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Dai Sijie

Price Femina 2003

How was born the complex from Di?

I wanted for a long time to write on China of today, during two years, of the realization of Balzac and the Small Chinese Tailoress , I had the occasion to observe well to study. China of today is enthralling, it life a great period, great disorders: capitalism, Communism, tradition.

I wanted to take this character, a psychoanalyst, the first Chinese psychoanalyst. I think that there is a very good contrast between this discipline, the spirit Western and the Asian spirit. That gave the opportunity to me to make rather funny things.

Have study yourself the psychoanalysis, for this book or in your life, or finally, you make fun about it?

I very had one very good buddy, when I studied in Paris, with whom I divided a room. I studied the cinema, it studied the psychoanalysis, during a few years, I observed it well. Then indeed of the times, one made fun of him, it was very impassioned by the psychoanalysis, and it had never known of woman. Today I say myself that it is more significant, which it did him, because it was necessary to study the theory of Freud. Me, I learned when I arrived to France, it was one of the first Western things which one was to study, even if one wanted to work in the cinema or art. But what amused me especially, the life of my buddy.

Can one say your novel that it is a novel of training?

There is surely that, but I could not give classification, because when I write, I precisely try to avoid the kinds. It is a thing which one cannot make with the cinema. One cannot say that it is a comic book, even if I did everything so that the reader can laugh.

You also avoid that by your play in the writing?

Yes, I tried in each chapter to write with a different form, i.e. to take from time to time, topics of the psychoanalysis, Chinese sexuality, Chinese reality with corruption for example. Topics thus, which intersect, which develops, and which leads each chapter to take a different form. Maybe of extract of letter or private diary, newspaper cutting. A diversity that I chose by intuition, without inevitably of explanation.

Your hero sets out again in China to save his love, but its dream is blown quickly...

Yes, I think that it is very common, it has a thirst for ideal, it is somebody who is impassioned by the psychoanalysis, but perhaps it does not include/understand it well, but just a little bit, it thinks of loving a girl passionately, but it falls in love with each girl whom it meets. It is a conflict in its head.

Which bond is woven between your principal character and Di judge?

The other day, a critic said to me during an interview, this judge is the symbol of president Mao Tse-Toung. Then I say to him that not, that I did not think of that, but indeed it is a dictator, and the other character the Chinese psychoanalyst, it is like all Chinese of today, they must face reality, him it did not try to make the revolution, it wants simply to try to save his girlfriend, and thus for that to satisfy the judge. Then it is not very moral, but I think that people of good morals are not characters interesting for the novels or of film.

Corruption in China today, it is a national sport, everyone makes some a little bit, it is not very astonishing. His small treason, his search of a virgin girl for this judge, me, I can include/understand it.

I think that us them Chinese, we do not have same morality, nor the same conscience that you, we will not make seeming. He it is like all Chinese.

Which is your perception of current China?

I find that there is in this China full with literary or cinematographic subjects, and that one can, only while going in the street and by meeting people, to find subjects immediately. I believe that it is much easier than in France...

After what I think as Chinese of China, it is that it saw one very complex period, but I never saw China changing also quickly.

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There is much corruption, there is the economy, there are many new rich person, there are enormously the poor, a great social contrast, the discovery of capitalism like one moment of grace, even a wild capitalism with full with problems.

It was a little like the Fifties, in France after the war, all is allowed. The cleaning lady of my mother, even bought actions out of purse... Will it is one rare period, then that last? Will the ideological policy definitively change? I do not know. But for the moment, everyone with much of hope.

"is Cavaler to remain in life", it the gears of your character, you to find itself there on another plan?

Indeed, there are about fifteen year, I came for my studies, I were a student stock-broker, I entered in History of art, then in the cinema, I do not know if it were a good choice or a bad choice, but when one work as writer or realizer, it is a life of which does not stop any more, of voyages, I travelled much. I like this life, of permanent voyage, when a film is carried out, it is necessary to go some share, and then to make promotion, all that it is the good with dimensions of the things... But there are other things much more unpleasant, there is the pressure, the desire for succeeding, all that it is not my temperament.

Which relation do you maintain with the cinema today?

Before now, I prefer to write, but the writing it is nevertheless a great loneliness. I believe that any writer knows rather well this loneliness which does not last, which lasts a long time, a month or two months but a car enfermement two years for this book. After this kind of thing, one wants to see people, then as soon as this book was finished, I called my producers, to say to them that I wanted to make a film. I adore that because the cinema, it is a team, there are the assistants, the actors, the actresses, the producers, of the money also... (rires). It is contrary to the literary writing.

You have projects then?

I have already two projects to realize, it there from of has one which occurs to Asia, which calls "Girls of Botanist Chinese", and the other which is a true comedy which occurs to Paris, in the Chinese district. It is rather difficult to make laugh, but I like that. I do not like to make too serious, too dramatic. There are people who that very well, but I prefer to make funnier things.

What do you read in this moment? Which is the last book which you liked?

I find that one does not read only any more by pleasure, now one reads more by need of work... But I read some, you will find that odd (laughter), they were historical documents, letters... on Jesuits of the XVIIIème century, who worked in China and tried to convert the Chinese emperor. They had an immense ambition, and they were with two fingers to succeed. The history of the world would be changed, because China would have become an immense catholic country...

Dai Sijie thank you.

Remarks collected by Jean Kraimps (Nov. 2003)

Photograph: J Sassier /See Photographs of Romain Velay to "Environment Interview"


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