It was surprising to see this short film.
Although the runtime isn’t long, it is endlessly romantic. The characters are confined in a mediocre reality, but their eyes focuses on the infinite colors in the crevices of life. Within finite, it speaks about the infinite.
The slow long takes calmly and softly narrates without an obvious story frame. The characters are like the wind, just existing, without knowing where they came from or where they are going.
A very typical slice-of-life film, with a strong flavor of a fresh tide. Its narration is like the moment when leaves fell onto the calm lake surface; calm, meaningful, stirring ripples, but the infinite imagination left behind has gone beyond the film. The director is very cute. At the ending where the ripples stirs the imagination, he used the film ‘The 400 Blows’ that is being shown on the screen as a response, which is a classic long shot in the history of film, allowing the audience to follow the characters into the unknown. Just like us watching this story, we have no obvious hint whether Xiao Zhou and Li Mo will interweave in the future. This is why I like this short film a lot. It is without any ‘seasoning’, clean and exquisite, restrained and affectionate. It is the so-called “tranquil river”, which brings about infinite meaningful reverie without any deliberate guidance.
Moreover, its colour palette is very soft and comfortable, and its extended imagination is also warm and gentle, although it is mixed with the sad feeling that a poet has to return to this reality from afar, mixed with a kind of non-freedom that Xiao Zhou felt from being suppressed by the triviality of life. But the taste of life is still not necessarily heavy and depressed after all that, but filled with hope. Such a work that takes us to find the romantic meaning in our ordinary life is really nice.
In the film, there are several scenes that are very “cute”, especially when the scene is specially on the workers outside the window putting down ‘Pan Pan’ just as Xiao Zhou, starring Zhou Xun, sang to the part “goodbye my friend”. The arrangement and design are really ingenious! The director must be a very cute and gentle person. As written in the previous paragraph where he placed his bias in at the ending, it’s really cute.
The camera movement is also very comfortable, flexible and calm and yet full of emotion. Xiao Zhou came from finishing her family chores, soaking in her mundane work, missing the opening ceremony of the Asian Games and could only watch the end of the closing ceremony and was even interrupted by her mother’s repeated calls. The same is true for work, which is repetitive and boring, with her supervisor also calling and ordering ‘ticket control’. From it, she felt like a helpless ordinary person in an ordinary life, but her heart is filled with romanticism and the yearning for literature and art. The scene in the reception room was crafted so vividly, how she kept humming, endured the urge to buy jeans so she could donate for the Asian Games, counting the days of the Asian Games and saying goodbye to the Pan Pan figure. The love flowing from within in this mundane life is colourful and romantic, looking at the endless possibilities “outside of life” from within the limit possibilities of life.
Li Mo is the same kind of person. He looks quiet but his heart is a river overflowing with romanticism. A poet who ended his wandering, socially inept and shy, writes romantic poems, with the destination of his wandering be outside the free and vast Jiayuguan Pass. This is an inner cornerstone of this character, which is totally different from his appearance. He ended his journey, cut off his hair and had to give up on “poetry and the wandering”, bidding farewell to the ideal and returning to the plain life. The hidden line of *Hai Zi’s death subtly penetrates the story. The poet is dead and reality is silent, but the romance inside will not stop. Similar to Xiao Zhou who possess a colourful and vivid heart, they are the “ misfits” within the common people who resonate with the same frequency. The people “who possess a vivid heart” in reality. This may be the language of ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’: Like-minded people. (*Go google Poet Hai Zi Death)
Some people may think that Li Mo’s line ” (She’s) My friend. ” at the end came abrupt since after all, they only talked once, without deeper understanding, but it is actually the most delicate and moving line. I guess Li Mo is lonely in that conservative and stereotyped era. He ended his journey, came to find his Chen Ge, shared his poems while other party asked if his parents knew he was coming back. He stayed silent, but the answer given by his body language was obvious. This here might be the answer to how his parents does not supported nor understand him. But he too need to be understood and need to share himself and those who he can share with is his friend. The simple conversation in the reception room allowed the delicate and sensitive Li Mo catch that Xiao Zhou is a “romantic” as he is, which he why he abruptly asked her if she has been to Jiayuguan. This is the introvert him extending a line, as well as a “preparatory action” to share. We would never talk about our ideals with people who can’t understand us. Li Mo chatting like this openly means that he accepted that she is “the same kind” as him and can be a friend whom he can share with. Our Li Mo is just such a delicate and sensitive person.
You have to read the details of the film, the details about Li Mo carefully. The film has given a lot of hints within the camera movements; the movie tickets are not allowed to be distributed outside. They are only for workers and family members. Li Mo entering the theatre in the end is actually against the rules. His admission was actually Xiao Zhou’s covering up for Li Mo whom she had met once. So after Xiao Zhou entered the theatre, Li Mo also anxiously and specially explained the source of the ticket to Xiao Zhou. Xiao Zhou very frankly accepted it. A meeting with kindness between strangers makes one a friend. So Li Mo’s last line ” (She’s) My friend. ” is an expression of his gratitude to Xiao Zhou, being as gentle and attentive as he is, as well as treasuring her romanticism and kindness.
Isn’t it a very intricate and moving story? It is as ordinary as water, yet clean and simple. It doesn’t give any ambiguous hints between two as it’s not about love, but a kind of accidental “I met someone like me”, a real friendship. I really like this kind of cleanness. The conversation between the two is very mundane, without crossing the boundary , not even till the stage of having a tacit understanding between them. It is in line with reality and not dramatised. But the imagination it gives is inevitable. It is not surprising whether two similar people will continue to meet in the future or even perhaps the encounter will end at this. After the leaves fell, it is up to everyone who watches the film to decide what kind of ripples and what kind of future they will have.
And, Wang Yibo’s performance in this film, as a young actor, did bring some surprises. I think it is an ‘important homework’ in all his works I have seen so far. The film itself is real life, not dramatised. And so, the actor’s performance should follow the same logic, which is different from most of his previous works. In addition, this film isn’t long, as well as the restriction of the film style and personality of the character, the character’s lines are limited even more and a lot of information depends entirely on the actor’s performance to convey. For example, the matter of ‘whether his parents knew about him returning’ mentioned above. So although the film is short, it feels like a completely different performance.
I like the character of Li Mo a lot. He appear quiet and introverted, possessing has a ‘clumsy’ kind of feeling but he is attentive and romantic and very sensitive on the inside. This role is very layered and this kind of layers brought requirements for Wang Yibo’s performance, but was also shaped and created by his performance at the same time.
Let’s start with the first “requirement”. Li Mo’s character setting leads to a “contradictory” demand for the actor performance at the same time and in the same situation. He need not only fully express Li Mo’s external ‘clumsiness ’ but also accurately externalize Li Mo’s internal sensitivity. He need to maximize the role’s full on “clumsy” response when he is facing the world, but also let us feel that his heart is always feeling, flowing and is extremely “active”. As the director said, if the role is not played well, he would look stupid/slow, because if it is not performed well, the external “clumsiness” could easily swallow everything up which will cover the main impact which is the inner emotions of this character. However, on the contrary, if the intensity of expressing sensitivity and tenderness inside is not hidden enough, it may damage Li Mo’s ‘clumsy’ feel and turn into one of delicate melancholy or anxiety. On how to balance the two contradictions and let them form a harmonious logic to bring the role alive is really a test for the actor. Just a millilitre difference and it’ll feel like a mile, but Wang Yibo obviously grasped this balance and brought about an amazing and delicate performance.
So how did he do it? Wang Yibo cleverly used a “high frequency” but “slowed down” way of performing. We can see that Li Mo has a basic set of logic as to how he moves. He has many small movements, but most of these movements have a rule to them, which is to be completed but not completed, not done fully and is slightly hesitant and slow. For example, he placed his backpack down but didn’t put it all the way down. Instead, he awkwardly held it a few centimeters from the ground in his hand.
For example, he wanted to grasp the edge of his clothes but till the end, he just kept the suspended position there.
At the first moment he saw Zhang Chen, he shouted first, before slowly walking towards him shyly.
The most obvious one is when he was sitting outside the reception room waiting. His restless finger movements that showed his unease, which the speed was rather slow too.
It is obvious that Wang Yibo has designed and grasped this logic of body language. The speed of his response to the outside world is actually frequent and continuous, but his body movement are all slowed down and clumsy. This is very ingenious. It showed at once the outer clumsiness and inner sensitivity.
I have to sigh at Wang Yibo’s brilliance. I don’t know how he grasped the handling of the logic of the character, but this logic cleverly echoes one of Li Mo’s line. Which line? Xiao Zhou said ” The Asian Game closing song. you haven’t heard of it? ” Generally speaking, the complete answer is ” I was on the train last night and didn’t catch it. ” But Li Mo only said ” I was on the train. ” which is very cute and brought about a sense of ‘life’. A social inept person might just speak an incomplete sentence and the other half of it is stuck in his mind. Wang Yibo’s body language performance just fits this line perfectly. Li Mo doesn’t have a lot of lines but it is really amazing that he can digest this character thoroughly to this level. I can feel how much heart he placed in understanding and digesting this character and how clever he is to find a similar way to convey.
We often say that actors are also creators. They do not create according to the script but re-create the characters. They re-discover characters and give them life. In this role, we can feel that Wang Yibo and the producer of the role and the writer have completed a delicate co-creation, which is a very wonderful thing. I believe that Wang Yibo has already experienced this beauty and has now brought it to us.
Now, let’s talk about the second requirement. It is the requirement of the conveying of information. This is not easy to generalise. What is information? In short, it includes but is not limited to the character’s personality, background, past experience, possible relationship between characters, current state and mood. About personality. Li Mo’s first action in his appearance allow us know that this person is socially awkward. How did Wang Yibo convey this information to us? Apart from the nervousness and shyness of his lines, what is more important is that he designed a very good body language that registered in our subconsciousness. Generally speaking, when people ask something from Xiao Zhou, they either stand below the steps and ask, or walk all the way up the steps and ask. However, Li Mo was socially awkward. He was shy and slightly nervous. So what we saw was that Wang Yibo first took one step up and while asking nervously, he then clumsily and slowly completed the stepping up of the other leg, realising a kind of ‘moving the same hand and feet’ in words and deeds. When he appear, he directly portray the nervousness and also clearly allow us know the personality of the character.
Carefully observing and you will find out that all of Li Mo bigger actions are all made only after he has made up his mind. There is a process of “summoning up courage” and if this process is not done well, it will either be ignored, or it will be done too deliberately. Wang Yibo has a good grasp of it, it is very natural, and the conveying is very accurate. Including how Li Mo is always showing little restless movements. And his handling of it is gentle, so what we can see that he is a socially awkward guy and not anxiety or cowardice. This is also accomplished through the cooperation of his large body movements. When he is walking, his fist is clenched, but his head is not bowed and depressed and what he created is the image of a character.
The second information conveyed that I care about and is very happy about is Wang Yibo’s possible explanation of the relationship between Li Mo and his parents. In the scene in the bike shed, Zhang Chen asked Li Mo if he had told his parents he came back. Li Mo didn’t answer, but his body language clearly gave a negative answer. It is actually not difficult to answer the negative with body language. Slightly shaking your head or bowing your head without saying anything seems simple but this negative given by Wang Yibo is layered and informative. What information is in it? One is the parents’ possible attitude towards Li Mo and their possible parent-child status; Second, Li Mo’s mood about “not telling his parents about coming back”; Third, Li Mo’s close trust in Zhang Chen; The fourth is the reshaping of Li Mo’s personality.
About emotions. If Wang Yibo gives a general negative action like shaking his head, it is temporary form of cutting off the flow of emotions towards Zhang Chen in front of him. Not saying a word or looking at you, hiding my face, at most it convey that I am a little embarrassed while saying negative. But this in fact, this is also a cut off for the audience. The audience would read ” Oh, it’s a no and he is a little embarrassed. ” but the audience won’t be able to see his face anymore so they don’t get to read more emotions from him. And so the most exciting part is coming! Wang Yibo used an action of a bent knee to express awkwardness and very expressively convey how Li Mo is currently feeling. This is how a child move when they’re awkward that we are familiar with. Its speaks of embarrassment and a childish sense of awkward stubbornness, at how he doesn’t want to admit it as well as not knowing how to admit it. With this action, even if Li Mo didn’t speak, what do we read from it? ” I didn’t tell them, was it insensible of me to not tell them? How could I answer you, this is embarrassing but how should I tell my parents? I can’t say that I escaped and came to look for you first “. There is a lot of information behind this action. Why didn’t Li Mo tell his parents but came to Zhang Chen first? Because of the possible conflict and not understanding in the parent-child relationship, so he used a childish action to solidify the parent-child relationship while at the same time, show that Zhang Chen understood him and he could relax around him, which is why he could also make such a childish action in front of him. What’s more importantly, this action also showed a kind of innocence in Li Mo’s heart. It is very cute. His shyness is a kind of childish shyness, with hints of nervousness and naiveness.
As I mentioned earlier, we don’t know where the characters came from or where they are going. This is the characteristic of the new wave/generation. But for this character Li Mo, we could seemingly still gleamed a bit about him. His possible family relationship status, what pressure he has, how he made his choice. The script and drama props gave a few hints but it can’t be ignored that Wang Yibo’s performance has also given a lot of details in explaining, leaving imprints on the character about the possibility of his past. Word limits, I only cite these two examples. Everyone can go look for more, to see how Wang Yibo broadens our imagination of the character through his performance. To an actor, this is extremely important. It is also what I call an actor’s “re-creation”. To be able to achieve this, for a young actor, is really amazing and can really surprise people.
After saying what information is conveyed and how it was expressed, let’s talk about the difficulty of conveying. As mentioned earlier, the film is grounded in reality instead of being dramatic, so it requires the actor’s expression to be smooth, natural, subtle, and consistent with reality and the style of the film. Wang Yibo has done a very good job in this regard. The movement designs, the control and balance, and the handling of the details are very good. What does dramatic means? In short, it allows you to exaggerate and express your emotions deliberately. As long as you speak louder, you will always be noticed. However, grounded style can’t be “loud”. It would be like ripples on a calm surface. You can take people out of immersion with just a hint of exaggeration. And if an actor is not attentive, they might not get the character. If actors doesn’t convey it well, the audience may not get the character. As said before it is as the director said, Li Mo will look “stupid” if he is not performed well. What is ‘stupid’? If he has no emotion or information transmission, doesn’t he look stupid then! Li Mo is not stupid because Wang Yibo has done a good job of “expressing”. An actor’s good performance is the audience’s window to the character’s heart.
Another difficulty of conveying need to continue on our previous topic. When I talk about the display of the character’s contradictory personality, some people may say: The aloofness appearance and inner passion of Han Guang Jun from ‘The Untamed’, the cheerfulness and the true depth of Xie Mei Mei in ‘The Legend of Fei’, the clumsy speech but very attentive mind of little Baili in ‘Wind Rises in Luoyang’, aren’t that all contradictory? Why is the meaning of this performance so especially different? Here we will talk about the difference between TV series and movies. The way a TV series is filmed actually gave of assistance to an actor’s performance. For example, for the three characters mentioned above, before they appear, someone will say what kind of person the second child of the Lan family is, or what kind of person Baili Erlang is, or publicity outside the drama, the exposure of profiles, and the spoilers from the original IP will give us a predictive understanding of the ‘characters’. But in a film performance, actors can only rely on themselves in this situation. What does Li Mo have when he comes on stage? Nothing. Outside of the film, the films is mysterious and secretive, without spoilers. Inside of the film, there won’t be any assistance in conveying information before the appearance of a character. Li Mo’s character can only be expressed by Wang Yibo through his lines and body language without relying on other stuff. Do you feel the difficulty suddenly rising? Moreover, TV dramas often have a lot of lines, scenes, and plots to shape characters. You have something you cannot say. Okay then, after you force a smile, I will give another close up of a different expression from you. I will let you talk to yourself in a special inner monologue. I will add an emotional scene for you. I will directly get you to talk to others with the explanation being in the lines. There are too many supportive means. Then look at a ‘slice of life’ movie is. The film is concise, the lens is objective and straightforward, one line will replace ten lines, without any supportive background. An actor in a scene is basically the only information carrier. The actor has to turn himself into a good readable book for the audience to understand the story.
So the difficulty and significance of the role of Li Mo on Wang Yibo’s performance this time round is completely different. Although there seems to be no “dazzling acting skills” in its portrayal, but Wang Yibo’s maturity as an actor has been shown thoroughly. He has avoided many possible problems and traps, thoroughly understood the role, completely made the character alive and allow us read everything about him. Be it is the style of the film or the genre, it is all a challenge and also an ideal answer sheet.
Finally, I would like to thank those who read till here and we are lucky to see such a good creation. The environment may be mundane, and the characters in the film is also like us, but let’s be like them and look for infinity within the finite.
Original 自棹 鉴片工场 2023-02-24 22:49 Posted on
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