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First Episode 65: 长恨歌, To Live, To Love.


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A part of the Grand First Episode Project -- See this thread for more info.

Being a part of the increasingly fantastic First Episode Project, I hereby present for your viewing and language-studying pleasure the First Episode of 长恨歌. This has been translated as To Live, To Love in the credits, but the novel I'm about to mention below is known as The Everlasting Regret.

This particular show is based on 王安忆's novel of the same name. I haven't read it, so have no idea how faithful it is (and I've only got to episode four of the series anyway, so if there are helicopter chases added in I might not know about it). The novel won the Mao Dun Literature Prize, and the TV show ain't too shabby.

Overall story: 1947. 王琦瑶 is a 16 year old student in Shanghai, daughter of reasonably well off family. You can probably guess the general trajectory things are going to take by looking at the year (although Sina has it as 1943, there's a caption saying 1947) - we'll be following 王琦瑶 for a few decades yet . .

Our first episode:

Over the credits we get some snippets to whet our appetites. Who are the 她s and 他s? Is he really 真好?

Not in any particular order:

王琦瑶 (aka瑶瑶) is invited by fellow student 吴佩珍 to visit a film studio. Despite not getting the autograph they were after, 王琦瑶 is invited to audition by director 杨飙. He changes his mind once he sees her through the lens, but stander-by 程先生 is smitten. To make her feel better 杨飙 suggests keen photographer 程先生 takes some photos of her. He does (and without a chaperone? These Shanghai folk . . )

Back at school, gawky class head 蒋莉莉 is also taken with 王琦瑶 when she gives some of the richer students a dressing down, and invites her to an upcoming birthday party - to the delight of her social-climbing mother.

In scenes set at the 王s home we get to meet the parents (fantastic pajamas) and learn that while they're living quite well, money is tight and dad has a money making scheme . . .

Other characters:

郑妈, housekeeper to the 王s

王琦瑶's parents (dad: 王敬堂, not sure of the mother's name. Unless 姆妈 counts)

明明, younger brother

I'm not very far into this show, but I really do like it. The production I think just stands out - so often you turn on a Chinese TV show and within five seconds you know you've tuned in to something entirely generic. With this everything is just a cut above. Visually it's just gorgeous, and the music is spot on.

There's quite a sense of dislocation to it- the initial voiceovers make it clear that all this has happened before, and the random image of the couple dancing in the leaves at the beginning comes out of nowhere and goes back there too. The first 'real' scene fades to black and white and then we start all over again.

I'm particularly fond of the parents - despite the bickering there's a real sense of affection between them.

Language wise I can see it needing some dictionary lookups, but there's not a huge amount of conversation and what there is tends to be quite languid. There are some odd usages which I assume are reflecting the Shanghai setting.

Word / phrase list below - I'm afraid towards the end I forget to keep up with it though, I was just enjoying the show. Pinyin was done automatically so if anything looks wrong it probably is.

Oh yes, and the links.

VeryCD / Emule these are 700MB .avi for each episode, but the show is so pretty it's worth it.

VeryCD / Emule much smaller rmvb's, but I bet they aren't as pretty.

Online at Youku.

淑媛 Shūyuán

消遣品 xiāoqiǎn pǐn

随心所欲 suíxīnsuǒyù

玻璃丝袜子 bōli sīwà zi

大手大脚 dàshǒu-dàjiǎo

弄堂 lòngtáng

凑份子 còu fènzi

襄理 xiānglǐ

寿礼 shòulǐ

萝卜不当小菜 luóbo bùdàng xiǎocài

吓人 xiàrén

怨气 yuànqì

狼狈为奸 lángbèiwéijiān

耍赖 shuǎlài

露宿街头 lùsù jiētóu

灵光 língguāng

未雨绸缪 wèiyǔchóumóu

片场 piànchǎng

拖油瓶 tuōyóupíng

衣料 yīliào

反悔 fǎnhuǐ

姆妈 mǔmā

油腔滑调 yóuqiānghuádiào

清凉油 qīngliángyóu

连名带姓 liánmíng dài xìng

陪嫁 péijià

知音难觅 zhīyīn nán mì

虔诚 qiánchéng

邮戳 yóuchuō

一路 yīlù

非富即贵 fēi fù jí guì

素淡 sùdàn

争奇斗艳 zhēngqídòuyàn

一败涂地 yībàitúdì

清苦 qīngkǔ

员外 yuánwài

丫头 yātou

娇羞 jiāoxiū

妩媚 wǔmèi

卸妆 xièzhuāng

八字有一撇 bāzì yǒu yī piě




Edited by renzhe
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  • 2 weeks later...

Up to episode seven of this, and it's still good. I'd forgive anyone who wasn't that interested in the life and loves of sixteen year old girls, and 蒋莉莉 can be annoying. Scenes like this current one with the horse-riding and the shouting girl don't endear the show to me so much, but it's usually much more restrained and the adult support (especially 王琦瑶's parents, who I could watch all day) is spot on. But what's with this much for the medical emergency? I swear, as soon as I start writing these up it all goes downhill.

Anyway . . .so far I'm still rating this as one of the better Chinese shows I've seen. I'm not passing judgement on how it'll pan out as we've got decades to go yet, and there's a change of actress for 王琦瑶 later on, so things could go pear-shaped at that point.

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  • 8 months later...

Did anyone ever watch any / all of this? I've had the DVDs sitting by the machine for a year, but have never got past the first disk. It's odd, I think it's excellent stuff, but the pace is just a bit slow . . .

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've now officially got past the first disk (of four) - I'd say it's good - actually excellent - for what it is, but so far what it is is the story of a somewhat sappy teenage girl who has various chunks of good and bad luck. Will stick with it as I'm damned if I'm going to have had the disks beside the machine and not do my damnedest to finish it - plus as I've said the parents are excellent.

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I read the book, I haven't seen the TV series. I remember the teenage bits as being a bit blah, nothing really in it that much different to other teenage girl stuff. The memorable bits come later -

the half Russian guy, 王琦瑶 relationship with her daughter (they don't get on as 王琦瑶 is cooler and who wants to be daggier than your mother?), and 王琦瑶's last autumn/winter romance (massive age gap)

were all very original and interesting. (Spoilers as to themes rather than to things that actually happen so pretty minor.)

I don't think 蒋莉莉 gets much screen time after they've both grown up, and I remember the adult 蒋莉莉 as being more interesting than the kid.

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Finished it! I guess I'd recommend it if you're looking for a massive tale of unrequited love / overview of modern Chinese history. It's not perfect - the direction is kind of heavy-handed, and using the same actors (bar the lead) for a story spanning four decades gives it the feel of a high school production at times. Definitely not one for action fans - only two shootings in the whole thing.

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