Culture

Wuhan in 7 movies, a city you can’t define

Wuhan can be called a popular spot for Chinese unpopular literary films.

Sixteen years ago, the director of Peach Blossoming Fu Huayang visited Shanghai, Nanjing, Chongqing and other cities along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and finally decided to shoot the film in Wuhan. It is not because the peach blossoms in Wuhan are more prosperous than elsewhere, but because “the train roaring past on the Yangtze River Bridge, like rolling spring thunder, such a lingering city is particularly prone to love.”

Fu must have made such a compliment from the perspective of train soft-sleeper passengers. I have passed the Qiaotou Park under the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge more than once. When the train rumbled dozens of meters overhead, it was deafening like thunder in spring.

But the environment of Qiaotou Park is not easy to make people have the impulse to fall in love. If you look around, you can see either the old man who is timid and ready to go into the water by the riverside, or sitting by the side of the road looking for the decorator and cook of his employer. However, these shots do not appear in the main aesthetic style of Peach Blossoming. As a film with a strong literary brand of post-scars, the blue waves of Wuhan University’s Huahai and East Lake are undoubtedly more suitable for appearance.

Peach Blossoming poster
Ren Zai Jiong Tu poster

Hollywood style love stories always seem to be different from Wuhan. On the contrary, small literary and art films are particularly fond of choosing this river city. At this point, Wuhan and Chongqing are the same. Crazy Stone brings fire to Chongqing’s cable car across the river, Ren Zai Jiong Tu makes people flinch from Wuhan’s cold winter, even if this is the shocking common sense of the whole Yangtze River Basin.

Unlike Beijing and Shanghai, love in films filmed in Wuhan is, without exception, bitter and memorable, including Peach Blossoming and the Golden Age directed by Xu Anhua.

As a biographical film about the life of Xiao Hong, a young woman in literature and art, Wuhan has the meaning of a turning city in the Golden Age. After the fall of Shanghai, with sadness over Lu Xun’s death and infidelity to Xiao Jun, Xiao Hong came to Wuhan to meet and marry Duanmu Shuliang.

Xiao Hong found happiness in Wuhan, but she also encountered misfortune in the end, while the audience was fortunate to witness Wuhan during the period of the Republic of China. Before the Japanese invasion of China, it was also the golden age of Wuhan, which was “driving through Jinmen and catching up with Shanghai(驾乎津门、直追沪上)”.

the Golden Age poster

More famous than the Golden Age is Summer Palace.

In this famous film, the heroine Yu Hong has a bad relationship with her lover after she left college, and her mood falls into a low ebb, settling in Wuhan. In this river city in the early 20th century, Yu Hong walked on the footbridge at the gate of Wuchang. In the rickety lens, there were low buildings, dark sky and endless rain.

Many years later, director Lou Ye said that the reason for arranging such a woman in such a city at such a time is that Wuhan has a great charm, that is, it has a feeling of hiding itself in the earthly world. At that time, Yu Hong chose Wuhan because she felt that she should live here and hide her past. “

There is nothing wrong with the “earthly” label that Lou Ye affixed to Wuhan. Although there are more than 1 million Putonghua-speaking college students here, under the influence of hundreds of years of wharf culture, Wuhan has still maintained its rare town lifestyle in China’s big cities. Hot and dry noodles, duck necks and railway stations constitute the cognitive fulcrum of Wuhan for outsiders.

In the thoroughfare of nine provinces, Yu Hong is also destined to be a passer-by, just like Xiao Hong in the Golden Age and like millions of college students here, most of them go to the north, Shanghai and Guangzhou after graduation. Yu Hong hides the past in Wuhan, but can’t forget it. She accepted the courtship of her new male colleagues, and her memories of the past became clearer. Soon, Yu Hong left Wuhan.

Summer Palace poster

Six years later, Lou Ye chose Wuhan for his next film, Mystery(Fu cheng mi shi), with themes ranging from love to marriage and family. In the Mystery, the city image of Wuhan is more concrete. The chimneys of WISCO, the Yangtze River Bridge, the light rail, the Guanggu pedestrian Street, and the drizzling East Lake metasequoia all awaken the memories of the audience who once lived in Wuhan.

It seems that only Wuhan can properly place the love triangle that Lou Ye wants to construct in Mystery: a man who has an affair, runs two families at the same time, and cheats on a female college student.

Such a tense plot shows a different social landscape in Lou Ye’s shot. In the film, the male lead is in the same room with the hostress, the mistress and the second mistress. Lu Jie, the female host, said to her daughter, “Ann, the father has come to pick you up.” but Sang Qi, the mistress, responded by borrowing her son, “Yuhang, Daddy is home.” What is even more unusual is that Lou Ye also planted the same-sex affair between the policeman Tong Mingsong and Qin Feng in the film.

Mystery Poster

Feng Shui, directed by Li Jing, which was released in the same year as the riddle of the floating City, added a lot of bitterness to the screen image of Wuhan.

Feng Shui, adapted from the novel of the same name by Fang Fang, a local writer in Wuhan, tells how a woman lives tenaciously despite the misfortune of marriage and family: shortly after moving into the new house, the hero Ma Xuewu jumped into the river to commit suicide due to a series of difficulties in life such as laid-off and marriage. Li Baoli, the heroine, relied on a pole to help people pick up goods in Hanzheng Street, taking care of her elderly mother-in-law and young son alone.

During the adaptation of the film, the bleak clip of the heroine selling blood and raising children in the original novel was deleted. Even so, Screen Daily magazine critic Mark Adams said of Li Jing’s film: “A powerful and absorbing drama driven by a quite wonderful lead performance by Beijing-born actress Yang Bingyan, Feng Shui is a strikingly fine film about the hardships of life.”

From the point of view of the locals, Yan Bingyan put the spirit of “not believing in evil” of the people of Wuhan into place. Compared with the highly localized writing style of Chi Li, another local writer in Wuhan, Fang Fang’s novels are more universal, and it would be all right if the urban background of Feng Shui is replaced with Chongqing. But beyond that, it may be difficult to find a third city to house Li Baoli’s tenacity, intelligence and suffering.

The natural environment of the great rivers and lakes also gives Wuhan more possibilities on the big screen.

Feng shui Poster

Director Diao Yinan’s latest work, The Wild Goose Lake, builds the threshold of black films through bloody images of forklifts cutting heads and umbrellas, while also plating Wuhan with a layer of colorful black. this is the background of infinitely close to Wuhan’s “City of punk”.

“This story takes place in Wuhan because we need a lot of water to shoot in this movie-the lake. In the south, where there is such a lake, I thought it was very optimistic and easy to find, but when I looked for it, I found that it was actually very difficult. ” Diao Yinan explained the reason why Wuhan was chosen as the location of the scene.

The surface of the water where the boundary can not be seen in the film is Townsend Lake in Jiangxia District of Wuhan, which is also the largest urban lake in China. It is precisely because of the large lakes with dozens of square kilometers, such as East Lake and Townsend Lake, coupled with the division of the Yangtze River and the Han River, the whole urban area of Wuhan also appears to be unusually large. The three towns of Hankou, Wuchang and Hanyang face each other across the river, making Wuhan more like a small city agglomeration, rather than a mega-city with a majestic and magnificent center.

The Wild Goose Lake focuses on the grass-roots perspective of the bottom society-which is also the usual setting in black movies, which is usually set in the bottom society where crime is rife with fraud, full of those who are fettered by the past and unable to extricate themselves from the lack of sense of security’s good and evil characters in the future. Director Diao Yinan tried to lead the audience into dilapidated tube buildings, narrow alleys and muddy roads that many Wuhan people are not familiar with through the stumbling steps of a fugitive. To some extent, it further reinforces the outside world’s prejudice against Wuhan as “China’s largest county territory”.

The Wild Goose Lake poster

There are also voices who think that The Wild Goose Lake is tarnishing the image of Wuhan city. But there is no need for a complete correspondence between the city in the movie and the real city. From Robert Aldridge’s “Death Kiss” to Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”, typical black films are all dedicated to sticking cities with alienation, isolation, danger and sex.

From this point of view, Wuhan is not the Chicago of China, but more like Los Angeles, the favorite setting for black movies.

This article was originally created by Popov. The Chinese version was first published by Wechat and translated by Pandayoo after it was licensed. Copyright belongs to the author and it is forbidden to reprint without permission.

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