Sunday, March 06, 2011

[In His Time: The Films of Edward Yang] The Terrorizers (恐怖份子 / Kong Bu Fen Zi)


The opening film of this retrospective a few days ago, The Terrorizers was presented in a gorgeous restored digital transfer that is beautiful to gawk at every frame, and in essence what would have probably been seen during its first ever debut back in 1986. It's not cheap nor easy to have a film remastered and restored to get rid of pops, cackles and dirt, or to readjust its colour grading, as seen during the promotional clip on its restoration before the film proper, and it's really an excellent job done given the tremendous amount of effort behind the scene.

Edward Yang's third feature film, co-written with Hsiao Yeh, may have given the audience an ultimate red herring with an action oriented introduction complete with cops and robbers and a shootout, only for that to serve as just about the only real action sequence in this film that's steeped in what would be a relatively violent outcome by the time the end credits rolled. The Terrorizers tells a myriad of inter-weaving storylines involving a myriad of characters, such as Wang An's delinquent Eurasian girl who runs a call girl scam where she robs her clientele in hotel rooms and a photographer's obsession with her when he snaps her escape from the cops.

But the storyline that just begged for attention, is something similar like his first two films that dealt with the breakdown in relationships against the backdrop of modernity, and how modern life and its expectations chip at passion and romance, where couples rarely emerge unscathed from failure to communicate their true intentions. I suppose it is akin to the filmmaker's way of constant warning, given a trilogy now focused on this aspect, that to have emotions kept within oneself would only pave way for a massive blowout when the last straw is reached, and this offers no chance whatsoever for reconciliation, only destruction, and the humiliation that comes along with it.

We see it all coming from the first time the couple of Yue Fen (Cora Miao) and her husband Li Zhong (Lee Li Chun) got introduced, where the former's writer's block complaint becomes an avenue to be chided by her husband, who deemed her issue rather unimportant given that it is a work of fiction, and not life and death. Clearly this lack of sensitivity was the seed sowed, before a random cataclysmic event evolves this into her wanting to leave the matrimonial home for a place where she can get some escape and seek out inspiration, which turned out to be nothing more than seeking out an ex-lover to carry out an affair with.

While you may want to sympathize with the husband, wait. Edward Yang and Hsiao Yeh for some reasons crafted a number of characters here who are mostly lacking in morals. Li Zhong, eyeing a promotion which he thinks is a given with the death of his boss, goes to the extent of framing a fellow co-worker so that he can eliminate the competition for that move upwards, which makes him quite the bastard who gets his karmic just desserts through the infidelity of his wife, which ultimately humiliates the man who has to wear a green hat, and is without a defining career which he so highly prizes it as sort of a beacon in social stature.

One can imagine just who the real terrorizers are in the film - it's easy to point the fingers at criminals as depicted in the beginning of the film, or whoever is holding that gun to exact some form of revenge against pride, but clearly in this instance, it's really the female of the species who continue to torment emotionally especially when the silent treatment gets exacted, which I feel is possibly the cruelest form of torture to a loved one. The ending is much talked about, and in my opinion seemed to stem either as material from the fictional book that Yue Fen finally churned out, or an alternative reality which points to a consistently bleak outcome of that modern day grind in life.


The National Museum is now presenting a Retrospective of Edward Yang (November 6, 1947 – June 29, 2007), one of Taiwan's leading filmmakers in its New Wave, probably best known for his film Yi Yi (2000) which got him the Best Director Award at Cannes.

It's a complete retrospective that will offer an insight into his life through roundtable sessions with his former collaborators, friends and academics. and you can find the full details of the screening over at this link, which contains a profile of specially invited guests, film titles, screening details, and a list of the free admission programmes.

Here's a quick summary:

In His Time: The Films of Edward Yang
A Programme of the National Museum Cinémathèque
Day/Date: Wednesday, 2 March – Sunday, 13 March 2011
Time: Various screening times
Venue: Gallery Theatre, Basement, National Museum of Singapore 93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
Tickets: $8 per person, $6.40 (concession), [excluding SISTIC fee]
MRT Station: City Hall/Dhoby Ghaut
Contact: 6332 3659 / 6332 5642

and you can find out more details from this link.


YTSL said...

Hi Stefan --

Sounds like you're getting quite a bit out of your Edward Yang movie immersion. Re "The Terrorizers": reading your account of it reminded me of when it screened in Hong Kong and a woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation with me prior to the screening, telling me that she had picked the film because of its title. Upon seeing her slink out afterwards with no further comment, I gather that she was incredibly disappointed that the movie wasn't an action movie at all!

So... yeah, I do think that it's good to know a bit about a movie -- or at least its director -- prior to going into a screening!! :D

Stefan S said...


haha, yes that's true! I can imagine those who have thought this was an action film :D

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