Years before Ang Lee’s gay Confucian melodrama The Wedding Banquet, or Tsai Ming-liang’s slow-burning cinematic exploration of crisscrossed desires Vive l’amour, Chiu Kang-chien’s 1985 film The Glamorous Boys of Tang debuted in Taiwanese cinemas. The blatantly queer and absurdly costumed film was not well received on an island still under martial law. Featuring exorcisms, gruesome deaths, and orgies, it naturally ran afoul of the authorities, resulting in heavy cuts. But it also represented a small milestone in Taiwanese queer cinema. Now Su Hui-yu has released a remake that hews closer to the script’s subversive edge than even the original. (Watch a trailer here).
Su’s version, which updates not only the technology but also the content to better reflect Taiwan’s diverse contemporary sexual realities, can be viewed as a four-channel video installation or a short film. Somewhere between respectful homage and radical remake, it resists easy classification, but partly for this reason it makes for a truly hypnotic watch. Su’s Dionysian vision celebrates queerness as something that refuses to be contained by normal modes of thought and experience. Instead, it presents the queer as what overflows and disturbs ordinary life, offering in its place agonies and ecstasies far stranger and more intense. To explore these themes in greater depth, I spoke with the artist about his remake, which had its European premiere in January at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
苏汇宇的短片于今年 1 月在荷兰鹿特丹国际电影节上进行欧洲首映，也曾经在台湾以四道视频装置形式展出过。他的重拍有技术上的更新迭代，内容也更佳地反映当代台湾多元性别的现况。作品游移于对原作的致敬和激进的改编之间，难以定义。或许也正因如此，而更令人神往。苏汇宇纵欲狂欢的视界，颂扬“酷儿”作为一种对抗常规思维与经验模式制约的存在状态。伴随着更多诡异而强烈的痛楚和狂喜，它从庸常生活的框架中漫溢出来，并扰乱了原本的秩序。为了更深入探讨这些主题，我与这位艺术家讨论了他的作品。
Neocha: What was the initial impetus for The Glamorous Boys of Tang? What attracted you to the original work?
Su Hui-yu: Starting around 2012, I became interested in using my work to explore history in a dreamlike, psychedelic fashion. I drew on past works that were originally misunderstood, ahead of their times, or taboo, including films, photos, books, or counter-cultural events. Chiu Kang-chien’s The Glamorous Boys of Tang definitely fits this mold. But it wasn’t until 2016 that a well-known photographer and friend of mine, Chang Chao-tang, who was Chiu’s original cameraman, reminded me of the film.
I saw the movie posters when I was just a child, but revisiting the film again later, I understood why it was not commercially successful, and why the original script couldn’t be accurately reflected on screen. It was just too transgressive, with its beautiful boys, its threesomes, its juxtaposition of spiritual and sexual images, and its necrophilia. There was simply no way for it to be faithfully adapted in the martial law period. And so I became fascinated by the spirit of the original work and tried to reinterpret it to uncover new possibilities in an entirely different social context.
苏汇宇: 2012年左右，我开始对一件事感兴趣——也就是借由自己的作品，以梦境般、迷幻的方式来探索历史。我利用了那些原本被误解、超前于时代或禁忌的作品，包括电影、照片、书籍或反文化事件。邱刚健的《唐朝绮丽男》绝对符合这个模式。但直到 2016 年，我的一个摄影师前辈张照堂，也是《唐朝绮丽男》本片的摄影，才让我再想起了这部电影。
Neocha: Extremes of sex and violence play a role in this work and others by you. What keeps drawing you back to these themes?
Su Hui-yu: First, when viewed with unflinching eyes, sex and death are by their very nature beautiful. Second, when you juxtapose them, these two states seem to merge into something that transcends either of the individual terms. I was fascinated by this, but I also found that that these subjects and sentiments are not just personal but also closely tied to collective memories, society, ideologies, and moral systems.
Neocha: In many ways, your interpretation of The Glamorous Boys of Tang seems incredibly queer but not “gay” in a straightforward or homonormative sense. How would you position your work vis-à-vis queer identities?
Su Hui-yu: To liberate our desires, we need to try to go beyond LGBT categorical thinking, no matter what our sexualities are. Only through a profound reconsideration of our bodies and minds can we shake off the vestiges of an ultimately conservative sexual imagination. In this respect, these matters should be important to everyone. This is what I took from Chiu Kang-chien’s film. Yes, it could be interpreted as a film about LGBT identities, but it could also be far more radical than that. So, for me, it’s not just a reshooting project but an attempt to redefine “queer” as a wider concept for everybody in order to free our bodies from outdated ideologies.
苏汇宇: 依我之见，为了解放欲望，无论我们的性倾向是什么，都应该超越 LGBT 这种分类思维。只有通过深刻地反思身体和思想，我们才能扫除根本上保守的性想象。从这方面看来，这些问题对每个人都很重要。这是我从邱刚健电影里理解而来的内容。是的，它可以被解读为一部关于同性恋身份的电影，但它也可能远比那更激进。所以，对我来说，这不仅仅是一个重编的剧本，而是尝试重新定义“酷儿”为一个更广泛的概念，为了把我们的身体，从过时的意识形态中解放出来。
Contributor: Brandon Kemp
Chinese Translation: Chen Yuan
供稿人: Brandon Kemp
英译中: Chen Yuan