致九〇年代台灣的情書 — 談黃明川的神話三部曲
The Pioneer of Taiwan Independent Film:
Huang Ming Chuan
While people’s understanding of Taiwanese films mostly come from Hou Hsiao Hsien and Edward Yang, who are considered as the core of Taiwanese New Cinema, as well as their successors —Ang Lee and Tsai Ming Liang, the pioneer of independent films—Huang Mingchuan and his Myth Trilogy are often overly-underestimated. In fact, not less favourable than Hou Hsiao Hsien’s A City of Sadness and Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day, his Myth Trilogy should definitely be regarded as one of the most valuable filmic creation in the 90’s Taiwan.
Having majored in Law in National Taiwan University, Huang Mingchuan went to study drawing after graduation in the United States. Out of interest, he subsequently switched to photography and even opened a commercial photography studio. Yet, he eventually decided to return to Taiwan and left behind the career there after 11years in 1988. He began with joining the Public Television Video Production to shoot four episodes for the documentary Pictures of the Hundred Works. It is mainly about introducing different job fields in Taiwan, such as the series of “Forensic Pathologist, “Quarry Miners” as well as “Truck Driver”. After deeply impressed by the multi-language speaking and special landscape environment while shooting Quarry Miners in the Eastern part of Taiwan, he was then inspired to make his long features, attempting to go beyond the reliance of authoritative and commercial power. With his independent filmmaking spirit, he was able to trace back the historical, cultural and geographical scar through getting close to the lower class and looking into what they feel and think. Ultimately within ten years, he completed three productions, namely Man From Island Wend (1989), Bodo (1999) and Flat Tyre (1999), which present the social situation and the drastic difference between Taiwan before and after the imposition of martial law. Even the poet and the film enthusiast Zhang Deben thinks that the three movies are an excellent attempt to “create the archetype of Taiwan films”. He thus grants the films a title of Myth Trilogy so as to highlight the connection between the historical interpretations and the deep consciousness underlying one of the other.
Myth and archetype are generally places for storytellers (writer, director, and other arts creator, etc) to conduct emotional projections and exploration. Featuring the protagonists’ search for recognition of their growth as the main theme, Myth Trilogy reflects and challenges the myths of Taiwanese inhabitants, military, martial law, as well as those related to politics and religion. Man From Island Wend, which is based on Taiwanese inhabitants, is the first independent film in Taiwan history that delves into their cultural recognition, separation and comeback. Its use of Atayal dialect as the main medium mixing with Hoklo dialect and Chinese simply threatens the tradition and the hegemonic power of Chinese as a medium for Taiwan films. As for Bodo, not only does it make preliminary attempt to touch upon discussion of military system while reflecting the institutional power and destiny, but it is also the first magical realism filmic creation which reveals the dark side of human being as well as the hidden story behind army during the martial law period. Last but not least, Flat Tyre is the first to ponder upon political apotheosis and dilemma of the centralization of culture from the angle of political and religious figures. That the film integrates documentary image in a fictional plot does not only make it rare but also a creation which is self-reflective and highly experimental.
Huang Mingchuan’s Myth Trilogy is like an unadorned jade, for its color hardly fades as time goes by. While capable of adventuring possibilities outside the traditional Taiwanese New Cinema, remaining special and independent, it is equipped with both film aesthetics and cultural historical implications. As the pioneer of Taiwan independent films, Huang Mingchuan surprises the film industry through challenging its conservative ideology and its lack of courage for artistic experimentation. The Myth Trilogy undoubtedly records the essence of that unique generation, just as a genuine love letter that Huang Mingchuan wrote to himself, his unreservedly supportive wife, his partners who once battled together (who might have become extremely successful in the Taiwan film industry), and even Taiwan in the nineties.
Ryan CHENG, born in Kaohsiung TAIWAN, is currently a part-time lecturer in Tunghai University and Providence University. His debut book ‘The Love and Death of Taiwan Cinema’ was published in 2010.