World Cinema Series 8 January: Run Away/ 策馬入林
||Run Away/ 策馬入林
||8 January 2013 (Tuesday), 7.30pm
||National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
93 Stamford Road
FREE for SFS Members or Reel Card holders. Get your free ticket by flashing your membership card at the SFS desk at the theatre entrance. You may ask for up to 2 more tickets for your guests if you hold a SFS Reel membership card. Non-members may sign up at the SFS desk -- we will issue membership on the spot. Free seating.
Director: Wang Tong / 王童
1984 / Taiwan / 114 min / 35mm / Rating TBC
In Mandarin with English subtitles
Adapted from a short story by famed Taiwanese novelist, Chen Yu Hang, Run Away is set in the famine stricken turmoil following the gradual demise of the Tang Dynasty. A band of bandits are scouring the countryside for grains to get through the approaching winter. In one of the raids a village girl, Dan Zhu, is forcefully taken from her parents as collateral when the villagers come up short with grains and food for the bandits. After a dramatic turn of events, the film concludes by focusing on the wretched existence of the bandits and the complex love-hate relationship between the abducted Dan Zhu and a sympathetic bandit, He Nan.
As much a wuxia film as one would casually label Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai a jidaigeki chanbara movie, Run Away transcends genre conventions by the sheer craft of its filmmaking. Wang Tong began his career as a set designer for some of the landmark films in Taiwanese cinema history, such as Beautiful Duckling (Li Xing, 1965) and Dragon Gate Inn (King Hu, 1967). With Run Away, Wang successfully combined the merits of film design and robust direction.
The immediate outstanding feature of the film is the meticulous attention to detail afforded to the creation of the atmosphere of tumult during the last days of the Tang Dynasty, historically the most open and opulent dynasty in China’s history. Wang and his team imbue the film with a consistently tarnished look. The costumes, weapons and daily objects and tools appear as though they have seen better days, because underneath the ramshackle appearances are glimpses of past splendour. While ruined temples are a staple in wuxia films, the one featured in Run Away as the bandits’ hideout is a virtual tour de force in set design from which Wang expertly plays out the power shifts between the various bandits. Locations are as much a part of a film’s design, and Wang’s use of locations throughout various parts of Taiwan, reveals a painterly eye for compositions. The cinematography of the film masterfully captures the poetry of a savage time and the turbulent romance between the two leads. The film’s striking cinematography is the combined efforts of two novice cameramen, Yang Wei-han and Lee Ping-bing, who were working for Central Motion Pictures Corporation at the time. The two would go on to lens some of the most important Taiwanese films in the future.
Wang Tong graduated from the National College of Arts in 1964 and joined the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) as a set designer where he took care of props, costumes, and drawing models. During his time in CMPC, he worked on films from across the genres, from war epics to wuxia to comedies and Qiong Yao romantic melodramas. Wang established himself as a director with the anti-Communist film, If I Were for Real (1981) which went on to receive three Golden Horse Awards despite his neophyte status as a movie director. Wang chose to adapt the classic Taiwanese nativist novel, A Flower in the Rainy Night, for his next film. Wang’s artistry came together in his next film, Run Away. Wang then embarked on an ambitious trilogy of films that survey contemporary Taiwanese life beginning with the waning Japanese occupation of Taiwan, starting with Straw Man (1987), followed by Banana Paradise (1989) and Hill of No Return (1992).