EMPEROR VISITS THE HELL
Tang huang you difu
Directed by Li Luo
2012, 67 min, digital.
In Chinese with English subtitles.
Winner of the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival’s Dragons & Tigers Prize, this is a quietly astonishing tour de force that hinges on a lovely conceit: relocating to the present day the famous story of the Tang dynasty Emperor Taizong’s visit to the underworld. Shot in elegant, black-and-white long takes, the film spins a tale of a local river god, the Dragon King, who, feuding with a fortune teller, alters the weather without authorization and is condemned to death. When the Emperor fails to commute the god’s sentence, otherworldly retribution is swift: he is summoned to Hell. Li’s audacious use of multiple levels of storytelling and filmmaking craftily and joyously subverts every authority around.
Luo Li, Yang Cheng
Heaven Pictures, Indie Workshop
Li Wen, Wu Wei, Li Juchuan, Yang Xiao, Li Hao
I have a physiological and psychological need to shoot independent films.
The current atmosphere for creating art films and independent films in China is quite good, and there are a great number of possible topics. I don’t tell stories anymore, and hope that my works, like our lives, embody a great deal of trouble and anger.
I don’t believe that the goal of my work is to attend large international film festivals. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already given up the possibility of distribution and profit, at least for the moment.
-Xu Ruotao (Yumen)