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Kwai Lun Mei:Stepping Outside the Blue Gate

王烨昇 Johnny Wang 2018-09-07 11:30

 “I really love film acting! I will keep on acting, harder!” Five years ago, Kwai made the remark while receiving her award for Best Leading Actress at the Golden Horse Awards for her portrayal in the film Girlfriend, Boyfriend. That year, 29-year-old Kwai was the only Chinese Taiwanese winner among the lucky Golden Horse nominees. 


Many audiences still typecast Kwai as the “school girl”. Many renowned actors and actresses have the same problem when their sensational breakthrough roles would bring with them the label that follows them throughout their career. While some actors are comfortable playing the same type of character, the reality is that most actors dislike the restrictions that it places on their opportunities. Kwai said that she could play thousands of types of students; but the reality is that an actor needs to be extensive in different fields, rather than to be intensive in a specific one. In fact, Kwai has been trying all types of characters to expand her possibilities. 


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For instance, the rocking girl in All About Women, the gang lady in The Stool Pigeon, or the cruel Burudu in Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. It seems that she is delivering a message through these characters: I am not a school girl, I am an actress. 


Her Breakthroughs 


Artistic, shy, restrained: these adjectives are the most frequent and iconic labels of Kwai Lun-mei in the public’s eye. However, a sophisticated actress would expect some breakthroughs in her skills after getting accustomed to some specific characters, especially the characters that won them fame. Kwai is no exception. 


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After creating a series of impressive characters, say, Meng Ke-rou, Lu Hsiao-yu or Mabel, Kwai began to discover characters of different styles. Every time she began to be accustomed to or be known for a certain type of character, there would always come invitations on new types of characters. 


For instance, the invitation from Charlie Young asking her to act for Christmas Rose came after Young watched her in Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, directed by Tsui Hark, etc. 


Kwai went a period of struggles before she decided to break out of her typecast. After filming wrapped up for Jay Chou’s Secret, she realized that more than ninety percent of the characters she performed are students. She hesitated over this: what should I do? Should I keep on playing these roles or not? Coincidentally, when she stopped to think about her future, All About Women came to her life, she began to tread on the path of breakthroughs. 


“I can act thousands kinds of girl students” 


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Actually, people wouldn’t think Kwai is not finding new breakthroughs, or trying new characters, but in her own words, “Maybe it’s not true anyhow, since literally all these characters came for me and I just took them. Sometimes it seems as natural as it should be, and I just live it as it should be.” 


As of this issue, Kwai began to justify herself with such understanding: there are so many students in schools, while everyone has his or her own student life. Hence, she could play hundreds or thousands of different types of students. Though a student is a single social identity, it’s enriched with infinite possibilities. Different students have different stories and vistas. In this sense, is it not an “overthrow” of Kwai?


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Without question, speaking of “overthrow”, the most representative one must belong to Christmas Rose. Directed by Charlie Young, the film tells the story of a disabled piano teacher accusing an established Hong Kongnese doctor of sexual abuse after a routine health check, which becomes a sensational event across Hong Kong and results in a duet between love and law.


Kwai’s “Anger” 


In a way, it is a sensitive and adventurous decision to choose such an issue in public entertainment. If the performance is not vivid enough, public opinion would cast a negative glance. It required Kwai to have a firm grasp of the character inside and out, not mentioning during the filming, director Yang requested Kwai to finish acting consequently instead of separate filming. Especially when the scenes come to the court fight, highly emotional and progressive performance was required. 


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For this, Kwai and director spent much time researching how to improve performance not long after filming started. Thanks to the wise director, Kwai was given the chance to express her ideas in her own way. The results turned out that in the last scene of the movie, Kwai is just as if speaking through Li Jing’s mouth. The whole effect can be likened to a balloon gradually enlarges as the film progresses, and suddenly exploding in the courtroom. 


Contrary to her usual style, Kwai spent days to try to “hold” to the character. In an attempt, she self-confidently started performing, with abundant tears shed. However, after completing her lines, Kwai kept silent for about ten seconds and suddenly burst into laughter. Later after some rest, the director arranged to re-record the scene. Kwai’s interrupted “feeling” was picked up once again. This time she was infused with unexpected emotions. Kwai succeeded in speaking through Li Jing’s very mouth. 



To achieve this experience is due to director Charlie Young’s help. Young always believes that actors need to be healthy, both physically and mentally. Through the film every actor and actress could be cured somehow.One could explain that in an implicit moment, Kwai witnessed the indescribable light. When the director announced the final “cut”, Kwai was released - she was cured. For Kwai, that exhilarated her and in her own words, she saw the “Kwai Lun-mei style anger”. 


Such an experience is the fruit of communicating between true self and characters during the filming process. This experience is precious in an actor/actress’ career life. It is exactly this specific kind of experience that gives her the perfect chance to discover her multifaceted self. 


After walking out of the Blue Gate, Kwai Lun-mei has achieved her new self, more enriched than ever. 



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