Saturday, 10 September 2011

Brechtian Pirates?

In a Chang Cheh movie, The Pirate (Da hai dao), of 1973, there is an almost Brechtian moment.

The hero, swashbuckling historical buccaneer Chang Pao-Chai (played by Ti Lung), has been stranded in town where he is a wanted man, but instead of running, he has decided to stay to help a group of villagers who are being exploited and driven into bankruptcy and slavery by a corrupt, monopolistic magnate, who owns both the local shipyard and the brothel and has dodgy dealings with the local authorities. Chang has decided to rob the magnate in order to give the locals cash to have their boats repaired and thus to get out from under the heels of their tyrant.

Finding out about his scheme, one of Chang's piratical followers, turns to another fellow (or actually to us, the audience), wondering at their chief's generosity, bravery and humanity:

Pirate 1: Pao-Chai is really great, which makes me feel great too.
Pirate 2: Even if we have done good deeds, we are still pirates.
Pirate 1: That's true. But we were not born pirates. We were born as men. We became pirates since we had no choice. When there's an opportunity, we'll do as men will do.
Pirate 2: (lauging) You still know this principle!

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