Delving deeper into director Wang’s thoughts

Believing that creative freedom is an essential quality of all filmmaking, Shaudi Wang argues that filmmakers should be more attracted to Taiwan than China

By Jeff Lin
The China Post
Plastered over almost every television talk show, the faces of director Shaudi Wang (王小棣) and the stars of the highly anticipated“Fantôme, où es-tu?” (酷馬) have been hard to miss in the last few weeks.
On their promoting crusade across Taiwan,the actors of the film have been garnering rave reviews from movie critics and moviegoers. Despite debuting on the big screen, Jin Zheng (鄭靚歆), Ku Ming-shen (古名伸) and Huang Yuan (黃遠) all give performances comparable to seasoned professionals. Yet, the cast has credited veteran filmmaker Wang Shaudi’s coaching as the basis for their tear-jerking and thoughtfulacting.
For the last thirty years, Wang has been a dedicated artist and mentor to those in the television and film industry. Through this time, she has developed a keen perspective of the artistic value of the entertainment business in Taiwan.
In recent years, Wang has received prestigious awards for directing and writing television
dramas. However, television has never given her the open forum of creativeness that film can provide.
“Every art form has an essential nature.
Television has always been a medium for social communication, so when I create something for television I try to focus on that. I believe that the most important essence in films is the freedom of expression and innovation,” Wang told The China Post.
Wang’s ideals were clearly exemplified during the making of “Fantôme, où es-tu?” Using a true story as the basis of the film, Wang and her writer were free to adapt the story in an imaginative and exciting way. “In adapting the piece, we had to add fictional aspects ... and because I really enjoy the genre of magical realism, we were able to be creative with the script,” she said.


 

‘Fantôme, où es-tu?’ presents a hauntingly good story

From its suspensful plot and impeccable execution, the drama is a complete
art work that presents Taiwanese filmmaking at its finest

By Jeff Lin
The China Post Highly touted director ShaudiWang (王小棣) returns to film with her newest motion picture“Fantôme, où es-tu?” (酷馬), successfully portraying an unlikely tale of two completely different teenagers who eventually bond together to teach each other important life lessons.
Cool-ma (酷馬), played by Huang Yuan (黃遠), is a well-mannered student and respectful son, who happens to be the best marathon runner at his high school. On his mission to run during the Olympics,he practices everyday after his nightjob at a local dumpling stand. As Coolma warms down from his daily run at the park, he is greeted by a group of high school classmates who are looking to pick a fight with some scooter racers. When one of the racers is eventually found, an all-out brawl ensues.
In enters Tang-guo (糖果), played by Jin Cheng (鄭靚歆), a rebellious teenaged girl who considers herself “one-of-the-boys.”As Tang-guo rushes to save her friend
from being beaten to death, she grabs a motorbike lock as her weapon. In what seems to be an attempt to save Tang-guo from making a huge mistake, Cool-ma keeps Tang-guo from joining the fight. Unaware of Cool-ma’s intentions, Tangguo mistakenly identifies Cool-ma as one of the attackers and repeatedly strikes him with the lock.
C o o l - m a e v e n t u a l l y passes away a f t e r s u f -fer ing f rom
severe brain trauma. But as he returns as a metaphysical being,Cool-ma begins to helph i s g r i e v -ing mother overcome her d e p r e s s i o n .
However, Tang-guo is the only one who can see and hear Cool-ma. Tang-guo acts for Cool-ma as they try to save his mother from her destructive habits. But no matter what she does, Cool-ma’s mother can only see the hatred and vengeance in her heart. Throughout their journey, Cool-ma repays Tang-guo by teaching her how to make the best of her chaotic life.
Along with the story’s exciting plot, the acting also makes this movie shine.
Veteran television actor Blue Lan (藍正龍) fits the role as Cool-ma’s track coachto a T, while Cheng’s surprising rookie performance as Tang-guo,also deserves a c c l a i m .
However, Ku Ming- shen’ s(古名伸) delivery of Coolma’s motheris a brilliant depiction of a mother who has lost everything.
The sense of hopelessness and emotional collapse seen in Ku’s scenes is all too reminiscent of the stories seen in Taiwanese news broadcasts of real-life mothers who have lost loved ones. It is a shame that some of her scenes have obviously been left on the cutting room floor.Despite the over dramatic acting in the ending scenes of the movie, the direction commanded by Wang is smooth and harmonized — which cannot be said for all Taiwanese directors. With most of the missteps being negligible, the moving story and acting prowess really allow this film to excel.
Since her last movie, “Bear Hug” (擁抱大白熊) in 2004, Wang has worked on television dramas like “Wayward Kenting”

(我在墾丁*天氣晴), which won the Golden Bell Award for Best Screenplay in 2008. The continual growth in Wang’s works continues to give the public hope that Taiwan’s movie industry will someday become internationally renowned. ■

‘Fantôme, où es-tu?’ (酷馬) ► Directed by Wang Shaudi (王小棣) / With Jin Cheng (鄭靚歆), Huang Yuan (黃遠), Blue Lan (藍正龍) and Ku Ming-shen (古名伸) / Drama /Taiwan / 2010 / 115 min. / Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles / ★★★★☆/ Now Showing

 


However, the supernatural element in the movie is not just a gimmick to cover imperfections in the story. Wang’s film has a meaningful message to send to its audience.
“In Chinese society, if a guy holds a low position in society, his wife is even lower. So I wanted this film to pay respect to mothers and show them that their strength is immense,”the director remarked.
Young people should not be turned away because of this message. In fact the movie is filled with youthful themes. Centering around the two teenagers Cool-ma (酷馬) and Tang-guo (糖果), the plot also follows how two teenagers can find friendship in the face of difficult times.
When observing the overall entertainment business in Asia, Wang has also used her knowledgeable perspective to analyze the state of Taiwan’s moviemaking sector.
While the market for Taiwan’s films has been developing very quickly it is still extremely small compared to the behemoth industries in Hollywood and Mainland China.
Even though other directors and talent might choose to move overseas, Wang still insists that the Taiwanese market is very important because it symbolizes an open exchange of ideals. In China, censorship on subjects like ghosts has restricted “Fantôme, où es-tu?” from being shown.
“Everyone believes that China is the place to go because the big money is there… but from a cultural stand point, I think it should be the other way around,” she stressed. Believing that creative freedom is an essential quality of all filmmaking, Wang argues that filmmakers should be more attracted to Taiwan than China.
“We [Taiwanese filmmakers] have already gone through the period of very businessorientated films that hold little aesthetic value, and we also have gone through a period of very personal and artistic films as well. Now, I think we are going through a new period where there will be alternatives from the past two extremes,” she noted.
Wang’s ability to shape the film medium to communicate social values has established herself as a creative mind who is driven by something deeper than material wealth. The recent media coverage surrounding this film is not merely just hype, critics and those in the entertainment circle truly believe this film has significance to the Taiwanese public. ■

 

 

By Jeff Lin
The China Post
Plastered over almost every television talk
show, the faces of director Shaudi Wang (王
小棣) and the stars of the highly anticipated
“Fantôme, où es-tu?” (酷馬) have been hard to
miss in the last few weeks.
On their promoting crusade across Taiwan,
the actors of the film have been garnering rave
reviews from movie critics and moviegoers. Despite
debuting on the big screen, Jin Zheng (鄭
靚歆), Ku Ming-shen (古名伸) and Huang Yuan
(黃遠) all give performances comparable to seasoned
professionals. Yet, the cast has credited
veteran filmmaker Wang Shaudi’s coaching as
the basis for their tear-jerking and thoughtful
acting.
For the last thirty years, Wang has been a
dedicated artist and mentor to those in the television
and film industry. Through this time, she
has developed a keen perspective of the artistic
value of the entertainment business in Taiwan.
In recent years, Wang has received prestigious
awards for directing and writing television
dramas. However, television has never
given her the open forum of creativeness that
film can provide.
“Every art form has an essential nature.
Television has always been a medium for social
communication, so when I create something
for television I try to focus on that. I believe
that the most important essence in films is the
freedom of expression and innovation,” Wang
told The China Post.
Wang’s ideals were clearly exemplified during
the making of “Fantôme, où es-tu?” Using
a true story as the basis of the film, Wang and
her writer were free to adapt the story in an
imaginative and exciting way. “In adapting the
piece, we had to add fictional aspects ... and
because I really enjoy the genre of magical
realism, we were able to be creative with the
script,” she said.
By Deborah Lu
The China Post
“Cats” are coming out to play across Taiwan
starting this weekend, filling venues with
song and dance by extravagant felines that
has amazed over 7.3 billion audience members
worldwide.
The world-renowned musical will stage a
total of 15 shows in Taiwan, including at the
Taipei Arena (台北小巨蛋), Tainan Municipal
Cultural Center (台南市立文化中心) and Kaohsiung’s
Chih-teh Hall (高雄市文化中心至德堂).
“Cats” composer Andrew Lloyd Webber took
poet T. S Eliot’s classic “Old Possum’s Book
of Practical Cats” and entwined it with music
and choreography.
“[Lloyd] created a musical language for the
feline world. He introduces several of the cats
through different styles. There is swing, jazz,
rock [and] haunting ballads. Everything happens
in this show … very clever man, Andrew
Lloyd Webber,” said Paul White, musical director
of “Cats.”
It is safe to say that the most famous piece of
music from the show is the ballad “Memory” —
sung by glamour-puss Grizabella. It has touched
the hearts of many all over the world, including
those who have never seen the musical.
“Memory” is a worldwide hit that has been
recorded by over 150 big-name artists, including
Barbara Streisand and Johnny Mathis.
Delia Hannah, who stars as Grizabella,
admitted she feels pressure singing such a
famous song, but said she was glad that the
audience hears it live in a theater.
“I’m glad we’re not standing in the lift or
doing our shopping and hearing it through
pipe music. [The song] is in a completely pure
context where [it’s] supposed to be, so what
I try to do is to [infuse it with] truth and honesty
and tell the story of my character, Grizabella,”
Hannah said. “She’s just struggling
through her life and trying to make sense of it
and find meaning.”
Aside from the music, “Cats” is also known for
extravagant makeup worn by its performers. Surprisingly,
the performers only receive help from
makeup assistants on their first performances.
“We draw a line down the middle. The
makeup assistants paint one side and [we]
do the other, and after that [we] have to do
it [ourselves],” said John Ellis, who plays Old
Deuteronomy.
Also surprising is the amount of time it
takes to put on the heavy makeup, which Ellis
revealed to be only about 20 minutes. “It depends
on how fussy you are, and John is very
fussy,” Hannah joked.
Hannah revealed that, in order to better interpret
her role, she studied the movements of
cats online. “I’m constantly amazed by cats …
how they think and how they play. I actually
have a dog. If he didn’t chase cats so much, I’d
probably have a cat,” she said with a laugh. ■
‘Cats’ (貓) ► 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17-19 (Fri.-Sun.)
► 2:30 p.m. Sept. 18-19 (Sat.-Sun.) / Taipei
Arena (台北小巨蛋) / No. 2, Sec. 4, Nanjing E.
Rd., Songshan District, Taipei City (台北市松
山區南京東路4段2號) / NT$800 ~ NT$5,800 /
(07) 780-9900 / http://www.kham.com.tw/
Shaudi Wang, right, has been known to coach her
actors and actresses, to develop them into worldclass
performers. Courtesy of Rice Film
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