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Sarevok

First Episode 84: 黎明之前 (Before Sunrise)

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Sarevok

A part of the Grand First Episode Project -- See this thread for more info (there seems to be some discrepancy with the numbering - 家的N次方 is listed as 82 in the GFEP list, but there is #83 in the corresponding thread).

VeryCD (TV series can't be downloaded from VeryCD anymore, but you can still watch it on-line there), also available through 风行 (the application saves buffered parts to your HDD and makes an actual video file out of them once they are all there, which can be used to download the whole thing)

A 2010 spy flick taking place during the late phases of Chinese civil war. The atmosphere and overall feeling is similar to the widely acclaimed 潜伏.

Language Level: Upper Intermediate (some military and political terminology... and your usual share of 成语)

--- PLOT SUMMARY ---

The story takes place in late 40's Shanghai and begins with 谭忠恕 (the head of local KMT Intelligence agency) being woken up by a phonecall in the middle of the night. He immediately departs for HQ and is greeted by 齐佩林, who fills him in on the situation. They have captured a communist agent named 秦佑天, who is currently being held at 亚新饭店. During the interrogation, he told them some important information about a sleeping agent, planted by the 地下党 into KMT ranks. Just when they are about to pick up and read the interrogation report (which arrived to the HQ only a few minutes before 谭忠恕 got there), it's almost completely burned down by one of their colleagues, who then commits suicide by swallowing a capsule with potassium cyanide. Meanwhile, somebody kills 秦佑天 and all four KMT agents guarding him. They go to the crime scene immediately, but find nothing of value there - the only lead is the nearly burnt down report. They are able to figure out a few bits of information, which then leads to an attack on a communist base, capturing a few agents and arresting 13 people found in a certain doctor's office (whose telephone number was mentioned in the report). They are all released shortly afterwards, as there is no evidence, but there is one person in particular for whom this is a narrow escape - a school principal 段海平, who is indeed a communist agent. We also get to know another major character - 刘新杰, a head of general-affairs department at the HQ and a long time friend of 谭忠恕. In the following chain of events the captured communist agents are rescued by their fellow comrades, a car is blown up and 刘新杰 saves 齐佩林's life during the subsequent chase. The episode ends with 刘新杰, 齐佩林 and 谭忠恕 discussing their next course of action in the office. 谭忠恕 fills the other two in on 水手 - a code name of especially skilled and elusive communist agent (this code name was also mentioned in the interrogation report). It seems, that this 水手 and 谭忠恕 share some interesting history...

--- END OF SUMMARY ---

This one has been long overdue - I remember I promised to include this into our Grand First Episode Project some months ago... so here we are, better late than never, I guess. I had a lot of other things to do since I first discovered this series, so I didn't finish it yet. This week I found a better quality version on 风行, so I downloaded it all anew and started watching it again - and I enjoyed the first few episodes as much as I did before. Just like 潜伏, I would recommend this one even if spy flicks are not exactly your cup of tea...

post-6486-085225100 1312488747_thumb.jpg

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imron

Sohu TV also has a high-definition version http://tv.sohu.com/s2011/lmzq/

Looks like it stars 海清 from 落地请开手机 and 蜗居 fame. Also 林永健 from 金婚

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rob07
Looks like it stars 海清 from 落地请开手机 and 蜗居 fame. Also 林永健 from 金婚

Is this one that Sarevok has a part in himself?

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Sarevok

Nope, that one is called《极致情感》and it's not out of the oven yet. It's been around half a year since we finished the shooting, i don't how much time the editing and other related work usually takes. I might still have producer's namecard somewhere, I'll drop him a few lines if I find it (he promised me my very own DVD, although I wouldn't be surprised if he forgot about it - that bottle of 二锅头 was nearly finished at that time :ph34r: )

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xianhua
TV series can't be downloaded from VeryCD anymore

I've noticed this recently as well. Any ideas why?

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roddy

Combination of increased ad income and less risk of jail. I don't think Verycd was ever a piratebay everything-should-be-free type of site - I think it was more about getting traffic through free downloads and converting that to ad income, and as things tightened up shifting to becoming a legit video site. Alexa.com has them in the top 100 sites in China - that's a lot of eyeballs.

That's my guess, anyway. Green pluses for Sarevok, everyone!

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imron

Despite a couple of minor plot points that need to be overlooked, this is a pretty solid show all the way through. It's not as nailbiting episode to episode as parts of 潜伏, but still has plenty of interesting parts, and a story that wraps itself up nicely (despite the requisite deaths of a couple of key people - but then it wouldn't be a good communist drama without communists willing to 牺牲 ;) ).

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Gleaves

Just gave the first episode a watch. I was surprised by how much action there was and even more surprised by how well it was done. Definitely plan to continue if anyone wants to join.

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rob07

I'm in, started watching it on the weekend after reading the comments on the other thread. I've seen the first three episodes, agree that it is very watchable.

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rob07

Finished this on the weekend. Very well done, stylishly shot, well acted etc. Done well enough that I didn't mind the relative sparseness of the plot - it is pretty clear who is who and what they want to try and do, and everyone just keeps on doing their thing until the series is over. It is certainly no 潜伏, which had a lot of intrigue and mini-climaxes every few episodes. Also the romantic subplot I found totally unconvincing.

Random trivia fact - According to The Yale Book of Quotations, the earliest known version of the saying is in Thomas Fuller‘s, A Pisgah Sight of Palestine (1650) (“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth”). But apparently that is just an urban myth.

Does anyone know how Morse code (or the equivalent) works in Chinese?

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Gleaves

Nicely done. I've still only watched a couple episodes, but plan to turn back to this soon.

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gato

Does anyone find the Communist propaganda annoying in these KMT vs CCP spy dramas?

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imron

Yeah, but I guess it's like violent movies. Watch enough and you get desensitised to it all :mrgreen:

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rob07

Does anyone find the Communist propaganda annoying in these KMT vs CCP spy dramas?

This show is pretty good on that score, the main KMT guy is reasonably sympathetically portrayed. He is prepared to do some pretty bad stuff, but he is at war after all and he is not corrupt. He is shown as a man of principle and is not demonised just for the sake of it (none of the KMT people are). I liked his character better than the main KMT guy in 潜伏 actually.

The Communists are all heroes of course, but to work undercover when the stakes are that high requires a lot of courage and strength of character and, often, also a lot of idealism as well. Given that there really were historically a lot of people like that, I don't necessarily consider it propaganda to make TV shows recognising this, whatever one thinks of the broader political issues. The show does veer into propaganda around the 牺牲 bits and maybe a couple of others but I found this mercifully brief and other progandising seemed minimal.

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gato

The problem I have with the KMT vs CCP type of movies is that they often portray the KMT almost as if it were foreign occupying power, or at least in cahoots with one.

In reality, the KMT was the government before 1949, just as the CCP is today. There was corruption in the government, but generally they were trying to do well for the country, despite the difficult circumstances, particularly during the1937-1945 war with the Japanese.

Two of the main pillars of the CCP propaganda is the CCP (i) liberated the people from the foreign imperialist-sponsored KMT government and (ii) defeated the Japanese. A large fraction of CCP propaganda films are centered on those two themes.

CCP propaganda tries to the blur the fact that the KMT was then more or less the legitimate government of the country at that time. The KMT, after all, was the party founded by Sun Yat-sen who led revolution that overthrew the Manchus. And for the CCP to claim credit for defeating the Japanese is a total falsehood. The KMT lost 3 million soldiers in fighting the Japanese; whereas the CCP only lost tens of thousands. The foreign imperialist, the United States that is, was more responsible than anyone else for finally defeating Japan. The CCP was basically a band of guerrillas before the war with Japan, and it was able to take advantage of the KMT's distraction during the war to grow into a real army.

So I have a problem with these CCP movies portraying the KMT government as irredeemably evil (individuals in the government might be shown as decent human beings despite the evil of the government) because that's used as a justification for the CCP to overthrow the government. The CCP propaganda is actually so sophisticated that it's often not clear that the KMT was the government instead of an occupying force. I would be happier if the scripts make it clearer that the CCP was trying to overthrow the government. It's a common technique of the propaganda to de-emphasize KMT's role in governing the country, so to de-legitimize the KMT, though nowadays the anti-KMT propaganda is much reduced.

Another problem I have is the sadness I feel for many young idealists who supported the CCP against the KMT who later became victims of Mao's purges. That's harder to address with simple changes to the script. It's entirely possible that quite a few of the CCP spies that inspired these movies/TV shows became victims themselves because their close contact with the KMT could later be used as ammunition for accusing them of disloyalty in the purges. For example, there are many CCP members who were purged on the ground that they made forced confessions after being arrested by the KMT in the pre-1949 years.

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imron
Another problem I have is the sadness I feel for many young idealists who supported the CCP against the KMT who later became victims of Mao's purges

That was one of the things that surprised me about 潜伏. Despite the main characters' loyal service to the CCP, they both got screwed over by the party in the end.

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rob07

I agree, if you are very sensitive to that history, then it is going to be difficult to enjoy any of these shows. But if you are willing to put up with a bit of it, let yourself get desensitised, this one isn't that bad.

I raised this on the 潜伏 thread, but Imron, how far in advance do you think 晚秋/则成 was planned by the party? When 晚秋 came on the radio reading that poem about having realised her romantic ambitions with the communists while 则成 and 翠萍 were still doing the lovebird thing in Tianjin I thought that might have been a sign it was all set up at that point, but not everyone agreed.

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imron

I'm not sure, and it's been a while since I saw the show now, so the specifics are a little blurred. I just remember thinking 翠萍 sure got the rough end of the stick.

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gato
That was one of the things that surprised me about 潜伏. Despite the main characters' loyal service to the CCP, they both got screwed over by the party in the end.

What that in the series? I only saw the last couple of episodes.

You might be interested in this viewer review on Douban:

http://movie.douban.com/review/3024306/

对岸的乌托邦:幸好余则成去了台湾

  编剧的高明之处就在于:他找到了主旋律声音和历史虚无主义的最大公约数。

  共产主义是二十世纪最大的政治乌托邦,也是无神论的“社会宗教”。在1940年代的中国,“左”对于知识青年就是一种先锋。同样文艺范儿的左蓝和晚秋,前者散发着最最先锋、谜一般眩惑的乌托邦的光辉,后者则是相当out的十九世纪颓废浪漫主义的调调,于是在余则成心目中,左蓝毫不费力地就把晚秋PK掉了。乌托邦般的女人左蓝让余则成对共产主义产生了箭靶般的幻觉。美丽且拥有熠熠生辉的“精神风度”的左蓝,最终为爱牺牲,“同心而离居,忧伤以终老”,左蓝简直成了余则成的贝雅特尼采,他像创作神曲一样推进着自己的革命实践,他像阅读圣经一样反复地念诵毛选,来完成对生死问题的超越。但他骨子里绝不是无产阶级战士,而是一个精英主义的贵族——这“贵族”远不止是物质上的,更是精神上的——直到翠平真正融入了仿中产阶级的生活,并提出“解放后,我们还会住在这个大房子里吗”的“腐朽”发问,余才渐渐抛弃成见与她陷入爱河。余对共产主义并不是没有担心,早在第二集他就说“延安那边又是整风,又是甄别……连自己人都抓,我这个军统的人过去还有活路吗?”很难想象,十几天的政治指导,就能使这个老军统的思想完全由蓝转红;很难想象,像余这样一个还没正式加入中共就开始匿名执行间谍任务的老国民党,如果留在大陆,会不受到反右、文革等的冲击;很难想象,如果余留在大陆,经由左蓝的殉道神圣化了的政治乌托邦一旦变成惨酷的现实,他将怎样接受历史荒诞的嘲弄。于是,余则成意外地被带往台湾,成就了该剧十分出彩的结尾。乌托邦之于余则成,永远在对岸,这分隔之岸,以前是左蓝的死,现在是1949,以后,则是意味深长的海峡。

  历史虚无主义的另一衍生,即古与今的模糊。天津站生态的生动描绘,几乎完全拜今日官场经验所赐,包括尔虞我诈、人治之道,包括对政治信念和贪污腐化的关系之理解等等。至于共产党员翠平对拜金和屠杀游行大学生者的嫉恶如仇,观之则颇有一丝苦涩的味道。

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Nathan Mao

Not sure if I should post this in this thread or the 潜伏 thread.

 

Semi-spoilers follow:

 

1) My wife and I both thought 黎明之前 was better all around than 潜伏。 潜伏 got silly at times, almost cartoonish.  The KMT were almost all buffoons, easily outwitted and outsmarted.

Whereas 黎明之前 had evil KMT people, but also honorable KMT people who were just on the other side.  In 潜伏, 孙轰雷's character wasn't even that much into it for most of the series, but still clearly only had contempt for the KMT. Whereas in 黎明之前, 刘新杰 clearly had actual friendships and close relationships with some of the KMT, and his love interest was real without either knowing the other's true loyalties.  Main characters were no more safe than main characters in the Game of Thrones.  The KMT had plenty of successes, secrets were kept from the audience about what 潭忠恕 was planning, sometimes, until revealed at truly tension-creating moments.  潜伏 did show that 孙轰雷's character was under great stress, but 黎明之前 really made me feel 刘新杰's stress.

2) On the language ratings, you have 潜伏 rated as advanced, but 黎明之前 rated as upper-intermediate. I thought 黎明之前 was much more difficult.  In my opinion, they spoke faster, used more technical language, had more varied accents, more 成语s, and generally used more educated speech.  But maybe that's just my impression...can someone explain more, or give some concrete examples?

 

Bottom line is that I watched 潜伏 more than 2 years ago, and might watch it again if I didn't have many other new serials to watch via 爱奇艺,but I watched 黎明之前 after 潜伏 just over two years ago, watched it again a year later, and still watched it eagerly a 3rd time about 6 months ago when it was rebroadcast on one of Dish Network's Great Wall channels.

 

Related story that may interest only me:

My wife was raised in Beijing.  When we started watching 黎明之前, I asked a question about why the KMT did something and why the Communist spies did something. Unfortunately, I made the poor decision to couch it in terms of "good guys" and "bad guys".  Since in my mind, the good guys were the KMT, I confused the heck out of her until I quickly revised my question to be 国民党 vs 共产党。

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