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opening show......  

2008-08-09 11:49:02|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Opening Show Honors the Past, Fails to Summon the Future

by Mary Hennock  

The Chinese people have waited years for the Olympics. So did the lavish Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony deliver? Five cultural commentators gave me their views: most gave a thumbs up to director Zhang Yimou’s portrayal of China’s ancient culture. However, they were less keen on the scenes of China’s modernized present and promising future which they found tacky or sentimental.

Basically, the opening ceremony was in three parts: a gorgeous series of tableaux covering China’s history and culture; an endless parade of athletes; and the stodgy ceremonials surrounding the Olympic flag and flame.

Part One was a magnificent light show that used hundreds of twirling dancers, switching from red and gold scenes to quieter blue and white ones, from wild drumming to delicate taichi. It acted as condensed guide to China’s history, Confucian culture and famous inventions – paper, printing, fireworks, and the first compasses for navigation. Luckily, I got walked through all of this by an expert, Prof Chen Xia from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“It’s very beautiful, oh yes, very beautiful,” she murmured. Early scenes showed performers painting on paper by twisting their bodies like dancers. A scroll of lights unrolled itself across in the middle of the stadium, scripting the story like an old Chinese book as the picture on it changed from desert Silk Road to maritime exploits exporting tea and porcelain.

This bit was easy enough for a foreigner to grasp, but the invention of wood block printing, coupled with readings from the philosopher Confucius were tougher going. Prof Chen was so inspired, particularly by the fireworks, that at one point she set out from her home towards the Bird’s Nest for a closer view. Disappointment followed, as the taxi driver told her the roads were blocked off.

I was grateful though that she explained some of the more opaque sequences, such as the link between the scenes of musicians and Confucian beliefs that joyful self-restraint is internalized by playing music. Perfect for encouraging the harmonious society China’s leaders want to see.

Prof Chen’s verdict was mixed though. The history was beautifully done she thought, but “a little hard for foreigners to understand, and even some Beijing people”. More modern-day sequences showing the Bird's Nest, trains, tower blocks and school kids were cloying, with “too many things from the children”, she said.

Victor Yuan, founder of opinion polling company Horizon gave the show 65%, praised the fireworks and loved the writhing dancers who painted with their feet. Overall, though he was “really disappointed” that the show’s magic was limited to the past with “not so much imagination about the future” and critical of Zhang for failing to consult more radical artists. Journalist Yu Ping, who writes about culture and fashion, also dismissed tableaux of modern China showing children and space ships as “too simple”.

So far, three of my commentators had approved the show’s portrayal of China’s ancient culture, but I expected TV anchor Rui Chenggang to be a hard guy to please. He shot to fame after objecting to the presence of Starbucks in the Forbidden City as trampling on Chinese tradition. Did Zhang Yimou’s popularization win his approval? Overall, yes. “It’s appropriate, it’s imaginative”, he said.

While my commentators were mostly watching on TV, philanthropist Hiu Ng was in the Bird’s Nest, and bombarding me with excited text messages. “The atmosphere is unbelievably vibrant”, she yelled when I called her. Ng, co-founder of civic action groups 51SIM.org and 51give, saw the lavish portrayal of the past as packaging a message about the present. China “went through a phase when we were unhappy with our culture” and is now “at peace” with history. As a result, it’s poised to promote its traditional approach of harmony to the wider world, she says. As for the performance, “this is a show that everyone from all over the world can love”.

Ping was waiting to see the Chinese team stride out to test that theory. Chinese Netizens had failed to love their team’s yellow and red outfits, savaging them as a “tomato [and] scrambled egg” look. She’d interviewed the design company Hengyuan Xiang who’d protested that the clothes' vivid colors were meant to enhance the group in a big arena not flatter individuals. To her relief, she found that “if they are walking together they look very wonderful”. Here at least, harmony ruled. But based on my unscientific straw poll few Chinese will have found an enduring image of the future in tonight's events.

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