this it is full of affection and fiery emotions. In layman's terms, although it is still simple in all aspects such as storytelling methods, the emotions are sincere. In addition, the writers and screenwriters of that era were powerful, and the actors were also of high quality, complementing each other to become classics of film history.
In 2000, the fifth generation of directors still led the times, and after 2010, they could not keep up with the times, but they were abandoned by the era before them, and they over-pursued innovation, resulting in some nondescript works. Feng Xiaogang, Chen Kaige is a little overly entertaining, Jiang Wen is very literary and artistic, but there is only one masterpiece "Let the Bullets Fly".
What does Zhang Yimou say... The strength and works of the national teacher are recognized, but there is nothing to expect from him. Still that sentence, the great director of his era could not make "The Wandering Earth", or even "Wolf Warrior 2".
After the commercial blockbuster, the challenger of literary and artistic films also came? "Zhang Yimou" is in danger
Can Kong Dashan challenge Zhang Yimou's status as film masters? This is difficult to say, because their historical status is too high, and it is also a fact that they have laid down Chinese film art.
I predict that this movie will become one of the top ten Chinese films in 2023 together with "The Wandering Earth 2", and due to the breakthrough of Chinese soft science fiction, the future mention of Chinese science fiction movies must mention "The Wandering Earth", and it is inseparable from the "Space Exploration Editorial Department", but whether it can become a classic of Chinese film history, I think it is still a little worse.
However, Zhang Yimou can't make a new era literary film like "Space Exploration Editorial Department".
The most discussed thing in this film now is science fiction, as well as existentialism in expression. The poisonous mushroom implied that the subsequent so-called discovery of aliens was just an illusion, and the male protagonist Tang Zhijun never found the answer he wanted. He is just using a well-woven dream to deceive himself, allowing himself to let go of the dream he has pursued all his life and choose to accept reality.
In the early part of the film, Tang Zhijun faced bad material conditions, brainwashing himself again and again that "human beings only need basic food to survive, and the rest is waste", to escape his incompetence in reality.
The more people care about something, the more they emphasize that they don't care. As he grew older, the old Tang Zhijun slowly hesitated between ideal and reality. Finally finding the illusion of aliens, it seems that the dream is finally realized, but it is actually a dream that the protagonist forcibly weaves for himself in order to choose reality.
In the end, is it his dream that he ate poisonous mushrooms? Or is Sun Yitong really an alien, or was he picked up by an alien? Or other expressions, at least the emotions of the film give us reconciliation, reconciliation between ourselves and ourselves, reconciliation between reality and dreams, and attention to the current life.
This expression is not filmed by Zhang Yimou, the realism of the sixth generation of great directors, and the magic realism runs even more.
Last year's "Hidden in the Dust", the director was deeply influenced by the realism and nihilism of the sixth generation. The whole movie is about life getting better, and the ending suddenly guides you to the great tragedy caused by reality, making the audience feel that life has no meaning, which is too empty.
The director of literary and art films in the new era, Bi Gan of "Roadside Picnic", Gu Xiaogang of "Spring River Plumbing", Wei Shujun of "Yong'an Town Story Collection", Xu Lei of "Sherlock on the Plain", including Kong Dashan of "Space Exploration Editorial Department".
None of these directors have this expression, and they have become the leaders of the new generation of Chinese literary film directors.
The fifth generation, the sixth generation, but there is no seventh? It is also the turn of the new generation of Chinese directors
I don't know if one thing that you have noticed is gone, that is, thirty or forty years have passed, and when we talk about Chinese films, we are still talking about the fifth generation of directors, and the sixth generation of directors is not much discussed. The main reason is the lack of commercialization of the sixth generation (currently only Guan Hu, Ning Hao is the most successful).
No matter how the fifth generation pulls, at least it can be regarded as keeping pace with the times. Of course, there is only one Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and Feng Xiaogang pulled early, and Tian Zhuangzhuang and Jiang Wen are not mainstream.
The sixth-generation directors were the ones that most catered to Western values, specializing in literary and artistic films that were old and broken, the so-called depictions of the suffering at the bottom. But ordinary people just don't like to watch it. There used to be a saying that the entertainment industry is a house, the fourth generation entered the house and closed the door, the fifth generation broke the window, and the sixth generation opened the roof and jumped in.
After the sixth generation, Chinese directors do not have the seventh generation, because in the future, directors are no longer limited to the old circle, they do not need to squeeze into the broken house and build more houses on the side. It is undeniable that the birth of these first directors has their historical background, but now China in the new era does not need the fifth generation of great directors, or even the sixth generation of great directors!
I think that now everyone criticizes them as a cancer of Chinese films, but they are conservative and solidified, aesthetics and film and television industries can not keep up, the core expression has long been unable to keep up with the times, but they still occupy the resources of all aspects of Chinese films, how can Chinese films be good?
"Space Exploration Editorial Department" may not become a classic of Chinese film history in the new era, but we need a new generation of directors like Kong Dashan, and we also need more films like "Space Exploration Editorial Department".