James Schamus

James Schamus is a founder of Good Machine, the company behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Ang Lee’s wuxia picture that has earned not only four Oscars in the recent Academy Awards ceremony, but also the distinction of being the most successful subtitled foreign-language movie ever released in the United States. As a long-time collaborator of Ang Lee (they have worked together on all of Lee’s films from The Wedding Banquet [1993] onwards), Schamus is really the man who shaped the screenplay of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon into its final form, helped along with the cultural input of two Chinese scriptwriting colleagues. Schamus is also credited as one of the film’s executive producers. I recorded this conversation with him during a visit to New York while on a tour of the United States following my participation in a symposium on Hong Kong cinema at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The interview took place on 13 March 2001 in Mr. Schamus’s office in Canal Street, New York City.

– ST

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Stephen Teo: I am doing my research for my next project, which is on the Chinese martial arts cinema, and so far I’ve only come across what is essentially a Chinese perspective on the martial arts – what I would call a historicist perspective. Chinese directors tend to look at the genre as a form of historical precedence, saying “Look, we’ve got this venerable tradition of the martial arts – it’s history”, and they would justify the genre in those terms. Then, there came a view that the martial arts genre was purely a Chinese national form. So I’m very intrigued by the idea of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with your input into the genre – a Westerner’s perspective, if you like. So I’d like you to maybe start off from there.

James Schamus: We’re dealing with genre based research that also carries with it an enormous amount of historical weight vis-à-vis changing formations of national and cultural identities – to draw up boundaries that individual works either fall into or out of, depending on boundaries that have been drawn as a result of the study of the history, or the nature of the genre through a very specific paradigm. So my only urge to you is to beware of the trap of genre-based criticism that defines genres in such a way that boundaries seem as if they have an existence, but in fact these are ever mutating. The national discourses that underwrite a lot of the work, or at least accompany a lot of the work in terms of its reception, can also be a bit of a black hole too, in the sense that you’re dealing on the one hand with cultural formations that work over periods (when you’re dealing with China, over thousands and thousands of years) and at the same tine you’re dealing with national formations that are in themselves actually quite recent and ephemeral. So that even the idea of an “Eastern point of view” on the wuxia genre – to the extent to which it’s a nationalist point of view or pertains to a kind of national discourse – could itself be called already a Western point of view; or a point of view that mixes East and West in a dialogue that’s quite modern. We call it a function of modernity and we won’t ascribe East or West to modernity but we’ll call that neither East or West for the moment .

ST: Looking back on the development of martial arts literature, your point comes across in that there’s a lot of inter-mixture, a lot of cultural exchange . stretching from the start of the 20th century onwards.

JS: Exactly .

ST: Towards the so called “new style” or the new school of literature of author Jin Yong and people like that.

JS: And even when you start dealing with the relationship between the Japanese side of this . appropriations by the Japanese of the Chinese or the Chinese of the Japanese . and the wuxia pian and filmic versions coming out of Japan. As a concept, the samurai is not quite the same thing as the knight-errant – it’s actually quite different from the Jianghu; but these things all get kind of mixed up, and rightfully so, they should be.

ST: I’m reminded of the Western, for example, which people say is an American form but that doesn’t stop the Italians from making Westerns.

JS: Or Kurosawa from taking up the Western form. We’ve been dealing with this topic a lot, as you know, in the trade press because a lot of Western experts – so called experts on Eastern culture – have been quick to attack the film as not “really Asian”. You saw the exchange that I had with Derek Elley in Variety: which I thought was really a blast. That was the most fun I have had writing in many, many years.but underlying that exchange was some I thought very, very troubling politics. And the politics, as I read them, go something like this: multiculturalism is good, especially for white people, and in our quest for cultural authenticity Westerners can play sitars and watch Hong Kong action movies and attain a kind of cultural expertise in a lot of different realms and let that feed back into their own culture. So Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs can be drawn “from Hong Kong” and yet nobody would ever attack Quentin Tarantino for “not being a Hollywood director” or indulging in some kind of “cultural bastardization” as Elley would put it. It’s a White privilege in fact; it’s a Western privilege to just deal with anything you want. So Picasso can look at African masks, and Matisse can look at Chinese water-colors, and Ravel can use pentatonic scale, but they are all creating modern art (“twentieth century art”) as if arts from other parts of the world don’t exist. This is a very Western idea – that we have that privilege and that in fact makes us more authentic as artists.

What was interesting in the Variety exchange was Derek Elley’s response, where he said: Oh, this is cultural bastardization, and if you want proof, look at what Ang Lee himself says when he says, “I wanted to have Jane Austen meet martial arts,” and Derek Elley says: “If that’s not a cultural shotgun wedding, what is?”

And you want to say to Derek Elley, be careful here, because what you’re saying is: you good Asians, you good little Chinese and Hong Kong artists, you do your authentic real stuff. You stay in your genre but the minute you step out and take from here and take from there, and create something new out of your culture and other cultures, then you’re not really the real thing anymore . you’re fake. As Ang said to me: “What do they want me to be? A panda in a zoo?” In other words, these are very, very specific traps. As Salman Rushdie put it in his New York Times article (published 9th March 2001) .well, this is Orientalist thinking. I think with that kind of thinking that attaches itself to something as specific as the wuxia genre, it is doubly powerful because on the one hand, you feel a generic imperative . and at the same time, you feel a kind of cultural imperative, a discourse about authenticity and a realness that attaches itself to it as some kind of prerogative. In fact, that’s really .I think it’s a kind of trap.

ST: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is a huge success in the American market. Would you attribute this success to the multicultural imperative of mixing cultures and genres?

JS: I’ll say a couple of things. Because I’m a filmmaker, not a sociologist, I don’t know. In truth, I think there’re a lot of different reasons why it was a hit at certain times.

ST: First of all, you don’t accept that it hasn’t done well in Asia.

JS: Let’s get that away, right off the bat. That disinformation campaign was picked up by Derek Elley, as you know, and it was picked up in The New York Times and in the New York Magazine and Sight and Sound, and I’ve been running around trying to put out these brush fires. But in fact when you get that kind of discourse going in the West, they just want to knock stuff down and it was a great lesson to see how our Western, so called “objective reporting” works. The only thing was just that it was disingenuous and atrocious. I mean, he (Elley) didn’t like the movie and he felt that his prerogative as a Western expert had been displaced. For years, he’s been telling everybody that you’ve got to go see X, Y or Z Hong Kong chop socky .. and the minute this (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) hit, which was big, he really felt quite disenfranchised. And then he used every journalistic resource he could to create an alternate reality. Let me give you, by the way, the reality . Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: the top grossing Chinese language film in all of Asia as an aggregate territory last year (2000) – Number One!

To give you an idea, we’re often put up against Jackie Chan in The Accidental Spy. May I just say for the record . in a very good-natured way because I love Jackie Chan (he’s my favorite movie star) . we kicked Jackie Chan’s ass in Asia by millions and millions of dollars in box office. So for somebody to have the fantasy, based very much on the local Hong Kong market – that somehow Crouching Tiger was a Western unpopular movie but Jackie Chan’s Accidental Spy was a popular choice – is a bizarre joke. It’s literally not true, and not true on a fundamentally huge scale. Our box office receipts: 17 million and counting in Asia. So what I said in Variety is true: if we never released this film in the West, it would still be a massively popular movie. The Number One Chinese-language hit last year in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Japan. Number One.okay? Top grossing Chinese-language film in the history of Taiwan. If you look at Mainland China, let’s face facts. we were banned for three months. If you’re banned, your box office isn’t that good . I hate to tell you (laughs).

ST: There were a lot of pirated VCDs going around.

JS: By all anecdotal evidence, we were probably the most watched movie of the year . the biggest selling pirated VCD of the year in China, and it even ran on public television stations, TV stations in some of the other provinces . we have reports from all over the place. From a business point of view, the outlook was destruction. Three months later (when the film was officially released in China), everybody had seen this thing. It’s interesting now that the Chinese.even the critical stations who are quite aware, have kind of changed their opinion a little bit. The official line from the very beginning was: this is a joke, this is Western crap. It’s totally changed. In fact they’re trying to support it. Ang is feeling good about what has happened in China, even though we don’t make any money. Somebody made a lot of money, not us definitely (laughs).

ST: Well, how would you explain its success in the States?

JS: I think one of the reasons for the success of the film in Asia is what we identify as Western in it, and I think a lot of the reasons for its success in the West is what we identify as Eastern in it. I think Western audiences were amazed to walk out of the movie theatre after two hours with some cognizance, even a conscious understanding, that they had just seen a Daoist action movie, and that’s a fundamentally different experience from the crap they get from Hollywood. And I think that here in the States it was precisely this difference – but still a film that speaks a universal film language – that got people excited. I think it is interesting to see that people actually noted the differences as something that made a difference to them. And I think certainly within the culture some of these strains . you look at The Matrix and the kind of Eastern influences there . a lot of the feel and the vibes, let’s say the karma of the movie, were already floating around. I think people responded quite strongly to that aspect of the movie. They didn’t respond and say “That’s just like how Hollywood movies are like”. They responded and said, “Wow, that’s kind of even better, and it’s different and we want to know more”.

And we’ve certainly noticed with the subtitles that it’s not the older people who are supposed to be more sophisticated and can read subtitles who are going to the movie. What we have discovered is that kids actually have no problem with subtitles . they’re watching pictures and text . it’s not an issue for them. They think it’s really cool. And Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is probably the first subtitled movie in the West that probably fifteen million people have ever seen. Kind of unbelievable (laughs).

ST: There was a remark that people came out of the movie not realizing that they were watching a subtitled movie.

JS: We did a lot of work on the subtitles. Obviously you lose a lot. I have the perspective of making sure that 90% of the information of this movie is oral and visual. A lot of the key information is in the subtitles. We did two things: one, we insisted that the film be in Mandarin Chinese, which wasn’t easy for Chow and Michelle and millions of people who don’t speak Mandarin. Because that’s part of what this is about: making sure that when Chinese people speak, they speak Chinese. And so we haven’t released theatrically the English-language dub, which by the way, is very good. We worked for four months on it and it’ll be available obviously for television and DVDs, and if Americans can get over their allergy to dubbing, there’ll be even more cross-cultural influences all across the country. So, I’m not against dubbing. We just do it so badly that I’m against the experience. That said, we really wanted to make sure that the language and the voices were part of the experience of people, and the subtitles we obviously crafted them down to what was essential and really worked at them for a long time. It was like rewriting the movie, and when the subtitles were done in French, German and Italian, we always made sure that there was a Mandarin speaker working on the team . using our experience on the English subtitles as a kind of paradigm to keep things as direct as possible. So that had a big impact.

ST: Let’s talk about the process of writing the script? I understand that you had written the script with two other Chinese co-writers.

JS: Have you seen that piece I wrote for The New York Times? (1)

On this I had two strikes against me immediately. One was that the novel, which I could not access as it was written in Chinese, had not been translated.

ST: Whose idea was it actually to adapt this novel?

JS: Tsai Kuo-jung. He’s the one who presented it and made a first draft and provided Ang with some ideas. Ang worked with a story editor here to create a summary of the things that he felt were most interesting in the novel. And out of that, I created a very exciting, fun-filled, romantic, swashbuckling, energetic script, but the problem with it was that even though I had been reading a lot of Chinese literature and philosophy in translation, and had seen all the tapes of the films of King Hu, Zhang Che, Tsui Hark and everybody, I just didn’t have the cultural sensitivity to understand what’s fundamentally at stake in the genre. And so, my first draft was like it was written in Martian. Chinese people would read it and go what the heck, we wouldn’t say that kind of thing . it was like a parody.

Ang then worked with co-scriptwriter Wang Hui Ling to get into it and to make it work as a Chinese film. That draft was then translated back into English and that’s when my work really began. There were two processes: one was just being completely humiliated that I didn’t quite get what was going on and trying to learn, and number two was still to attempt to keep a kind of narrative focus that I thought would work well both in Asia and in the West. So my job was very much an engineering job, to keep an eye on the merited prize so to speak and to pay attention to a kind of narrative coherence, and by narrative I also include a characterological coherence. In the genre that’s not much of an issue. The genre doesn’t require the same kind of collection of characterological traits to be so tightly ascribed by its actors, you know what I mean?

ST: How do you balance the different elements? How do you reconcile the obviously romantic elements . then there’s the martial arts elements. Whose job was it to build up each element?

JS: The key was to work out what was different and what was the same and incorporate them into each other. A great deal of the romance of the film was expressed in the martial arts and a great deal of the fighting in the film is expressed by characters dealing with their romantic impulses. So what we try to do is to find an underlying thematic (sic) – emotional and philosophical – that could bring all the different aspects of the genre, or our take on it, together. And in many ways – not to sound highfaluting, and not to attach importance to these pop cultural artifacts – but for me what was sustaining was definitely keeping a tension or a growing understanding of the conflict between the Daoist impulse towards freedom and the Confucian imperatives towards indebtedness in relationships in the social order. It was keeping those two things constantly in our minds, and it’s not that different from what we did in Sense and Sensibility (1995) or The Ice Storm (1997) or The Wedding Banquet, but it was much more heavily articulated in this film.

I read a lot of these translations of Zhuang Zi, and ploughing through the field of second revised editions of the sources of classical Chinese civilization . everything from Lao Zi to Mo Zi to Confucius, to all the great Tang poets, trying to trace out what I thought were really interesting philosophical issues. And certainly when we got to the ‘secret book’ in the film’s plot… in the first draft, I didn’t give a shit about this book which seemed to me to be a completely hokey plot device, and then when we went into the rewrites, I began to understand how central the idea of the book is to the genre, and of course, to the culture as a whole. Even though we removed a lot of what was in the book, I wanted to preserve its function and its importance. The Chow Yuen-fat-Zhang Ziyi relationship don’t play that big a role in Western responses to the film – it’s there and most people feel its importance – but Ang and I both feel that was the kind of essence of the film.

ST: Would you describe this whole process of you working on the script with the Chinese co-writers – the way you described it seems like it was quite a cumbersome process. Did you find it was cumbersome?

JS: It was difficult at times.a lot gets lost in the translation. I would write the script and it would get translated into Chinese, rewritten and then translated back. The translation back into Chinese was like instantaneous translations of World Wrestling Federation matches, and so a lot of times the script would come back to me the way English subtitles in bad Hong Kong subtitles are. And with Ang, as you know, he’s so specific about the Mandarin that it made it even more difficult for the people to translate that for me. So we get these things back and I go: “This doesn’t make any sense at all”. And then they would go, “No, it does make sense but you’ve got to understand X, Y and Z”. And when they use this word, it actually resonates with that word, and Ang would go through that very patiently with me. At the end of it, I’ll go, “Yes, but it still doesn’t make sense”, and he’ll say: “Oh, you’re right”. So we were constantly working out what was real and what was not real in the translation.

ST: Was there a lot of discussion – this being a wuxia film – about what it means to be a knight errant. What the whole thing entails?

JS: I think we tended to be less focused on that in terms of the generic rules .and much more focused on the philosophical and cultural rules, for example the wuxia films have always had women who kick ass but they’ve never been at the center except for a couple of very, very specific exceptions; and the genre itself had never had at its center a narrative agency that’s specifically feminine. So right there, that little twist .

ST: Whose idea was it to focus on this feminine aspect?

JS: I think Ang originally was drawn to it and together we crept around it. So the irony is that at the end of the movie, really it is the woman who’s following the Dao, she’s the one who takes the Daoist leap. It’s not the man . he’s nowhere near it. And yet, somehow, this crisis of cultural transmission where the master is supposed to be passing down his secret knowledge to a long line of sages and masters, there’s no guy around to give it to, and this girl steals it and doesn’t quite get it and yet somehow in the breakdown of that transmission process, she somehow finds it again. And the tragedy that ends that process of cultural transmission is that it’s the woman who figures it out . who gets there.

ST: In the script did you write out the action scenes?

JS: No, in fact my joke always is I contributed to the action scenes by writing them with spectacular economy, two words: “they fight”. But that said, I did write with Ang, the ins and outs of those scenes; we always understood the scene as not “let’s stop and have a fight scene” but rather “let’s progress the characters’ journeys through the scene”. As you know in the film, and again it’s quite different from most of the films in the genre, really there’s literally only one fight in which people are actually trying to hurt each other. That would be the fight between Michelle and Zhang Ziyi, and even there, she holds back. There’s a lot of these moments when we’re saying, “Well, we have that genre but we’re over here now”, and I think one reason why the fight scenes are working so well across the board, across cultures, is that unlike Hollywood fight scenes where the guy has to get so pissed off he finally takes his shirt off and beats the shit out of all the bad guys, and unlike, I think, in the wuxia pian genre where the fight scenes became to a certain extent aestheticized outtakes of their own action – everything else revolves around a fan base. Really when you fast forward through – you know, a couple of fart jokes, and this or that or whatever . a little comedy, a little that . Let’s face facts, if you’re a fan, you want to get right to the action. Are they using wires or aren’t they? . blah blah blah . and we said let’s just do something different.

ST: As I see it, those fight scenes are very well done but they are also, I think, designed to pay a tribute to the wuxia pian.

JS: Absolutely.

ST: How much did you and Ang Lee work together to deliberately bring this out? Like, for example, I’m thinking about the scene in the bamboo grove.

JS: King Hu or A Touch of Zen.

ST: By the way, I think it’s a wonderful scene . an elegiac scene, very touching.

JS: Yeah.Maybe there’s a Western account of this in Western literary studies and this is of course the current understanding of the Romantics: Wordsworth and Shelley’s relationship with Milton, and that Romantic response to the Miltonic inheritance. On the one hand, being under Milton’s thumb and on the other hand trying to get over it . to fight your way out of it, so to speak, and this burning of the inheritance. I think Ang’s relationship to the wuxia pian genre is much more literary than it is filmic, in some ways. I think that he studiously tried to avoid too tight a relationship between the sequences that were crafted to evoke references . I think the King Hu reference is there. I got it. Wow! A Touch of Zen!.but his response was that it’s a great film, it’s wonderful, but you know, they didn’t have the resources so they’re on the ground – I’m going up. Even Yuen Wo-ping, goes like “We can’t do this scene”. And Ang says, no let’s just try it, let’s go do it. And really they didn’t know how they were going to do it until they got there.

ST: What about the tavern scene?

JS: I do think that’s the homage. You can’t do a wuxia film without having a tavern fight. And honestly that was our attitude. It was like, he was going to put in every character from every B to C minus to A, Hong Kong chop socky movie, and just have a blast. That definitely was an homage scene.

ST: How did Ang Lee and Yuen Wo-ping work together?

JS: In many ways it was like Chow Yuen-fat and Zhang Ziyi, or vice versa. When Ang started, he really wanted to say to Yuen: you’ve been doing the genre for the past thirty years . you’re the best, you’re the greatest. But I have ideas that I want to see you do things you’ve never done before. And about 80% of what Ang wanted Yuen Wo-ping to do was impossible to do – literally. Ang was very specific about how people moved, and the floating and the qigong … On the pre-production in the first month of shooting, they’re so respectful of each other, you would never know that they were locked in this kind of battle. It was instantaneous respect, but Ang was pushing and pushing, and what happened was, as they went through the process, Ang started to become the student also. I remember one day when we were in Beijing, before we started shooting and we were doing pre-production, and Ang said to me, “Wow these guys are filmmakers. This is like going to film school. I’ve made six movies already . but this is like going to film school.” And I think it required Ang to become, to a certain extent, still the student and oddly enough, Yuen Wo-ping also realized: “Wow! The student is teaching me.”

ST: There were no frictions?

JS: Ang is the nicest guy and of course he’s strong – very strong-willed. And Yuen Wo-ping is literally the other nicest guy and he’s also incredibly strong-willed. So I wouldn’t describe it as friction in the sense where on a lot of movie sets, you get nervous and they start . really, that was not what was going on. There were very, very specific discussions between the two of them and the terms of the discussion really went through a lot of changes.I think it was an incredible experience for both of them. I actually think the greatest experience of Ang’s life was working with Yuen Wo-ping.

ST: How did the actors cope with the rigors of this?

JS: Come on. It was unbelievable, really.

ST: Did they use doubles?

JS: You know, when you watch these movies, which one is a double and which isn’t. You know how many times when you are in those wide shots, with Chow Yuen-fat in a harness, hanging by his balls sixty feet up in the sky, and to get that one shot takes what? Three, four hours?

ST: Whose idea was it to shoot in long shots rather than close-ups?

JS: Again, that’s Ang just pushing it along . which means that with the rigs, it’s incredibly more difficult because you’re dealing with that much more wires. And every move has to be exact. You can’t cut around.

ST: You had to remove all those wires digitally.

JS: That’s not so difficult. We couldn’t have done this two years ago . it would have been impossible, but now you can have your Macintosh, some software and sit there with a scan, and we had six hundred of those shots. It’s like running Microsoft Word.

ST: I’d like to go back to what we were talking about in the beginning: Western perspective and Eastern perspective. Having worked on the script now for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, how would you, as a Westerner, see the genre as a whole. For example, to refer to specifics . how would you look at things like the Jianghu? What would your idea be of the Jianghu?

JS: I’ll tell you that having gone through the process . there’s a very typical Western response to the genre in its filmic form which is, as you know, a real connoisseurship. You can trace along that kind of connoisseurship the history, in particular, of the depiction of the masculine hero. So you go from the mythic Shu Shan characters and you start seeing these masochistic Zhang Che guys, and you get Bruce Lee and then you get Jet Li, and an explosion of this kind of assertion of strength and speed and ability. And that tradition starts to get more embedded into more nationalistic discourses. To a certain extent, on top of the connoisseurship, you have national cultural formations which are there, but to me the big difference having been through the process of Crouching Tiger was to go back into the texts which people think of as being very tenuously related to the genre . going all the way back from the Zhuang Zi to the Mo Zi, and I start seeing, interestingly, a lot of the same debates taking place within the genre. A lot of the genre is about a guy who has a family bond, gets into a fight or the bond is broken and he has to reconstruct his own family, or he has to disobey the family imperative in order to obey a greater imperative. So you’re seeing the fight between universal love in Mo Zi and Confucian ethics. And it’s not that teenagers in Hong Kong or even Tsui Hark are sitting around reading the debate between the Legalists and the Confucianists, and go: “Hey, let’s make a movie about that”. But you are seeing very embedded cultural discourses working themselves out in new ways, in new ideas and emotions and they are fantastic, so I am very much more aware of how ancient and serious the discussions are that are being played out in this pop cultural context. And I think it’s important to respect pop culture’s specific moments in a lot of the wuxia pian and at the same time we also need to respect the fact that so much of these films are working out, almost arguing new versions, picking up discussions that are really quite venerable . it’s a much longer tradition than even early twentieth century wuxia novels. And I think that ideas of nationhood and even of postcolonial, postmodern identity politics . they’re there and they’re real and that’s what is happening. It’s a deep ocean and I’ve only learned this much of it, as part of the process.

ST: We’re looking now at the globalization of the wuxia genre with the success of Crouching Tiger. Where do you think it’s going to go from here?

JS: No idea. Seriously! We threw that pebble in the pond and the ripples are going out. And I’ve no idea where they’re going to go. Quite frankly, I think it’s a tribute to the genre, not as an identifiable set of rules but rather as a continuous strain of discourses. It’s a tribute to the power of that genre that it’s actually taking its place on the world stage, as a world historical epic type of discourse that people all over the world are relating to. Certainly that means there’s a loss of identity. It’s no longer that, but in fact, it still is that. It’s strong enough to take in all these influences.

ST: I’ve read somewhere that you’re going to do a sequel.

JS: A sequel or prequel. I don’t think Ang or I have the strength to do another one of these till another five years at least. So we’ll see. We’ll see.

ST: Is it true that Ang Lee is going to do The Incredible Hulk?

JS: Here’s my production notebook.

ST: So it’s true after all. That’s quite a leap from Crouching Tiger to The Hulk!

JS: Crouching Tiger was really a leap. Literally and figuratively. We’re also developing a little musical – a romantic comedy musical – that we would want to make here in New York. And this goes through, again, all the different strains. It’s based very loosely on a film by the French filmmaker Alain Resnais called Same Old Song (1997). But my own personal inspiration for it was Li Hanxiang, and the huangmei diao genre. I had got the tape of the movie The Love Eterne from Richard Peña, and I said to Ang, “I just saw this incredible movie, The Love Eterne, my God!” and Ang says “Are you kidding? I’ve seen it about a hundred times”. So I wrote a script for that, which was kind of complicated because we tried to set it up before this actors’ strike but couldn’t. So who knows when we’ll make it. If and when we make that film, nobody will say “Oh, it’s a huangmei diao operetta”. But, it’s certainly for me a key inspiration. I think that film is unbelievable. It’s just one of my favorite movies.

Endnotes

  1. James Schamus, “The Polyglot Task of Writing the Global Film,” The New York Times, November 5, 2000

About The Author

Stephen Teo's latest book Wong Kar-wai is published by the British Film Institute. He is the author of Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions (London: British Film Institute, 1997) and is currently writing Johnnie Gets His Gun: The Action Films of Johnnie To, for the Hong Kong University Press.