Interview with Oxhide director Liu Jiayin

Peter Rist, who recently contributed a thoroughly considered ballot for our Chinese Films of the Decade Poll, has published an interview he conducted with Liu Jiayin, the director of Oxhide and Oxhide II. The interview was conducted for Offscreen Magazine at last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, where Oxhide II was presented. Oxhide II is currently screening at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

Here are some choice excerpts from the interview. The full interview can be found at Offscreen.

Offscreen: My first question is about style. And, I wonder if you could explain a little bit of why you use the cinemascope frame, because I was very surprised when I saw your first feature film, that for such an intimate setting, and shooting on (not the highest definition) digital, you would use the widest scope frame available.

LJ: Firstly, it is personal. I like the aesthetics of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and it also makes the film look more “serious.” I knew that, normally, the cinemascope format is used as a more “epic” style, and for more “spectacular” scenes, or for exterior scenes. I know that my film was really intimate, but I still chose to use this ratio. That’s the first point. Secondly: size and distance are relative, so, even if you are shooting something very close, or if something you are shooting is very small, if you are using a cinemascope lens then that will give you a different perspective, and it will make it look larger.

Offscreen: Whereas in the first film, there’s a lot of off screen action and off screen sound, something that struck me about Oxhide 2 is that, sometimes, there is so much going on, for example the 3rd scene, that we can’t see everything, unless we work … So, that if someone says this film is “boring”, I would say no, it isn’t, because there is so much happening. So, I’m curious about how much time was taken to make it. Was there a series of making dumplings over a period of time? Sometimes there is more action going on than we think is possible in “real time.”

LJ: I feel that in family life, it is just like that, because, it is not like the concentration of this interview. In family life there is always a lot going on at the same time, and things don’t have a start to them and an ending, so we should have a multi-layered narration and multi-layered themes to it.

There are only nine shots in the film, and for three or four of the nine shots, we only needed one take. The rest of the shots we took three or four times. We had enough flour for all of the takes.

Offscreen: Here is a “social” question. Maybe I learned something here. How can you make 73 dumplings from just a small piece of meat, and then a small piece of fat. So, I was thinking, you are making so much use of so little food. It seems that Chinese people are able to be very careful about how much food there is. They are able to make a lot out of a little. That is one thing. The other thing is that you are boiling the dumplings in water, and then you drink the water as soup. So, you are using everything. So I was thinking that, maybe, even poor people can eat well with very little. That was the “social” message I got from that. But, I’m also wondering was it really just this small piece of meat that you used for 73 dumplings?

LJ: There are two ways to make dumplings. You can use meat as the main ingredient. In this case we were making chive dumplings with just a little bit of meat. I think that your version [interpretation] is quite right, because in the past, when there weren’t so many resources and when people used to make dumplings, they would add more vegetables than meat, especially when there was a large family. So you would usually end up with a vegetable dumpling with just a little bit of meat, because of hard times.

For more discussion of Oxhide II, see David Bordwell’s blog, “Observations on Film Art” and Shelly Kraicer’s report from Vancouver.

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One Response to “Interview with Oxhide director Liu Jiayin”

  1. […] with Liu Jiayin and Yang Heng can be found on Offscreen and the Rotterdam Film Festival site, […]

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