Li Shiyong, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
In 2011 “The Inspired Island: Series of Eminent Writers from Taiwan” released documentaries on six Taiwan writers, eliciting a broad response in Chinese-language literary circles. In 2014 a second series of films was released, including Andante Cantibile (“flowing and songlike”), a documentary that looks at poet Ya Xian (Ya Hsien), who wrote the well-known poem “Andante Cantibile” in 1964. The film was directed by Chen Huaien, whose previous works include Island Etude and The Inspired Island: Series of Eminent Writers from Taiwan.
Andante Cantibile begins with Ya Xian living in retirement in Vancouver, Canada, getting a haircut and answering a barber’s questions: He is a poet, “Ya Xian” is his penname, he has had a career in literature. In 1949 Ya Xian relocated from China to Taiwan; in 1954, along with Luo Fu and Zhang Mo, he founded the “Genesis Poetry Society”, publishing Genesis, a journal that became a leading venue for postmodern poetry and criticism in postwar Taiwan. The poet is also a noted editor, having served as chief editor at Youth Literary and the United Daily News literary supplement. Ya Xian and his contemporary Gao Xinjian, former chief editor of the China Times literary supplement, “Human World,” were central figures in Taiwan’s postwar literary scene.
Director Chen Huaien extends his grasp of his subjects’ lives and travels, the camera following Ya Xian as he walks back though the major stages of his life: The site where the “Genesis Poetry Society” met; returning with Zhang Mo the radio station at the naval base in Kaohsiung’s Zuoying District; the poet’s old family home Nanyang County, in China’s Henan province, and other places. When Ya Xian reads or recites his work, the rhythms and cadences echo the ambience of an earlier era, resonating with the poet’s keen aesthetic sensibilities. More importantly, through the interwoven conversations and memories of the poet and his literary friends, Andante Cantibile reveals the turbulence that rocked Taiwan’s literary world when Ya Xian served as supplement editor. The film also highlights the poet’s longtime friendship with Xi Murong, Wu Sheng, Lin Huaimin, Jiang Xun, and other literati, and his chess-like competition and friendship with Gao Xinjiang.
The documentary shows Ya Xian alone in his study, reading and answering letters from literary friends, family, and loved ones, or covering the floor of the room with past issues of Genesis. Viewers will perceive that Andante Cantibile is not simply the story of a poet’s life; it is, moreover, a brilliant scene-by-scene history of Taiwan’s postwar literary world. By the time Ya Xian retired from his editorial post Taiwan had liberalized following the ending of martial law; however, literature had fallen into decline amidst the clamor of a multitude of voices. All that remain of the glorious past are handwritten manuscripts and writers’ memories – thus, the poet Ya Xian is like an island in the sea, lonely and isolated.
Documentary Film The Inspired Island: Andante Cantabile Video Clip (Source: Fisfisa Media Co., Ltd)
|Related Literary Themes：||Diaspora Literature|