Zhang Yimou: a craftsman who is hidden in his craftsmanship

  The opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics was well received, but this did not reverse the situation in the film market for "Sniper", co-directed by Zhang Yimou and his daughter Zhang Mo.

"Sniper" is still limited in the lineup, and the box office numbers are slowly climbing.

Among the non-animated films in this Lunar New Year, it has the best reputation, the highest social network score, and the lowest box office so far.

  The reality of the film market is far tougher than Zhang Yimou's long-standing creative attitude.

The 72-year-old director can ignite the enthusiasm of the whole people in large-scale performances in the stadium, but his big-screen works are more of a narrow circle of older audiences who walk into the theater and are attracted by the attitude of his persistent craftsman. touched.

  The entire film industry is faced with the iteration of creators and expressions. Zhang Yimou put down his style label and focused on tempering the skills of old-school film craftsmen in the creation of one after another genre film.

After "The Great Wall", there have been constant outside comments that Zhang Yimou gave up his "authority" and gradually lost his ability to communicate and communicate in top film festivals, such as "Shadow", "One Second", "On the Cliff" and "Sniper". The film indeed proves that he has turned from the "author director" from an external perspective to become an extremely localized genre director.

Not long ago, when he took over the tenth Golden Rooster Award in his career, he said: "The director is a craftsman, and he must abide by the spirit of craftsmanship." This can be understood as a humble confession of an elderly creator. He insists and practices this In the context of the Chinese film industry, is the "way of craftsmanship" like the main torch of this Winter Olympics, a small fire in a cluster of ice and snow?

 Give up the "personal style" to a stereotyped narrative that seems unremarkable

  If you walk into the screening room of "Sniper" because of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, you will find that these are two works with completely different temperaments.

Zhang Yimou, who directed the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, is still a clear image maker. On an intuitive level, he pursues the common presence of technology and ordinary people. On a metaphysical level, he intends to export ancient oriental values ​​with developed technical aesthetic solutions.

In fact, this creative idea was previewed once in the conceptual stage performance "Dialogue · Fable 2047" in 2017. At that time, Zhang Yimou created a total of seven sets of visual images about dialogue and allegory, juxtaposing Guqin and laser, Peking Opera and iPad, Bowl cavity and holographic projection... The top technological aesthetics on the stage directly mix and match intangible cultural heritage.

To a certain extent, this set of aesthetic tastes and Zhang Yimou's martial arts blockbusters - from "Hero" to "The Great Wall" - share the same root and the same origin, expressing the audio-visual imagination of "middle school for the body, western learning for the application".

In "Shadow" with a very prominent visual aesthetics, Zhang Yimou still uses this set of visual interest to impact the audience.

But after that, in several films from 2018 to the present, including "One Second", "Above the Cliff" and "Sniper", Zhang Yimou has restrained his visual discourse ability, or in other words, he put "personal style" Give up to a stereotyped narrative that seems unremarkable.

  "Above the Cliff" can be said to be an old-fashioned spy war drama. Heroes, saints and villains are typical characters. "Mantis catches cicadas, and the oriole is behind" is a typical spy war drama framework. Even so, in a very In the routine of finding new perspectives and thinking of breaking the question, the director created a gripping rhythm, and completed a belief fairy tale "paying tribute to the hidden front" through a minimalist narrative and a clear black and white ethical concept.

Once you enter the framework of "struggle between the enemy and ourselves", in the relationship between good and evil characters, the enemy is responsible for the evil, the distrust of human nature and the doubt about redemption repeatedly expressed in Zhang Yimou's past movies, it has rationality and justice, and It is no longer possible to offend the audience.

 "Sniper" reshapes the genre of youth films

  "On the Cliff" was created within an established genre. In contrast, "Sniper" attempted a mashup of several genres, breaking up and scheduling some elements of historical dramas, biopics, and suspense dramas, and finally reinvented Youth films of this type.

However, the biggest impact of "Sniper" is not the boldness and flexibility of genre fusion, but the inner neatness of the film. Its tightly controlled drama and rigorous execution of shooting completion have attracted many professional creators.

To a certain extent, "Sniper" allows people to see Zhang Yimou as a seasoned person who is both a master and a partner, taking his daughter to complete a standardized operation for a feature film.

  In fact, "Sniper" is a youth film with the theme of "growth" under the special background of the stalemate to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea. The creator put the cliché proposition in a very context to achieve a kind of alienation.

It is indeed difficult for young audiences to empathize with this "youth", just like the narration in the film, this is a look back at "everything has passed" and a tribute to the bloody youth.

In "Love of Hawthorn Tree" 12 years ago, Zhang Yimou used the name of "pure love for young people" to darken Chen Cang's attitude towards history, leaving a legend like a hawthorn flower for the spiritual history of his generation.

"Sniper" is also a polyphony that blends blood and tears between youth and history. Between the battle hero legend and the factual gap of war history, the rallying cry of growth is loud and heartbreaking.

What surrounds Zhang Yimou is not the halo of masterpieces, but his most distinctive feature is the tenacity of the craftsman

  This is a movie that starts out "small".

The volume of the entire play frame is small, and it only revolves around a positional battle.

The network of characters is small, at first it was a class of fighters, then it was a confrontation between two people, and finally only one person fought bloody to the end.

Theatrical scenes are small, one position, two trenches, and a single scene to the end.

The dramatic events and suspense are also small. An American sniper uses the wounded volunteers as bait to capture the Chinese sharpshooter; the volunteers know that the encounter is a trap, but they will save the scout partner whose identity has not been revealed at all costs.

The screenwriter and director unfolded a multi-layered narrative around youth, war and history in a seemingly mini-pattern.

In a nameless battle, a bloody killing destroys a young man's comrades, and then deprives him of his seniors, who he regards as a spiritual pillar. Surviving alone, he must bear the will of everyone and fight to the end.

This young man first saved his comrades, then the intelligence, and finally, in a small way, he became part of the historical force.

  The structure and rhythm of "The Sniper" is permeated with a template-like standard precision, and each situation and each scene is meticulously stuck like a gear. It can be considered that such a film lacks calm play, or it can be That said, it's somewhat ingenious.

But what makes "Sniper" sad is not its sense of carving. On the contrary, this 95-minute film reminds people that three-act structured dramas that can be controlled within 100 minutes are now a scarce product.

The mainstream choice of contemporary commercial films uses loose narratives to lay out uncontrolled audio-visual spectacles, and film lengths can easily get out of control to 150 minutes or even longer. Movies like "Sniper" are turning the bow and going against the current, and old-school craftsmen are not afraid of " The suspicion of "craftsmanship" proves that the three-act narrative of the film's classicism is still feasible, and 100 minutes is enough to unfold the historical picture of the vast Tangtang and the fragments of youth hidden in it.

  Since the tragic failure of "The Great Wall" in 2016, by the end of last year, "Above the Cliff" won the Golden Rooster Award again, and then to this "Sniper", the halo surrounding Zhang Yimou is no longer a masterpiece.

His most distinguishing feature is the tenacity of the craftsman, making one film after another - "One Second," "Rock Solid," "On the Cliff," "Sniper," in these films with limited space for expression, or Constantly trying to broaden the genre, or pursuing the perfection of playwriting skills and filming skills, or giving valuable guidance to the actors who are blank, no amount of failures and frustrations will prevent him from starting the "next movie".

These films dilute the personality of art films, and do not see the lyricism of literati films and the self-examination of intellectuals, but the creators still have expressions, even if these expressions seem too straightforward and lose the aftertaste: For example, "One Second" The young people who shed tears while listening to "Singing Heroes" in "The Bell" will become thugs after the movie; Here, North Korean children running ghostly between the positions of China and the United States.

  Perhaps, the bloody Da Yong in "Sniper" can be regarded as Zhang Yimou's own situation: holding on is everything.

In his acceptance speech for the Golden Rooster Award more than a month ago, there was a bit of sentimentality in his high-spirited fighting spirit - there are fewer and fewer filmmakers like this, and they are getting old irresistibly.

(Author: Liu Qing)