The Review of “The Wayward Cloud” and “A City of Sadness”

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Film Studies

Professor Wen
-
Chi Lin

張昭昀

941002047

December 24, 2006

The Review of
“T
he Waywa
rd Cloud


and

A City of Sadness



T
he film

The Wayward Cloud


starts with a
period which lacks in water while
the
authorit
ies concerned advise
everyone

to hav
e more watermelons to outlive the
drought
.
Kang
-
S
heng

Li

is the one who applies for a job as a porn star.
L
ater, he
meets a girl called
Shiang
-
Chyi

Chen

to whom he just sold the watch before.
S
he
invites him to her house for supper and gradually falls in l
ove with him. Li wants to
conceal his occupation as a porn star; however, when Chen begs for sex, he just gives
up or uses a cigarette to
refuse her. One day she helps the porn actress in a coma and
she finds that Li

s real identity as a porn actor who pre
pares to make love. After the
orgasm, Li puts his genitals into Chen

s mouth.
T
he sorrowful denouement ends with
her shedding tears, which seems to terminate their relationship.


T
he director uses an abundance of images to tell us of emotions of these
characters, including their attitude toward love, the city, and sex. Li first acts as a
doctor to have the sexual
intercourse
s with the nurse.
W
e usually take the doctor as a
holly job to help people alive but the doctor

s
robe is utilized as a sexual driv
e, which
denotes that the urbanization distorts the real meaning not solely of the occupation but
of the values in the society as well.
F
rom his
agonized
facial expression, he seems like
the one who does not enjoy but suffer from the sex because he is
very

tired of the jo
b
.
A
lso, we can understand that the watermelons
symbolize

strong affections,
yet Li
keeps uses his hand to spoil the watermelon.
T
he melon which has a hole inside
denotes that no one can bridge the gap of real love and that sex no longer eq
uals love
since his fantasy of love is ruined by
repetitive

and tedious sexual intercourses.
D
uring the process of shooting the video tapes, we can see both the
emptiness

of the
actors and the pain imposed on the actress.

A
fter he uses some tissue to get r
id of some seeds from his body, he just squats
down on the road with no expression.
I
t is undoubtedly that audience would not know
what haunt in Li

s mid.
T
hrough his looking around the cars passing by him, it may
imply that the modern people stand on the
cross
roads, struck in the
predicament

of not
knowing

where to go and leave; to put it in another way, we have no precise goal to
achieve

but just money to make a living.
H
is lonely body on the roads also makes us
realize that we are indeed isolated and sep
arated after the urbanization.
Li later goes
to the top floor to wash his hair in a standpipe because there is no water around.
W
hile
Li dives into the water, he is transformed into a re
pti
le
crawling and singing in the
water.
H
e is so bound by the cage
-
li
ke standpipe with nets
intertwined

that he
begs for
freedom to some extent b
ecause

he is conditioned by the
surrounding
s that we call
urbanization.
A
lso, the reason why he is changed into a
half
-
lizard and half
-
human

animal

is that he, through the forced s
exual intercourses, he gradually loses some
humanity but gains some characteristics of beasts, which may just know they can have
sex without any foundation of love.
Y
et, he still waits for love to come.
H
e
understands that his love will be
incomplete

like
a waning moon.

W
hile Chen invites Li to her house for supper, she gladly passes watermelon
juices to him but he declines her bottles.
A
t the same moment, he cannot open the
suitcase either. Li

s refusal seems to tell
us

that
he cannot accept the
strong aff
ections
from her because he seems paralyzed in expressing love.
M
oreover, both of them can
barely open the suitcase, which denotes they have strong emotions in their mind but
have no way to release them.
A
fter he
has
sex with Yi
-
Ching Lu, he lies on the ne
t
contemplating over something. He seems to fall into the net of love while he still
cannot escape from the net that we can call a contract binding him economically.
Chen seems to beg to make love with Li but Li just places his
cigarettes

between her
tipto
es,
putting

into his mouth smoking.
Their

behaviors

at this moment
are
transformed into an image of sex. Similar to Li putting watermelons into the porn
actress, the
cigarette

symbolizes the genital and the mouth the vagina.
Y
et, their
sexual identity is r
eversed

Li plays the female character and Chen the male one.
O
n
one hand, it means that Li doesn

t assume love can be an
equivalent

of sex and gets
exhausted

by it.
O
n the other hand, normally men play predominant roles in having
sex but in Li

s job, he ac
ts like a woman who is forced to have lots of intercourses he
doesn’t

want.

Chen is the flower in bloom, hoping to have sex to become a mother,
yet Li is like the cold CKS statue, who is
parlayed

in giving his love to her.

A
nother time of begging for sexua
l love from Chen happens in the room filled
with pornographic video tapes.
W
hile Chen still hopes to have sex with Li, he still
refuses her and takes her away to the skywalk.
H
e is jammed with so much sex
everyday, so facing these videotapes makes him not
more excited but more
parlayed

in it.
H
e cannot resist the sexual flow but he is overloaded with it.
N
onetheless, he
dare not speak out his mind
; in consequence, he just gives up and runs away from the
room, a symbol of the society full of sex and violence

nowadays.

F
inally, when Chen
finds Li

s real identity, the shot of Chen in the windows watch Li does his routine,
making love with a sexual tool

the porn actress passing out

which block
s

their
emotions from both sides.
B
eside her, there stands a billboard of attendant smiling
very cheerfully but they are actually raped by the distorted patriarchal society.
W
hile
Li force her to swallow his sperm a
fter orgasm, we can realize that Li tries to break
the barrier to win her back.
N
evertheless, Chen

s tears seem to tell audience,
especially in my personal viewpoint,
their

relationship is like the bubble
on the faucet
broken, or
the cloud easily blown awa
y
.

I
n the film, there are plenty of images that connect the
se
characters
,
demonstrating

their emotions visually.
A
mong

them, watermelon and water are the
most obvious and strongest images appearing in the film several times.
I

will illustrate
some other im
ages about watermelons and water that
I’
ve not mentioned above.

After we see the watermelon on the porn actress

s vagina, the shot soon is taken
Chen

s putting the flowery cushion in the same position, watching the news
concerning watermelon.
T
he flower
su
bstitute
s for the watermelon and her keeping
drinking watermelon juices, which mean her eagerness for love.
T
he news also
informs us that the drought of the river causes the lack of water in the
reservoir
, which
suggests that our emotions, through the
indu
strialization
, gradually disappear in the
city; that is, we are indifferent to
others


predicament.

While Chen still store
s

up many
bottles of water which she takes from the public restroom in her working place, the
Palace
Museum
.

T
oo many bottles of water

tell us that Chen has no outlet to express
her emotions, particularly love for her lover.
F
inding the watermelon floating on the
filthy river, Chen takes Li

s mineral water to
cleanse

the
watermelon

she picks from
the river.
T
hese floating watermelons sta
nd for these lovers she may meet during her
life journey, and she immediately takes one melon away, meeting
Kang
-
S
heng

Li
,
which makes us aware that Li may be her destined lover.
Furthermore
, cleaning the
taint on the watermelon seems that Chen hopes to ha
ve a pure and sweet love with Li,
but Li who seems crammed with so much negative stuff cannot give her such
feedback.

I
n order to open her suitcase, Li takes the knife to dig out the asphalt on the
road and
gets the key back.
A
fter a while the water sudde
nly emerging from the road,
the spilling water like their love cannot be hid anymore and they will have a further
relationship.
W
e can see more powerful image when they fry the rice
-
flour noodles.
W
hen they fry
the noodles, they right away swell up and

get

fired.
H
oping to
extinguish the fire, they put some water on
the noodles yet they flame more violently.
T
heir affections toward each other as the swollen rice
-
flour noodles gradually rise and
the water acts as an
emotional

dr
ive to boost their relationshi
p.
A
fter
Chen
listen
s to
the groans form the upper floor, the shot from an angle of elevation between her legs
takes the round light on the ceiling.
T
he same image appears here again

the light is
metonymy

of the watermelon

but this time Chen hopes to get n
ot only love but also
sex.
A
nd we can see Li has sex with Lu
while the staff keep pouring water on them
because the sex lacks in love needs water to fill the gap.
W
hile the water in the bottle
gets less and less with no water refilled,
the

staff sprays the

remaining water on them
in a rage which scares them so much since excessive water like overflowing emotions
make them overloaded. Finally they have to take the dirty water as a sexual drive to
keep working.
S
ince they

just

have
physical excitement but
no
mental feeling on the
intercourse,
any kind of emotions, either pure water or dirty water cannot help them
get more happiness from it.

T
here is also a
vaudeville

which many people hold a water
-
melon like umbrella
walking in and out of the mouth of a drago
n and tiger, which
symbolize the sperm
swimming

through vagina.
L
ater Chen opens the refrigerator filled with many bottles
and a watermelon, and she sticks her head in it and licks the watermelon, which
reminds of the original scene of
Li

s licking waterme
lon on the actress

s vagina. Her
movement
powerfully

implies her strong desire for having sex with Li.
H
owever, after
dragging

the porn actress home, she intends to take the watermelon down but it is
broken.
I
t gives us the idea that her fantasy of falling

in love with Li will be broken.
F
rom this film, we can see the director transforms the invisible emotions
of these
characters
into palpable
items like water and watermelons.
T
he protagonists are
through the period of
urbanization

but they are all exhauste
d not merely physically
but mentally as well.

T
he film

A City of Sadness


begins with the era that KMT government in
Mainland China takes over the
sovereignties

of Taiwan from colonization of Japan.

T
he story
basically

depicts the tragedy happening in the

Lin family.
T
he eldest brother,
Wen
-
Heung Lin rede
corates

his geisha tavern
and changes its names into

Little
Shang
h
a
i,


but finally gets shot because he wants to revenge for Wen
-
Leung Lin.
T
he
second brother Wen
-
Sheng Lin is
recruited

to be a military
d
octor to help Japanese
soldiers

in The
Philippine
s, from whom no one has heard anymore.
T
he third brother
Wen
-
Leung Lin is recruited to be a translator for
Japanese

in Shang
h
a
i during wartime.
W
hen he runs back to Taiwan, he is allured to smuggle but fails

owing to Wen
-
Heung.
F
inally he is under
arrest

because he is
confidentially

informed as a Chinese traitor
and thus gets insane.
T
he mute photographer Wen
-
Ching Lin
is the
youngest

one, who
is close to a group of intellectuals hoping to
improve

the society
.
Y
et, they are all
arrested

by KMT government, inclusive of Wen
-
Ching married to Hinomi.
T
he
denouement ends with the KMT government defeated in Mainland China and
retreating to Taiwan.

A
lthough the title of the film may make us aware that it may be shot
in a big
city, especially Taipei, indeed it is shot in a little town, Jiou
-
Fen.
A
lso, the whole
process of
February

28
th

incident is not directed presented in the story.
A
ll we
audience can know from
February

28
th

incident is
from experiences and dialogues

of
protagonists,
particularly

Hinomi

s diary.
T
he director seems to purposefully cope
with the incident indirectly, impairing the horrible trauma between the opposite
people in two
-
two
-
eight. Yet, by stating
these stories of humble characters in a small
t
own, we can have more compassion and empathy for them because there is no real
wrongness in the accident but the different
identity between two people in China and
Taiwan.
I
n another aspects, there are so many violent scenes appearing in the film,
why not
call the film

A City of Anger


rather than

A City of Sadness


as a title?
T
he
people who are colonized by Japan hoping the ancestor
-
nation can treat them more
equally, but their different identities cause a lot of misunderstandings here.
T
hey are
fightin
g for their equality
reluctantly

because their anger is raised out of sadness in
mind and broken dreams of their expectation.
H
ence, the whole society is torn apart
and what is left after the internal war is only trauma and sorrows.
T
he
director

applies
ma
ny things as symbols to represent how Taiwanese
attitude

toward the new
authori
ties concerned, KMT
government

and the relationship with Japan.

W
ith Japanese surrendering, the eldest brother Wen
-
Sheng Lin prays to the god
to deliver the baby smoothly

but
ac
tually

the process of delivery is not easyl
.
H
is
behavior seems that he doesn

t know whether the result is good or not
after KMT
government taking over Taiwan; as a result, he may pray that everything like his
newborn child will be fine. Wen
-
Sheng names hi
s child

Guawng
-
Ming,


with the
candle light
flickering

in the night and the electricity functioning too late. It means
that KMT government symbolizes a gleam of hope to save them from suffering for
fifty years

and that

their
taking over Taiwan as the late

electricity is a dilatory justice,
but
their hope seems like the weak candle light easily
blown

away
.
A
fter naming the
child, the movie suddenly inserts its title, which makes audience realize that
their
gleam of hope will be transformed into
broken

dream
s.

L
ater we can see the Lins redecorate his old
geisha

tavern and change its names
into

Little Shang
h
a
i,


and it tells us that Taiwanese in the beginning faithfully have
high expectation
s

of
KMT government and change some old customs to welcome the
new r
uler.
Y
et, when Wen
-
Leung Lin
discusses

the matter of smuggling

with the
merchant in Shanghai, the merchant gets very angry at
their

attitude toward business.
T
he differences of cultural identity are implied here.
W
hile Taiwanese take it for
granted that
t
hey always discuss business with many geishas around them, the
merchant considers it inappropriate to do the serious matter with many strange women
helping serve wine.
T
hrough the oblique suggestion, we can in reality detect there are
many
cultural

contrad
ictions between the dominant and ruled class.

A
lso,
when we hear their discussing the matter of ROC flags, we can
understand there is no real tie between Mainland China and Taiwan because
they
don

t have the same

imagined community.


S
ince both of people
haven

t been
through the same
experience
s or history, they cannot have memory in common.

W
hen
they have to fly the flag to celebrate Taiwan

s return to China, the Japanese flags they
have used for fifty years are now changed into clothes and pants for
chil
dren
.
B
ecause
the Japanese flag is a red circle imprinted on the white cloth,
how Taiwanese change
its direction is fine

there will be no mistakes here.
W
hile they have to fly the new
ruler

s flag, they don

t understand what is really behind its meaning.
T
herefore, the
leader considers the flag means the moment of sunrise; that is, the sky
will be

red
when the sun rises and

they tell the residents to hang reversely.
T
hough he doesn

t
intend to do such matters, it shows that Taiwanese don

t know anything concerning
their new ruler

s history.
T
he

director doesn

t tell us the whole
reasons of
February

28
th

incident, yet his use
s some daily trivial matters to make us
understand

the people
in Mainland China and Taiwan actually have less in common.

W
hen Hinoe receives the calligraphy from S
hisuku

s dead brother, he sighs and
tells the cherry
blossom

will fall off from the branch an
d into the dust when being in
bloom.
L
ater Hinomi conveys the message Hinoe gives to Wen
-
Ching that a girl
commits suicide by plunging into the fall when confronted with
beauteous

youth.
S
he
doesn

t know what to do if the youth disappears, becoming like th
e cherry
blossom

fall off from the branch
which the wind blows away.
H
er deeds supposedly encourage
many intellectuals in Meiji
Restoration
. In Japan, through the revolution, the Japanese
gradually become one of the strongest and
affluent

nations.
T
aiwanes
e hold the same
expectation of the new
government
, hoping they can do a lot of reforms to improve
the unclear institution founded in the period of Japanese colonization.
Y
et, the new
government

doesn

t take their
w
el
fare

into consideration, but oppresses t
hem to
conform
to
the new unfair law.

W
ith more and more people upset with the deeds the new government
does

to
them, a group of intellectuals start to the social status quo. They have mentioned
many issues, including daily necessities and employment.
T
o
illustrate, the court
minister
from a foreign province gets rid of all of the local judges

and hires his own
relatives to assist him. Also,
one intellectual satirizes himself that he cannot get the
job because he is enslaved by Japan.
H
ere we can understan
d that there is no identical
consensus between
Taiwanese

and Chinese.
T
he new government doesn

t provide any
equal opportunity for Taiwanese to get but no one

in power

is aware the essential
problem in economy will lead to huge turmoil.
B
ecause these local

elites have their
ideal mode of the new government
, they will be totally depressed if they meet such
unfair institution.
M
oreover, Treaty of Shimonoseki is the underlying elements of
identical crises between them.
T
hey don

t participate in
decision of the
ir fate, but they
are easily sacrificed by Ching Dynasty.
S
ince they project the false
decision

of Ching
Dynasty onto ROC

ROC is the successor
to

Ching Dynasty, the
y

undoubtedly take
the fault as a excuse to blame ROC
, the new
government

treating them also badly
.
T
he
cultural gap is gradually widened because of a series of wrong measures taken by
KMT government.

W
e all unde
rstand that the obvious symbol of KMT new rule may be shot like
forcing students to speak out
Mandarin
.
Y
et, through some
implied
cultural
difference
s
, we can have more and more feeling about the
transformation

around us.
I
n the film, we see an aria of Chi
nese opera outside and many people sit around,
feeling bored with the unfamiliar performance.
I
n reality, local people used to watch
Taiwanese opera, touched by special melody and sound developed in Taiwan.
N
onetheless, people
seem forc
ed

to watch
Chinese
opera, which makes us realize that
the new government
compels

not solely students but also elders who have received
Japanese education.
B
y filming this, we will have a more profound understanding that
the
influence

of KMT government by degrees
changes some

customs that have
existed in Taiwan for many years.

The broadcast system is originally a tool of KMT government that is used to
communicate with local people.
H
owever, these doctors and nurses standing
around,

listening to the radio that Yi
-
Chang reports

his strategy to deal with
February

28
th

incident
.
W
hile they attentively know what is really going on in his announcement,
the radio is
suddenly

out of tune and they have tune to the original channel.
W
ith the
outburst of two
-
two
-
eight
, the
opposition

and

cultural

difference
s are getting more
and more obvious.
T
he
unexpected

untuned moment implies their Taiwanese identity
of handling this event is totally opposite to what
Yi
-
Chang have said.
O
wing to a
succession of wrong measures taken by Yi
-
Chang, he no
longer obtains the trust from
Taiwanese. KMT government, yet, doesn

t put emphasis on the serious problem and
help Yi
-
Chang to track down the people in Taiwan because of his unilateral words.
T
heir ignorance gives rise to the most tragic internal war in Ta
iwan.

I
n the film, there are many empty shots and frame
-
in
-
frame shots
applied

in
each sorrowful
or violent
scene
.
A
fter every
scene filled with overflowing emotions,
the director will use a stationed camera to shoot certain landscape in deep focus and
lon
g take.
T
hese are some functions by applies this shooting method.
U
sually, by
shooting the scene that is always desolate and no people, the shot will transform the
emotional energy of the former scene into the
landscape
.
A
lso, it will impair our
strong sor
rows that are brought by the trauma of history.
Furthermore
,
the long silent
moment seems to make a
voiceless

protest that Taiwanese inability to change
anything but yielding to the merciless measures of the new
government
.

F
or example,
after Wen
-
Heung get
s shot in the tavern, the scene is soon cut to an eagle flying in the
misty sky above gloomy woods. Wen
-
Heung like the eagle finally gets freedom to
hover around the sky and get rid of all the burdens with which he is overloaded.
Y
et,
the misty scene makes

us feel that he still cannot put aside all his worries about his
family because there is no
prop to take all the burdens.
A
fter the funeral procession,
we can see a group of people in red on the grassland with sunshine.
I
t soon reminds us
that Wen
-
Ching h
as to marry to be the master of the family because he is the only one
the whole family can depend on.
T
hrough these simple landscape shots, we can have
more connotations about the mental states of characters and contemplation over its
significance.

T
he fra
me
-
in
-
frame shots are almost omnipresent in this film, including
shooting in the hospital, the dinning room of the Lin family and the prison.
E
veryone
in
this film

is

all conditioned by the surroundings.
T
hey have no ability to fight
against the new
govern
ment

but to surrender to the arranged punishment in the long
run. Wen
-
Ching, for instance, is shot from the widow frame in
prison

when he is
under arrest.
T
hough he is mute, he cannot escape the unfair trial imposed on him.
W
hat he can only do is to wait t
he calling of
soldiers

to come out
accepting

the
sentence.
W
e audience can get deep sorrows for these humble characters who cannot
change the status quo but
constraint

themselves in the unfair society.

A
s for Wen
-
Ching

s inability to speak anything, he sym
bolizes

that these
voiceless people who have not done anything really wrong but accepted the
groundless trial.
T
hese oppressed people are also like the silent photos which
Wen
-
Ching take.
W
ith repetitive merciless oppression, Taiwanese act like disabled
pe
rsons who have no right to assert their needs but fight against them out of sorrows.
T
hough the two
-
two
-
eight is not directly told, this film really records the event very
carefully and delicately, touching
our minds.

T
hrough the two films, we can see
diff
erent

people in different generation have
to take different burdens. In

The Wayward Cloud,


they have to suffer from
indifference

and profit
-
oriented society after the urbanization

in Taiwan
.
I
n

A City of
Sadness,


they have to
be tortured by unfair inst
itution and
merciless

treatment
because of Taiwan

s return to China.
T
hough the two directors have very
different

shooting
techniques
, both of them really present the social status in both eras very
well.