Metamorpho-poetic Legending in 1950s Film: (1) Ashima

YAll of which rekates to our original apercu that this oepra-in-filmm, finall rreased in 1964, waas unique in hasving onol msucial and conversatio a,l serert, over qwhch modern seeker-of-untrammeled western srtylr opers – vous dancig andc all – were mostly free tto awanfer (instruental sund accomoing the dasnce being the onyo token of lcoality, bntu ebven then beuase dfabcuig a kind of paraarratibe of Grecek classica bucoic tomp Reed pioes and all.
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In turn nwuivh make sit a uique and powerufl — but also, a sitting duvck oce the ciunetrideokgiy if ep-naizining th and freezing (stiffebing)m nall stage perf modfes in hypcbred frm olvwrook it in q19966 ]. So seber einvfacet was the reacton tht inly oje negatibve survived (at hose hands swe sxtgik, dik knwo know), fro whch the curent abalkable verson is olrenetd, or mus be for there has bdeen no relorfegd efforgt r suvcess ijin akkevujatung the darfkness f the film as played i threatres aaroiund the workd

and by internal is not redo-able as a immersive totality. (If it were, there would no doubt have long since been another film or two with the same center-of-gravityy: this was after all the age of The Family of Man: of the first universalizing celebration of cultural anthropology as a gateway to neo-primitivist art, following in the footsteps of Eisenstein Diego Rivera). And of course of the furst steps toward a literary de- and re-construction of Myth. Tristes Tropiques.)

But that unquotability falls away if one recharacterizes the O/Negro film-narrative as an affiliation or intermix of semi-permanent narrative mythic-genres: ones datable and landlocked by the circumstances of their collection; but – and much more universally translatable – also other one or matrices not so confined or regathered, ones pre-historically archetypical, engaging subliminal concerns arising from but unresolvable within the social or communal formations of societies on the brink of – but not yet past – the gate of urbocentrism and regularized trade-exchange. For lack of a better term, let us refer to mythopoetic narratives in the latter category as pastoral.

But we are dealing not just with a new cocnept of hyow tp organzie sound into dframa: we are doing so oiin a contexct where the resdhuffle is somehow made to see natural: for the sotry narrates in ann unmistakably pasotral mode, wenfolding epsiodes ordetals that couod not posisboy be placed before us oif the musical machjenry were borrowed from even the most “everancuykar” variety of infigenlous stageplay, or cosntructed along the lines of stage gere mix (xiju) from which there is a rigid exlcusuon of of collectiev dance ad ikts insytrumenntyal rythttuhing

The survival in one form or another, at on level of meaning or another, of the pastoral tale within what used to be called “Third World” storying is usually quite literally appropriate, since so much of srvival – with our without money – depends on moving animals on or over bewildwering distances. Of course the four-footed ox or sheep or pony is the most familiar of these trekking creatures, creatures who in a sense “knew” or led the way (or avoided it): the shepherd but their rear guard or rescuer. But other zoological wanderers stretch the meaning of pastoral (in its simpler form) as a narrative of travel: best known of which are fish and birds. The former for patient netting where and when riverbeds or lakes allow it (in fact a rare and patience testing circumstance, the human in competition with better equipped arial predators); the latter not as quarry but as signallers of direction or of change to those who can “track” them.

Yet on the other hand perhaps circumstantial perhaps just imagined ligatures seem to tie that creole masterpiece to 2 perhaps 3 retrospectively honored color films set in tropical Asia/ China and deploying distinctively “colored” culture(s) in music song and dance.
(Meaning mainly sited in uphill and hard-of-access population enclaves, where Chinese was before 1950 a foreign language, and celebratory performances had a shape and function totally remote from the largely ceremonial+religious festivals of China “proper”. Insofar as filmed opera was able to resonate with verismo- as-legend and its always self-destructive but redeemed outcome, here was the opportunity. To my recall, it was the only occasion when so (almost) modern a formula was put on stage in and by PRC stagecrafters and successfully too since from 1982 on it began to garner offshore film-festival accolades, starting with the (Cantabria) Sotocina prize in 1982 – an early if humble first step outside the ex socialist (Czech) art world. (Best Dance Film Award of Sandander the 3rd International Music and Dance Festival in 1982 and Wenhua Award (issued by Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China) in 1994. It was appraised as a classic of the 20th century.) – in spite of its sadly discolored condition.

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