Save Matt Damon! — or, Why These Chinese Viewers Don’t Want You To See “The Great Wall”

Just about the only good thing that comes out of Chinese censorship is the popular talkback. The imagination of the online Chinese community leaps and soars, as they lightly arch their necks against the boot keeping them down. After all, they are kept in a rosy state of fresh chafe by whispered rumors of people taken away for posting a comment, the uncertainty of whether a favorite column will survive the latest round of official scrubbing, and goofy admissions from Chinese Internet companies that “aliens have abducted the webpage you’re trying to access”:

 

 

%e5%a4%96%e6%98%9f%e4%ba%ba%e5%8a%ab%e6%8c%81-%e7%94%b2-0217

That cutesiness is the most outspoken the company can get about gag orders from on high. Chinese Internet users are fed up. They long to strike back at the daily scorn of censors powered by their tax dollars. Woe, then, to the object of their collective wrath, such as the collaboration between the Chinese and Hollywood, the movie “Great Wall” starring Matt Damon, due out February 2017.

Here is a quick sum-up of what the most upvoted Chinese users of Douban.com (Goodreads and Imdb rolled into one), have to say about the “Great Wall”:

“So spineless Hollywood was knocked to its knees with cold hard Chinese cash – I can accept that. But why should our very own Matt Damon get dragged into this muck? Giv’im back to me!”

“I can’t tell you how much I wanted this icky movie to be one gigantic prank, just a cult movie concocted by Director Zhang Yimou.”

“Okay, fine, Jing Tian’s acting is world-class —— now will you please drop the gun?”

A little aside about the gun. The Chinese government brought in the operators of the Chinese equivalent of Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB and Amazon for a chiding recently. They thought the sites were not doing a good enough job as gatekeepers of movie-goer reviews. Ambitious well-heeled domestic productions that sail forth with the full blessing of the propaganda department consistently flounder on the open sea of audience opinion. The authorities ordered more patriotism and less criticism in movie reviews by users. In other words, the government has just made movie reviews political.

One of the upsides of the ban on political comments of any kind in China is the chromatic way it paints everything political, in the sense that it raises political awareness in people who otherwise wouldn’t notice or care. Censors cast a wide net. To debate whether soup kitchens, legal aid and tutoring networks for children should be supervised by the police can catapult your average Joanie swiping her iPhone 7 to dissident status overnight. Chinese Internet users return the courtesy by twiddling with the many and exquisitely painful thorns buried in the side of the Chinese leadership. In this instance, they maliciously speculate that Jing Tian, the female lead of “Great Wall,” got the role through high-level connections within the Chinese system.

For Jing Tian is a great mystery. Of a belabored, heavy-duty beauty, with eyes surgically enlarged to achieve the terror-stricken stare of silent-film era stars in vogue, she has starred in a series of box office and critical low-ballers that hemorrhaged eye-popping sums of money. A veteran Chinese co-star provided an insight into the reason for her low popularity. Her icebreaker on the set was nothing short of artless: “I don’t know the first thing about acting. Do your best with that!” Only someone who paid to play could have afforded such disarming candor. Who footed her bill? There is a list of four names in circulation. A deputy Vice Minister of Propaganda? One of the direct descendants of the men who founded People’s Republic of China on a platform of banning official privilege? The possibilities are as fruitfully ironic as the imagination of the online Chinese republic, the only place in China where one can speak up.

But “Great Wall” could have survived even an association with the hybrid monster of a proletarian princess, if it had been done well. Part of audience disappointment is directed at Zhang Yimou himself. This one-time Gold Lion winner, whose courageous exploration of forbidden cultural and political territory was once banned (“To Live”), morphed into a champion of the state long ago. His movies consistently toe the censor-mandated line that the people of China require benevolent despotism to save them from their own folly and weakness. Viewers will never tire of revisiting this smarting betrayal, by tearing Zhang’s output to shreds. Hollywood merely put the finishing touches on this disaster, spitting out a predictable script “with as many plot holes as monsters.”

Little surprise, then, that “Great Wall” is struggling with a 50% rating on Douban (worse than 93% of all fantasy movies), despite a surge of paid boosters who attack the film’s detractors for “kissing the foreigners’ ass” and “sneering condescension at their own culture.” (Both the government and businesses in China are adroit manipulators of culture wars – sounds familiar?)

The Chinese government has reportedly gotten very good at jiggling Western guilt about the legacy of imperialism to get what they want. That’s how it got all these movers and shakers of the American policy establishment to accept, for decades, the bad things it does to its own people. (The idea is that if China should stop manhandling the Chinese, chaos would ensue. It’s fitfully benevolent despotism seen from a different angle.) If you feel bad that the Western powers had humiliated China for 150 years, keep that 50% rating in mind when debating whether to shell out another $39 bucks for your next movie outing. Follow the Chinese  people’s advice and skip the “Great Wall.”  The Chinese government would be delighted that the West is finally, in keeping with their rising power, looking to the Chinese for guidance. President Xi and company figure that the average Chinese patriot will be more willing to overlook the way they are treated at home, if their country is great again abroad. Sounds familiar?

唾面自干:中国右派为什么迷恋川普?

脸书上认识的大陆朋友有好些是川普迷。因为是我极敬重的人,存而不论,路过的时候不点赞,闷声大发财。至少这一点我和美国人学透了,他们社交时对政治题材的态度,叫我想起高中的体育老师。两三百磅『不重则不威』的体态,她远远站在池边,手持一把十来尺长银晃晃形如张飞蛇矛的家伙,对抱紧了水泥池岸,泡得嘴唇发绀蓝的我说:『游啊,只管游,淹了水我捞你上来。』就是敬而远之的意思。美国人若是谈话溺水了,不小心不得已碰到了政治边际,也只是远远的拿捞子拍两下水,连鞋都不肯湿一湿。虽然看了气闷,实是可贵的风度。

为什么这些笃信民主的大陆朋友,看不出川普的恶形恶状?按下他们的厌女症,看不上希拉里且不谈,我想是有历史原因的。小说家韩少功说

『如果沒有「文革」那麼多人權災難,沒有知識分子群體對紅色時代的滿肚子苦水,以及出於人之常情的怨恨,中國90年代以來的資本主義神話是否會少一點狂熱和偏執?中國知識群體主流對西方的崇拜,遠遠超過了印度、俄國、巴西、南非等國家的同行,但這種國情是怎麼形成的?是否正是「文革」式「極左」政治的自然反彈?』

虽说这些大陆右派朋友执迷川普情有可原,我还是必须多一句嘴:这些误会往往并不美丽。华人扯着何仙姑叫舅妈,跟极右白人拉近乎,不始于今日。02年我吐槽过台湾极右派的天真无邪
 

網路上常看到台灣人附和歐美的極右派,唾罵猶太人「橫蠻自大,把持經濟命脈」,拍著大腿嘆惜二次大戰德國的「最後解決方案」沒能徹底把他們滅了種。種種謬論,總之新納粹說什麼他信什麼。以阿的一筆糊塗帳且不談,我真搞不懂為什麼有些台灣人對法西斯的亞利安種族偏見這麼心甘情願地照單全收。在那些極右派心裡,黃種人比「猶太豬玀」更等而下之,華人主動挨過去跟他們結盟,只怕多有不便。

 

还是海外一个新秀新闻站最是一针见血,说到了根子上:

川普口中“伟大的美国”,其实没有你——华裔

 

『那些支持者种族仇恨的对象,不仅有包着头巾行为奇怪的穆斯林,吃低保到处犯罪的黑人,也有抢走他们工作吃狗肉的亚洲人。如果你认为在他们眼中的中国人和其他移民不一样,你就错了,不然就不会有纽约时报关于亚洲人在街头被人吼“滚回你的中国”这样的故事了。』

 

他们这一讲,我不免想起我作为美籍华人,『人民当家作主』,给过共和党『一块儿我的脑袋』(美国俚语)。四五年前去本地的县赶集(county fair), 带孩子看看牲口,坐旋转咖啡杯,吃点子棉花糖啥的,遇见站岗的共和党候选人西装革履,欠身握手殷勤赶着拉票。我行礼如仪,客气的告诉他:『我搬来美国三十余年,作為读過研的白領,无论从哪一重身份看来:移民,亚裔,女性,中產,贵党的所论所为,从未予我替我出力的印象。希望贵党以后能够校正方向,争取我们的票仓。』(这是美式的温柔敦厚我其实想说你大爷的你们哪一回不是践踏我们去讨好白人男主子?每次这样违反本性,吃力好吗,害我又多吃了一团棉花糖。)

现下可好,川普这小子,连羊皮都不肯披一披,还不如当年的共和党远甚。一群华人竟赶着他认大爷,被指着脸骂了唾面自干。我看了,心里实在难受。在家裡做不得主,出来又找欺负。什么时候才能跳出极右极左,永远在法西斯和共产党一对难兄难弟之间做不算抉择的抉择的怪圈?

『閒話英文中譯』: 查生字水性楊花之必要

%e6%a5%8a%e8%8a%b1%e9%9b%aa%e8%90%bd%e8%a6%86%e7%99%bd%e8%98%8b

 

上看到一篇文章,提到中國政府的網路說唱曲和卡通宣傳策略,“中国当局不断通过网络说唱曲和卡通片等加强海外宣传攻势,已引起海外媒体关注。美国《时代》周刊最新一期报道了中国的一个最新的宣传作品说唱曲“这是中国”,认为“这首中国宣传说唱是迄今录制的最令人痛苦的歌”。

原文作 “the most painful song ever recorded,” 看了不怕小粉紅不驕敵自得,大外宣把美帝調戲得拖甲曳兵,創痛平生。殊不知原文字面上意思,並非去到盡頭的劇痛,而近乎北京俗語的“牙磣,” 像聽釘子刮玻璃那種鑽到牙齦裡的酸冷,實在是“做事離譜之極,旁人看著都替你難受著急”之意。認真要中譯,或可寫做“令人不忍卒聽。” 又則,這句型並非正規書面語,乃年輕人誇張輕倩沒三兩重的口語,網路博眼球之用。類似造句包括:

OMG, I’d never seen an outfit that hideous in my life!

諸如此類的“至今最…””有生以來從來沒…” 不建議直接口服,要配著”腦袋瓜那麼大的一顆鹽”吞下(take it with a grain of salt the size of my head。”中文人話的說法,就是“聽聽就好“”酌量參考。”不相信,看紐時或衛報,選情再火爆,川普再胡鬧,也絕不使用最高級形容詞:Donald Trump Is the Most Hate-driven Candidate in US History (川普是美國有史以來最滿腔恨毒的總統候選人)

現代中文翻英文,深情款款,此心不渝,看到辭典第一義就認死扣。依我說,還是水性楊花一點的好。順便多事雞婆一句(大陸的說法是:鹹吃蘿蔔淡操心)上圖據說摹寫的是杜甫的麗人行,“楊花雪落覆白蘋,青鳥飛去銜紅巾。” 杜甫不怕跨省,對網警比中指,公然搬出楊國忠和妹妹虢国夫人亂倫的性醜聞壓軸: “炙手可熱勢絕倫, 慎莫近前丞相嗔,” 膽兒肥碩頂喉嚨了,壯哉!

中文觀點:https://pao-pao.net/article/718 中共“军事文化网络主题论坛”上透露了什么信息

英文原文:http://time.com/4388991/china-rap-propaganda-cd-rev/

The Knowing Ducks of Spring: How to tell when China is Ready to Compete with Hollywood

琅琊榜 黄金分割

People associated with China’s film industry recently declaimed on the CBS program 60-Minutes that the Chinese are poised to give Hollywood a run for its money. Rob Cain of Bloomberg was quite emphatic as to why not. And I wholeheartedly agree with him.

In this I am taking my cue from China’s own tough-love critics, whose opinion I figure must be weighty on this subject. Ranging from Chen Danqing, an artist and arbiter of culture, to Ran Yunfei, a public intellectual harassed by authorities, they all agree that cultural China is but a shadow of its former self. They feel that the ravages of the country’s recent past, such as the Cultural Revolution, left China adrift, severed from much of its heritage and uncertain of its future. You can’t tell powerful stories when you don’t know who you are or where you might be.

China is, therefore, in a long cultural convalescence, and in such straits poses no threat to Hollywood’s global dominance. By the same token, however, healing may eventually usher in a renaissance.

The great Song-dynasty renaissance man, Su Dongpo (1037-1101), writes that “When warm once again the tides of spring grow/The ducks are always the first ones to know.” Here are two spheres of Chinese cultural life to watch, as Su’s proverbial ducks, for the arrival of that cultural renewal. Now, it is inevitable that observers will vehemently differ on whether backsliding or leapfrogging is gaining the upper hand. There will be inexhaustible opportunities to track eye-popping developments on the ground and to wrangle over what they mean. That will be part of the fun.

The Chinese Language. Chinese is slowly recovering from the Maoist style of writing and speaking. Li Tuo, a literary critic, pointed out in 1997 that the language of propaganda and revolution held back modern Chinese. The standardized Maospeak outlawed, and virtually wiped modern Chinese clean, of classical Chinese.

To understand what this means, imagine an English with the widest part of its Saxon and Latinate vocabulary surgically removed. Then ponder how you can grapple with that state of things, knowing only a few odds and ends from your entire literary past that political leaders, the government press and a couple of lionized writers happened to cite. That’s what the Chinese are up against.

Restoring and regrowing Chinese language and culture is an uphill climb. Still, Hollywood should not get too comfortable. For the last several years, a section of Chinese society has honored their past by waxing nostalgic for the culture of the Republican era that immediately preceded Communist rule. For example, Mu Xin, a recently discovered writer’s writer, is beloved of young hip readers as representative of “what Chinese literature would have looked like, had it not been devastated after 1949.” Readers and writers are slowly reforging the broken link to their rich birthright.

Chinese Dramas and Their Critics. While the majority of Chinese audience put up with what domestically produced movie and TV theatricals censors allow them to see, an irrepressible minority have made a wildly popular cottage industry out of ripping into government-approved content that offend them as insults to their IQ. Barrages of jokes and quips greet trite fare restricted to a few categories:

a. Imperial court intrigue emphasizing the sagacity of rulers and the grandeur of Chinese empires;

b. The 101th rehashing of myths on how underground tunnels and airplane-felling pistol shots from Communist guerrillas beat back the Japanese invasion in WWII;

c. Shoddy rom-coms slovenly modeled on Japanese and Korean originals, adapted to Chinese tastes with endless catfights between daughter- and mother-in-law.

Stuff that will not shake Hollywood to its foundations any time soon. Having said that, watch out for the gush of irreverent creativity from their critics: theirs is an outstanding testament to the Chinese imagination and its potential for storytelling. 

Given how formidable that creativity would be if harnessed the right way, just like the country did in the manufacture of more tangible things, China may yet catch up with light-year speed. Nirvana in Fire, a popular 55-episode drama that was seen a total of 3.5 billion times on Chinese streaming platforms as of October 2015, is one recent breakthrough that for once has the homegrown critics applauding. This historical fantasy differs in many regards from mainstream fare. A re-conceived Count of Monte Cristo, it sports a moral backbone, where other censor-sanctioned drama veer between saintly stereotypes (WWII) and nihilistic cynicism (court intrigue). It boasts strong female characters whose horizons extend beyond the love of men. Its treatment of historical details is precise and intimate, going beyond professional polish to that reforging of links to Chinese heritage so vital to China’s renaissance. All this result in a reticent aesthetics rooted in the high tradition of Chinese painting and poetry. The camerawork, costumes and set design are of an understated beauty in a quintessentially Chinese way that has won over viewers both old and young.

In a word, I think we would do well to look to Chinese civil society in order to figure out when their creative springtime is at hand. Until then, Hollywood can try to stay ahead of the game by learning from the worthiest Chinese endeavors. For Hollywood, like China, has to endlessly recreate itself to stay true to its dreams. In that there is no zero-sum game. 

鬼祟沒品的譯者:挑揀汪曾祺

著手翻譯汪曾祺的短篇。

緣起,參加華府這邊一個經典讀書會,他們從三四年前創會至今,西洋認做邊陲之地的日本蘇俄都到了一到,只沒選過一篇中文。我放在心上,想想阿正傳用來啟蒙未免,嗯,太阿Q了。《奔月》極發噱,《采薇》哀樂交加,但典故是障礙,姑且放棄。馬上接下來想到汪曾祺。

谷歌上粗略一翻,汪在英語網上似乎甚是冷落。Paper Republic英譯中文當代文學的群英會上,汪老只掛了個名。《陳小手》有英文版流傳。《受戒》也有洋人在自己博客上稍提了提,說是“抒情風景還蠻美的,也介紹了好些角色和當地民俗,然而不是把這些加起來就算故事了。”您哪位?沒聽過契科夫麼?想必這個洋讀者嫌棄的是“受戒”看似情節推進寥寥。我猜他以為末了少男少女划進蘆葦裡是拍MV

美國就是這樣。前一陣子去圖書館借契科夫,一看導讀叫理查福特,李小明張大軍之流的洋名,我照例瞠目結舌:您哪位?然而看書的封套推介,正是福特先生大樹下好乘涼,要推他多賣幾本書短篇小說終結者契科夫的書!這什麼世道?終於我這現世廢人也不得不上網翻了翻,原來福君寫過遭好萊塢電影改編過的小說。想到有人說笑兼說情:“Don’t judge a book by its movie,”“不以電影論原著好壞,”套的自然是“毋以貌取人,不以封面論書”的老話,用在福特先生身上,不知合適與否,讀過的朋友請賜教一二。(後記:蒙傅月庵指點,福先生才氣頗有餘,是我書看得太少,自慚淺陋。)

既然急切沒看到好的譯文,那就挽袖子自己動手了。

挑起來煞是費事。《黃油烙餅》? 集體公社引來大饑荒,祖母寧肯餓死,將松花般鵝黃的兩瓶奶油留貽子孫,催淚是催淚,怕太長。數歲孩童敘事的文字霎看稚拙,也最難。這一口氣要提著不鬆,我沒把握裝假裝那麼久,也怕洋人耐性燒光。招偶像作者附上我的身,跳神說英文,整件事先就荒謬到不行。

要雨果和契科夫並肩加持,方能傳出汪那淵博雅潔背後勃勃之氣的本色。莎翁說得好,“此念不息,萬劫不復,” 無濟於事。

盡量精悍短小,討好多動症的外國讀者,要不《茶乾》?身為吃貨,這篇我偏愛,而且“有些東西,沒有,也就沒有了”每次都打我一悶棍,拿來說整個中國文化不過分。但在外國人眼裡多半水鬼尿那麼淡。奧斯丁的象牙好歹還有個二寸見方呢,挑篇幅長一點的作品,才得窺汪老功力堂奧。在《徙》門口徘徊了一會,那個夠悲慘夠普世,打掉一半剩一半,女主只是可憐深愛她的男主,一死一瘋的愛情故事吊在後半,遠水救不得近火。《徙》一開頭“浩翠寫國門”迎面攔著一段震鑠中外的《莊子》,追加一首小學校歌,頭兩句:

西挹神山爽氣,
東來鄰寺疏鐘…

洋人等不到豐姿楚楚的美人上場,訝異又高興她戴漂白細草帽,白紗手套,感覺很親切,已經陣亡異鄉。我覺得翻譯就是一個無限倒賠的勾當。“西山爽氣”的典故裡不屌上司的才子王獻之有多颯爽讀起來有多爽,面臨翻譯的時候就有多想對牢八國聯軍下跪求饒。沒有一點點美麗優雅蘊藉的東西不叫你十倍百倍的付出代價。

看過美國譯會有人孤憤不合時宜道:“譯者總有點鬼祟沒品,seedy,” 其實還不止,應該是“羶腥,”差“下作”也就拐個街角而已。看我這迎合的心理。可不這樣又能如何?樓上我吐槽嫌棄汪的那位西洋讀者,至少肯看,已經是萬裡挑一了——得扳著他的臉,激光筆打進他瞳孔裡,才好叫他讀懂東方的夾縫文章。說什麼嚼飯哺人,翻譯是心肺復甦。

但我畢竟還是動手了。祝我好運吧。至於挑了哪篇,又如何霹靂蓋頂,請看下回分解。