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roddy

Watching: All Quiet in Peking 北平无战事

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roddy

As promised. This is a quality (recommended by Gato!) KMT-Communist espionage and crime drama. 53 45-minute episodes. Probably intermediate level at least, it's pretty intricate and the language isn't simple, so the total cognitive load here could be heavy. I'm not doing word lists as I'm just watching for fun, but will try and add episode summaries and / or comments as I go. 

 

and LeTV. Don't get put off by the first ten minutes, which includes lots of quickly-barked orders and radio chatter, it gets easier. 

 

Up to 13:30
 
KMT guy 曾可达 is rushing to a Hangzhou airfield. En route he gets word a plane has taken off without permission in dangerously bad weather - flown by someone who gets called 老鹰, didn't catch his proper name. Attempts to order the plane to turn around fail, and the order is given to dehandcuff someone called 方孟敖. 曾可达 comments that someone is trying to 杀人灭口. He arrives at the control tower, bosses people about a bit, and then 方孟敖 is brought in. He manages to track down and make contact with the plane, which is persuaded to turn round - despite the pilot's concern that 方孟敖 is a Communist. Doesn't matter if he's Mao himself, says 曾可达, he's the only one that can talk you in. Despite being on different sides, both men in the control tower want the plane back and seem to agree that whoever has told 老鹰 to take off has done so with the intention that he won't survive the weather - his plane is on fire and hard to control. Plane has a bumpy landing and soldiers are dispatched to arrest those on it. 
 
Then one of the KMT guys in the control tower grabs a gun and shoots everyone who's being brought in from the plane. Then he gets shot. 
 
13:30
 
Beiping...head of the bank is hearing that the US isn't happy about trading in aid it's sending to the nationalists, and will stop sending it if something isn't done. How did the US know? Must have been the communists - someone named 崔中石。 And he's gone to Nanjing for 方孟敖's trial. 崔中石 is ordered back, with his dad (the bank guy) thinking that there's no point in allowing a Communist agent to help his son, as it'll make him look like a Communist. 
 
17:00
 
Standoff between the KMT and 'progressive' students and professors - 何其沧, a professor, gets named as well as three students we'll worry about when they turn up again. Bit of disagreement amongst the KMT side about what they're up to, then we're back at the bank. 
 
19:20
 
Dad Fang wants to speak to his other son, 方孟韦, but he's out arresting Communist students. Dad wants him home for dinner so he can find out what 崔中石 is up to. I think 方孟韦 was the policeman we saw protecting the students? 其沧 phones and demands Dad Fang comes along. I'm getting lost here. Oooh, a clock chimes death...
 
22:30
Back at the stand-off. All very stand-offy. Dad arrives and sits down with the professors. 
 
26:50
Nanjing. Briefly. 
 
27:20
Broadcast from a big cheese at the stand-off. The soldiers are ordered to stand down and 方孟韦 is ordered home for a chit-chat. 
 
29:00ish, I forgot to look
Back on the road to Nanjing, a voiceover tells us that 方孟敖 and others were to be tried jointly to show the KMT cracking down on both Communists and corruption. But the death of the important witness pilot guy, and the death of the guy who shot him, means that 曾可达 has failed in his mission. In the back 方孟敖 evades the question of whether or not he's a Commie, but says the order not to bomb Kaifeng was his and his alone. He's playing with fire here. 
 
32:45
Back at the bank. I'm kind of drifting off here, but I think dad reckons 方孟敖 and 崔中石 are both Communists - otherwise why did his son give the order not to bomb the Communists (at Kaifeng, I assume). Ah, the other son arrives. 
 
35:30
Back in Nanjing we see 崔中石 and get a voiceover about some KMT secret agency. He meets with 徐铁英, some senior official in said agency. Seems to be sneaking in a bribe for help in getting the boss's son out of trouble. Seems to be a persuasive amount of money. 
 
39:00
Well, at least he's not having to wash his father's feet. Younger brother is sure older brother is not a Communist. But, dad asks, who's idea was it for 崔中石 to make all those trips to Nanjing? 
 
40:10
Back in Nanjing, will 徐铁英 take the bribe? It seems not - and we end on him asking 崔中石 if Dad Fang is involved in the corruption case back in Beiping. Ends. 
 
So where are we? Dad suspects 方孟敖 and 崔中石 of being Communists. 方孟韦 looks like he might be coming to suspect the same thing. 崔中石 seems to have been knocked back in his efforts to help 方孟敖 down in Nanjing. But who was behind the original order for the plane to take off? 
 
Anyone else watched? 
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Angelina

Then one of the KMT guys in the control tower grabs a gun and shoots everyone who's being brought in from the plane.

 

Unless you see a Communist guy doing the same, I won't be interested in watching the show. 

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imron

Considering this is a mainland drama, you can bet the communists come out on top. This scene would have been to set the tone and show the audience how terrible the KMT were.

As an aside, if you only watch things that agree with your existing worldview, your worldview will stay incredibly narrow.

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gato

This show is actually very sympathetic to the KMT for a mainland show. 蒋经国 comes out like a anti-corruption reformer.

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roddy

Also, we don't yet know that guy wasn't a communist. Although if you want to see positive Communist role models, watch 潜伏. As I wrote after watching it: "Damn, Communists are so loyal and clever and romantic. In that order."

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Angelina

As an aside, if you only watch things that agree with your existing worldview, your worldview will stay incredibly narrow.

 

Yes, I am looking for something that will challenge my existing worldview. I definitely do not hate Communists. One of my ancestors sided with the Communists during the Greek Civil War and after they lost the war he ended up being a PoW because he was accused of being the wrong kind of Communist. He died there. I guess I already have a positive Communist role model. 

 

Ok ok, I will watch the show. I didn't even know who 蒋经国 was. I had to consult the Internet because I thought it was an alternative name for 蒋介石. So ROC had a Belorusian first lady???? 

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realmayo
some KMT secret agency

 

I looked it up: it is the China KMT Central Executive Committee Investigation Statistics, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Bureau_of_Investigation_and_Statistics:

 

 

The Central Bureau of Investigation and Statistics (Diaocha Tongji; Chinese: 中國國民黨中央執行委員會調查統計局) was an espionage unit of the Central Executive Committee, and one of Chiang Kai-shek's two secret police and espionage bodies, the other being the Military Bureau of Investigation and Statistics was headed by Tai Li from 1929 until his death in 1946. On March 20, 1928 Chen Lifu became head of the Kuomindang's Organization Department and set up the espionage unit.

 

The Chen Lifu mentioned there and his brother Chen Guofu both get name-checked in the episode.

WIkipedia says they lead the CC Clique within the KMT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CC_Clique

However we don't see them (at least not yet): the guy we do see seems (I think) to be fictional: 徐铁英

 

I'm still a bit puzzled by the names of this department:

徐铁英 is 国民党党通局联络处主任

Which seems to be abbreviated to 政治处

And I think it's a department within the Central Bureau of Investigation and Statistics mentioned above.

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roddy

Second ep! Been a week, hope I can remember what's going on...

First ten minutes we have a bit up in Peking, with the bank boss and No. 2 son talking about the possibility that 崔中石 has converted 方孟敖 to Communism. No. 2 son is persuaded of the possibility and wants to phone someone in Nanjing to call off 崔中石's attempts to help 方孟敖, but dad stops him - if it gets out, they're all in trouble. The only people allowed to know are the two of them and 姑父, who is the boss's assistant guy and I'm willing to bet, not all he seems.

We also get a nice long scene down in Nanjing with 崔中石 trying to seduce the department head guy (who will defend 方孟敖 and his co-accused later) into taking some hefty bribes. There's a sweetener in the suitcase, but if you save our lad and that other guy gets killed, all his shares in the corrupt companies could be yours. Not that easy, he says. Out of my hands. Big boys are taking over. I enjoyed this a lot, nice dialogue and a lot of tension. But later we see the department head put the money from the suitcase into an envelope and label it '贿金‘ - bribe. Looks like he's not playing ball....

12:30 - ha ha, how are they meant to see out of those helmets.

Fun in the courtroom - 方孟敖 gets told off for not taking it all seriously enough, and pretty soon the prosecutor looks like he's going to skip the judging bit and dispense justice himself. Anyway, we meet KMT air force honcho 侯君堂(denies everything) and his subordinate and Communist agent 林大伟 (as yet silent). I'm not quite sure on the set up here, seems like there's a prosecutor guy (is that 曾可达?) and then 徐主任 is acting as a kind of investigating defender. Anyway, he gets 侯君堂 off the hook as far as Communism goes, and then.... hands over the envelope with the bribe money to the judge. Important evidence, will demonstrate how trustworthy he is...

Elsewhere, 崔中石 gets a phone call. Not sure who from, but he reports back and gets told to steer clear in case he also gets into trouble.

Back in court - Xu Tieying (sorry, tired of forgetting what IME I'm in) has told the court the bribe money was from... Hou Juntang! Clever... Then we get a tape recording, and I had to listen to this twice before figuring out that (I think) Hou Juntang had bribed Xu Tieying beforehand, recorded the conversation and accepted the bribe. Then when Cui Zhongshi arrived offering money AND Hou Juntang's business interests he changed sides and has sold out his original briber.

And oh, when Communist Lin Dawei gets his turn.... suddenly there's cause for a soundtrack. I didn't appreciate this bit - we might be getting a more nuanced version of the KMT, but the Communists are still an ethical head and shoulders above everyone else.

And end, still in the courtroom...

This was basically all set in the courtroom, and to be honest it dragged a bit. Looks like we might still be there next episode too. What have we learned... Looks like Hou Juntang is corrupt, but not a communist. Xu Tieying is corrupt, and fickle. We don't know if Cui Zhongshi is a Communist or not, he might just be a loyal Fang family servant. Fang Meng'ao just sat around making the odd outburst, and presumably choreographing his squadron's exit from the courtroom...

Would have preferred to see all that play out a lot quicker. Still watchable though.

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realmayo
And oh, when Communist Lin Dawei gets his turn.... suddenly there's cause for a soundtrack. I didn't appreciate this bit - we might be getting a more nuanced version of the KMT, but the Communists are still an ethical head and shoulders above everyone else.

 

Definitely: arguably this is way more insidious than the more typical blatant stuff. I suppose it's the modern view: people in Taiwan aren't bad people, but they're not as good as us.

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Angelina

I tried to be open and watch the show. The acting is ... , it's like they are playing music off-key.  Any other shows about this part of Chinese history? 

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imron

Dozens, if not hundreds.

 

潜伏》and《黎明之前》are two of the better ones I can think of off the top of my head, though production quality might be on par with 北平无战事.

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roddy

潜伏 is up in my top Chinese shows ever and I think you'd enjoy it. Don't get too worried about the first couple of episodes - if I remember correctly it gets a bit confusing with who's who, and who's pretending to be who. It gets easier to follow...

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imron
and I think you'd enjoy it.

If you can get over the boom mic dropping into shot every other episode ;)

 

Unless you see a Communist guy doing the same, I won't be interested in watching the show.

After watching the first 20 minutes of this show just now, I'm convinced the KMT guy that did this was actually a communist.

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Angelina

潜伏》and《黎明之前》are two of the better ones I can think of off the top of my head, though production quality might be on par with 北平无战事

 

潜伏 is up in my top Chinese shows ever and I think you'd enjoy it. Don't get too worried about the first couple of episodes - if I remember correctly it gets a bit confusing with who's who, and who's pretending to be who. It gets easier to follow...

 

Ok, I'll try. As long as the acting is not bad, I will manage to follow the story.

 

What do you mean by production quality? It does not need to be a Hollywood type of expensive production. My favorite Chinese show is 西遊記 (86) , it's not like they invested millions of dollars to make it. 

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renzhe

Story and acting in 潜伏 are brilliant, but keep in mind that production is intentionally low-budget, and there is a (probably intentional) old-fashioned feel to it which makes it look like a real-socialist drama from a different time.

That was a large part of its charm, I found.

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Angelina

❤️

 

 Low-budget is fine. 潜伏 it is. 

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Angelina

I saw a little bit of 潜伏, first episode: nice pronunciation, nice dialogues, good production. 

 

They mentioned both 蔣介石 and 周恩來 at the very beginning, I guess it will be easy to learn about people like 蔣經國 with the basic knowledge I posses. 

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roddy
Watching ep 3 now...

 

Thinking about it overnight, I think what I'm not liking so much about this is that none of the characters are that sympathetic or likeable. 

 

Honestly, were all Communist's agents followed about by a string section? Must have been a bit of a giveaway. 

 

I have to look up who's playing Xu Tieying, I'm sure I know him from something...wow, he's actually been in every Chinese show ever made. Probably 子夜 I'm most likely to know him from though. 

 

Ah, Fang Meng'ao and his dad are estranged? Didn't know that, and he didn't know about Cui Zhongshi trying to help. 

 

Feng Meng'ao looks like he's stepped off an album cover. I rather hope we get better protagonists, I wouldn't mind if this lot got shot. 

 

Finally, Fang gets his chance to speak properly. Will he take it... are the strings ready...

 

Nope, he has nothing to say - except to CONFESS!!!! Xu Tieying denies his confession, then we get the photographs out. Was Fang refusing to bomb Kaifeng to save the city? He was! Mother... sister... killed when the Japanese bombed Shanghai. 

 

Where's the tissues, those strings are getting to me...

 

Judging time! Hou and Li are to get shot, Fang and the rest of the troupe are handed back to the military to be dealt with. 

 

Now I'm wondering if Fang is a Communist at all. Maybe he's just a true patriot. He has a soundtrack though...

 

Turns out Jiang Jingguo approves (ordered?) the verdicts. 

 

Finally the court is over. 

 

Voiceover from Jiang Jingguo (I assume) about how the KMT must fight both Communism and corruption. 

 

Was totally lost on who was on the phone to Zeng Keda here - wiki to the rescue: 蒋经国(1910年4月27日-1988年1月13日)字建丰

 

Oh, I think Cui Zhongshi has spotted his tail / assassin.

 

What's going on here, is Jiang Jingguo meant to be in the next room to Zeng Keda? Odd. Anyway, Jiang isn't suspicious of Fang, and says Fang hates his dad as his dad abandoned his family during the bombing of Shanghai. 

 

So now Zeng and Xu are getting sent to Peking to investigate the corruption there - and Fang is tagging along to help them deal with his dad. Simple. And Cui's getting investigated. 

 

Will someone shoot Cui now please. Damn,  it's not an assassin, it's a well informed cabbie. 

 

Ha ha, 现在还装什么美国人。。。

 

Zeng still thinks Fang's a communist, and plans to prove it... did we need a voiceover for that? Can't see this whole dinner scene moved us forward at all. 

 

Now, who's spying on Cui Zhongshi? He's not giving anything away, except perhaps the fact that he isn't making any dodgy cash. 

 

Meanwhile Zeng is explaining to Fang that, due to a shared history of bombed mothers and unliked fathers, Jiang Jingguo understands him. 

 

Will Fang accept the mission in Beijing - it seems not, until... CLIFFHANGER...

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roddy

I'm not convinced by this show yet. We've got plenty of suspense over what everyone's up to and what their motivations are, but we've only just met them and personally (as said above) I'm not that bothered. Maybe in a few more episodes I'll care more, but nobody seems all that human...

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gato

I liked dad the banker and Zeng Keda the investigator the best. I guess I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued by the show because the Communist characters weren't all that sympathetic and the KMT characters were more sympathetic than usual.

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