Bodies loom large in the work of experimental artist and filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang. Spanning video, animation, and VR, his work is full of strange subjects that equally evoke ancient myths and the latex costumes of contemporary BDSM enthusiasts, inviting viewers to touch, and in turn be touched by, inhuman skins. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Huang’s latest work, a short film titled Kiss of the Rabbit God, which just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, centers on an erotic encounter with an otherworldly stranger.
In the film, Matt, a Chinese-American restaurant worker (played by Teddy Lee), finds himself seduced by a mischievous Daoist god (Jeff Chen) known as Tu’er Shen, the rabbit god of the title. Though unknown to many, the eponymous deity is celebrated by devotees today on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as a symbol of homoerotic affection. (A temple in New Taipei City built in his honor in 2006 has become a popular destination for gay pilgrims.)
在实验艺术家兼电影导演 Andrew Thomas Huang 的作品中，肉体是引人注目的元素。从视频、动画到虚拟现实，他的作品充满各种怪异的题材，令人联想到神秘的古代神话、或是现代 BDSM（皮绳愉虐）的乳胶衣，仿佛在邀请观众去感受这种非人类肌肤的亲密触碰。而他的最新作品，近日在纽约翠贝卡电影节上映的《兔儿神》，再次通过镜头向我们讲述了一个充满神秘情欲的风流韵事。
影片中，美籍华裔餐厅服务生 Matt（Teddy Lee 饰）遇上了民间传说中的淘气神祇“兔儿神”（陈剑风饰），并受到了来自后者的诱惑。虽然并非所有人都认识兔儿神，但在海岸两峡，有许多人将兔儿神视为同性恋的象征。（2006 年，新北市建造了一座纪念兔儿神的寺庙，成为同性恋者朝圣的热门目的地。）
Huang first discovered the tale of the deity’s origins while traveling. “On a trip to Mexico City, I encountered an exhibition on Xōchipilli, the Aztec god of flowers and patron of gay love. The story of Xōchipilli inspired me to redirect my lens toward my own Chinese heritage, through which I found the Qing dynasty story of Tu’er Shen (兔儿神), known as the Rabbit God,” he says. “Written by the eighteenth-century poet Yuan Mei,” and based on folk religions in Fujian province, “this story tells of a Fujianese soldier sentenced to death for professing his love to another man. In death, the soldier was ordained the Rabbit God and became the patron deity of gay love.”
Andrew 是在一次旅行时得知兔儿神的故事。“有一次去墨西哥城旅游时，我碰上了一场休奇皮里（Xōchipilli）主题的展览。休奇皮里是阿兹特克人的花神和同性恋守护神，他的故事启发了我，让我想把镜头再次聚焦于我自己的中国文化根源上，也因此想去了解清朝兔儿神的故事。”他说。“这个故事是中国诗人袁枚，根据福建的民间传说在 18 世纪所写的。故事讲述了一位福建战士因为爱上了另一位男性而判处死刑。死后，这名战士被封为‘兔儿神’，进而成为同性恋的守护神。”
In the film, Matt toils away day after day in his restaurant, lugging enormous sacks of food to and fro, sweating from the heat of the kitchen, scraping uneaten morsels from plates, and taking orders over the phone. When a mysterious customer sporting blood-red hair and Chinese seal-script tattoos appears, Matt is instantly, obviously intrigued—though he’s oblivious to the stranger’s origins, hinted at by the presence of a small shrine in the restaurant. The pair chat; Matt stumbles over his words. “I’m Shen,” the stranger says. But he disappears as quickly as he appeared, only to return later that night as Matt is busy locking up alone. Their first frenzied encounter is ultimately abortive, however, as Matt hesitates and the god departs, only to reappear the following night. Half-visions portend Shen’s eventual revelation of his divine identity. An accidental cut gives way to ritual bloodletting, with the thick, red liquid flowing into a suggestively placed talisman bearing Chinese characters suggesting spiritual bliss and union.
在影片中，餐厅服务生 Matt 每天要推着大堆食物来回走动，在溽热的厨房里大汗淋漓，整日忙于清理剩菜，接电话下单。有一天，一位顶着红发、有着篆文纹身的神秘顾客，引起了 Matt 的好奇和兴趣。他并不知道这位陌生人来自哪里，在餐厅一个神龛的隐约暗示下，两人聊了起来。
Matt 结结巴巴地说着话，神秘顾客自我介绍道“我叫 Shen。”然而一转身，他消失了。直至深夜 Matt 一个人在关店时，他又再次出现。两人的会面被 Matt 的犹豫打断，Shen 离开后又于隔天晚上再次现身，他模糊不清的形体预示着他不同于常人的神圣身份。一道偶然的划伤，演变成一次血祭仪式，浓稠的红色液体流入一个护身符中，上面刻着的是代表幸福和团聚的“囍”字。
Full of rich imagery of Chinese-American life and labor, Kiss of the Rabbit God might be understood as what media theorist Laura Marks calls “intercultural cinema,” a genre or movement that draws from various cultural and symbolic reservoirs to challenge dominant, monocultural assumptions. Intercultural films “evoke memories both individual and cultural, through an appeal to nonvisual knowledge, embodied knowledge, and experiences of the senses, such as touch, smell, and taste.” In Kiss of the Rabbit God, Huang orchestrates these ordinarily invisible bodies, locales, and labor into an audiovisual rhythm that steadily builds to the erotic climax, a sort of sexual theophany in which Matt and Shen consummate their bond on a spiritual plane. “Will it hurt?” Matt, knife in hand, asks nervously. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” replies Shen, as Matt finally yields to the stranger, penetrates his skin with the blade, and carves the character for “immortal” into his chest. In Huang’s telling, gods don’t take on flesh. It’s flesh itself that’s already divine.
《兔儿神》里有许多美国华裔生活和工作的意象，可以被理解为媒体学者 Laura Marks 所说的 “跨文化电影”，一种从另一文化中取材，去挑战单一主流文化背景的流派或运动。跨文化电影能“通过非视觉知识、身体潜意识里的感官体验，如触觉、嗅觉和味觉，唤起个人或大众的集体回忆。”在《兔儿神》中，Andrew 将这些通常被隐藏起来的身体、场所和劳动，精心安排成一场节奏层层推进的视听盛宴，一步一步达到充满情色意味的高潮。
如同一场神性诠释下的性爱，Matt 和 Shen 在精神上完成了二人的结合。“会痛吗？”Matt 手中握着刀，紧张地问。“没有什么好害怕的。”Shen 回答。最终，Matt 屈服于 Shen，用手里的刀在胸前刻写下“仙”字的篆文。在 Andrew 的倾述下，众神无需道成肉身，因为肉体本身已成圣。
The artist’s work is consistently sensuous and surreal. And in Kiss of the Rabbit God he balances this imagery with more conventional narrative storytelling, but his deep-red palette and forays into other realms reveal his artistic inclinations. “I’m a visual director first and foremost, and this has aided me in telling stories about inner lives—in this case, a fantasy movie in which much of the protagonist’s experience is highly psychological and symbolic,” he says. “I knew, for instance, that I wanted this film to climax with a sex scene. But from the beginning I set out to visually portray gay sex in a heightened, spiritual, and symbolic way, rather than a literal, carnal way.”
For all its esoteric gods, cults, and scripts, the film’s transgression of cultural and sexual norms is ultimately a means of exploring new bodily possibilities. “I grew up in a really Christian environment where my queerness wasn’t able to thrive, and in a very white environment where my Chinese identity felt marginalized,” Huang explains. “So, naturally my work pushes the norm so that I can make more space for people like me, where my community and other queer people of color can exist and thrive.” Plumbing the depths of Chinese myths and symbols, he has crafted an unconventional story that, by foregrounding the body, its senses, and unspoken longings, urges viewers to take control of their destinies—by yielding to their desires. In the words of the red-haired Rabbit God: “You can be the master of your skin.” After all, in desire as in religion, sometimes mastery means surrender.
不论是深奥的神灵、祭仪或是影片对白，归根到底，这些打破文化的性意象都只是这部影片探索肉体新可能的一种手段。Andrew 解释道：“我在一个非常传统的基督教环境中长大，从小我就没办法表现出自己的性取向；同时我又是生活在一个白人为主的社会中，身为华人，我总是感到自己被边缘化。所以，很自然地，我希望通过作品去撼动这些俗常的社会规范，这样我就可以为像我这样的人们发声，让华裔酷儿和其他有色人种酷儿可以共好共存，自由地生活。”通过对中国神话和象征符号的深入探索，强调身体、感官和未说出口的欲望，Andrew 讲述了一个不落俗套的故事，鼓励观众去掌握自己的命运——借由顺从你的欲望。用影片中红发兔儿神的话来说：“你可以成为自己身体的主人。”无论是从宗教或是欲望看来，主宰，同时都意味着屈从。