Chinese director Chloé Zhao’s The Rider explores the psyche of a fallen American cowboy. By KEVIN MA中國導演趙婷的作品《再生騎士》探索一名美國牛仔在嚴重受傷後的心理狀況。撰文:馬樂民

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WHAT HAPPENS when a man loses the skills that define his identity? Such are the circumstances that plague the hero of Chloé Zhao’s The Rider.

Returning to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the US state of South Dakota, where she filmed her debut, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Zhao has created a sensitive and modern take on the Western film genre. Like Songs, The Rider is largely based on the real life of the film’s star. In this case it’s rodeo rider Brady Jandreau, whom Zhao met while researching the cowboy lifestyle at Pine Ridge. When Zhao later heard that Jandreau suffered a nearfatal head injury and could no longer ride a horse, she wrote a pseudo-fictional story about him – named Brady Blackburn in the film – and his postinjury malaise.

Brady can’t resist getting back in the saddle. There are few economic opportunities on the reservation, and the only thing he can do is work with horses, even if it means facing death. Rodeo riding is so ingrained in Brady that his right hand is stuck in a constant grip as if he’s still holding onto the reins. Scenes of Brady visiting his partially paralysed best friend, former rodeo rider Lane Scott, foretell a frightening fate for Brady if he doesn’t let go.

The Rider is a poetic and melancholic tale about emasculation in contemporary US society. Like a superhero who has lost his superpowers, Brady is seen in a state of waking death, expressed in enveloping, desolate shots of the badlands that are as beautiful as they are mournful. Zhao seamlessly blends truth and fiction, right down to casting Jandreau’s real family members and friends to play themselves in the film, with roughly 60 per cent of the story based on true events.

Born in Beijing and educated in London and New York, Zhao has reinvented a quintessential American film genre with soul and verve. With only two films under her belt, she has already received acclaim and accolades around the world, including the Film Independent Spirit Awards’ Bonnie Award, which recognises excellence from mid- career female directors in independent American cinema. There’s little doubt that Zhao is a director to watch. 當一個人失去了建立身份認同的技能後,到底會處於一種怎樣的狀態?由趙婷執導的《再生騎士》中的主角,正陷於這個困境。


Pine Ridge Indian Reservation印第安保留區,在那裡拍出一部感情細膩、散發現代氣息的西部片。一如《哥哥教我唱的歌》,本片的內容大部分根據電影主角的真實經歷而改編。本片的主角 Brady Jandreau 是一名馴馬的牛仔,趙婷在印第安保留區搜集有關西部牛仔生活的資料時認識他。當她知道 Jandreau 因頭部受過幾乎致命的傷而不能再騎馬之後,以他為藍本寫了一個半虛構的故事,並將主角名為

Brady Blackburn,講述他受傷後的身心困擾。

對 Brady 來說,他很難捨棄馬背上的生涯。保留區內的工作機會本來就不多,加上他只懂得與馬為伍,因此只有冒死去做。對 Brady來說,馴馬這門技藝可說刻骨銘心,甚至已經成為他的一部分,他的右手總是緊握著,彷彿仍在拉著韁繩一樣。當Brady 前往探望他的好友Lane Scott 時,這位半身癱瘓的前馴馬牛仔就像向 Brady 作出可怕的預警:如果他再不放棄馴馬的話,後果將會同樣堪虞。

《再生騎士》講的是當代美國社會瀰漫的無力感,充滿詩意之餘又散發點點哀傷。Brady 就

如超級英雄喪失了超能力一樣,變成了無生氣的行屍走肉,在一片荒蕪與孤寂的環境圍下,畫面悅目但同時亦令人感到悽酸。趙婷將真實與虛構糅合得天衣無縫,甚至將 Jandreau 現實中的家人與朋友邀來,在電影中粉墨登場。而故事情節佔六成都是Jandreau 的真實經歷。

導演趙婷生於北京,在倫敦及紐約接受教育,卻為一個源於美國的電影類型注入靈性,帶出新鮮的韻味。她至今雖然只有兩部作品面世,卻已在全球各地獲得不少獎項與讚譽,其中括獨立精神電影獎內的Bonnie Award大獎;這個獎項旨在表揚美國獨立電影界表現如日方中的女性導演。趙婷能夠獲得這個獎項,說明她是個值得影迷繼續留意的導演。

Wild at heart Rodeo rider Brady Jandreau faces up to life after a debilitating injury心亂如麻馴馬牛仔Brady Jandreau受重創後重新面對生活

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