Some natural questions would be, "Why would you make a film in Chinese if no one you know speaks that language? Why not English? And why the choice of Chinese over anything else?" Good questions. I'm glad you asked.
First we must give this film a title, though it has never had one, since we will refer back to it many times over the course of this blog. And if Josh gets what he wants we will be referring to it a great deal in the future. For lack of a plot, and to allow for some nostalgia, we'll call it 這是正常的。
First we must find a reason to make 這是正常的 in a language other than English, since that's the only language that I speak. To figure this out we must go Wong Kar-Wai (or Kar-Wai Wong, depending upon which side of the globe you're on). Though I am unable to recall the exact inspiration for 這是正常的 or what the film would even be about, I say with much certainty that it was inspired by a then-recent watching of Chungking Express. Almost everything I do can be traced back to that film. (On a side note: 這是正常的 was probably about nothing in particular, just an excuse to make a film in Chinese.)
A key to the narrative in Chungking Express is the use of voice over. Dialogue itself is less significant. Instead, voice over and music take up equal parts with dialogue, forming a sort of WKW trinity. But does voice over really work? We have all no doubt at one time or another watched a film in English that had voice over. It almost never works. Why? Because voice over is cheesy, its obvious, its a narrative shortcut that adds no real depth, voice over performances never mesh well with the character. And yet, despite those facts, it works in Chungking Express (and all other WKW films). I had to know why.
The answer was found: because we are not really taking into account the performance so much as we are simply reading (through the miracle of subtitles) WKW's excellent personality portraits. All of a sudden performance didn't really matter, since you got very little from the actual performer.
Voice tone, inflection, pace, pitch, power, modulation, feeling, emotion. These were all now barely discernible due to the change in language. All you needed to feel were the words themselves. The need for this is heightened by the fact that we would be using unskilled actors. This would allow us to use much cheesier lines without having them sound that way. For instance, do you think any American actor could get away with using this line in a voice over...
Somehow I've become very cautious. When I put on a raincoat, I put on sunglasses too. Who knows when it will rain, or when it will turn out sunny?
I know what you're thinking: what color would your subtitles be? Of course, we would use only the highest quality of yellow to ensure that bright lights would not distract in the reading of our movie. However, I could not guarantee the highest quality of translators. Yes, the film would have to be translated by an independent interpreter to ensure that the true message of the film was obscured just enough. As any true film-maker would do.
That's one thing that I do recall about 這是正常的, I always felt that it must have a true Chinese script. It was one thing for people to speak gibberish, but they had to at least have some motivation. Of course, myself having no knowledge of this language (or any other for that matter) this was an impossibility. But again the technological age comes through for us. Recently, AltaVista has added Chinese simplified and traditional to its excellent translation utility. Now you can transform the following line of dialogue...
"Oh no! The man who runs has been shot!"
...into the following line of gibberish...
"Oh 沒有! 跑的人是shot!"
...of course, when you try to translate that back...
"Oh does not have! Runs the person is shot!"
...it really is a shame that Oh does not have. I just wish I knew who Oh was and what they didn't have. But that's a topic for another day.
Let's now shift our focus from my brilliant film to Joshua's idea for a film. Basically, Josh wants to do the old film within a film thing. Gee, that's so fresh and new (wave?)! I.E., drip, drip drip...
Why try to taint what is so pure? Why try to improve upon a Mona Lisa? Why would you want to add that guy from Married With Children to Sports Night? What possible purpose would that serve?
If I'm going to devote my time to a film it will be the original, the alpha, the ancient of days.
Written, Directed, and Produced by Jeremy Provost