放送人情味──高祥晴

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2017 / 5月

文‧陳群芳 圖‧林格立 翻譯‧Robert Green


還記得小時候拎著板凳,帶著零嘴點心坐在廟埕前,引頸期盼電影開演的興奮心情嗎?

隨著視聽娛樂產業的興起,露天電影逐漸被戲院、有線電視取代。即使日漸式微,台南高祥晴父子,難忘露天電影放映時,人們齊聚一堂的溫暖,至今仍守著露天電影放映的工作,期望為後人留下屬於台灣六○年代的共同記憶。

 


「答答答……」膠捲電影放映機的捲片聲響傳來,快速轉動的齒輪,一秒鐘放映36張底片,藉由凹凸透鏡與視覺暫留原理,影片得以呈現在觀眾眼前。放映師必須隨時觀察機器與底片的一舉一動,每個環節都馬虎不得,一齣露天電影的完美播映,彷彿是一場放映師與放映機之間完美的默契合奏。

 

三代傳承放映技藝

1964年出生的放映師高祥晴,13歲便跟著父親高鏡山學習電影放映,至今已有40年資歷。高鏡山曾任台南中華戲院的機師長,從事放映工作與機器維護。1970年代,因戲院播放三級片而遭受波及,歷經十多天的牢獄之災,讓高鏡山決定轉作露天電影播放,追尋電影放映的自由。

在高祥晴的記憶裡,膠捲底片是放映師的生財工具,必須格外珍惜,因此高祥晴學習電影放映的第一步,就是跟著父親從迴帶收片開始學起。他站在捲片機前亦步亦趨地觀察父親操作機器,在高速的輪軸與底片之間,以手緩衝捲片速度並確認底片的狀況,若有受損或是異常,就會停下來檢查。一隻手感受底片狀況,另隻手拿著木板貼著底片,確保底片完好收闔。「生意好的時候,一晚要做8場,影片也跟著趕場,所以收片速度一定要快,做不好或動作太慢時,我爸就直接拿那塊木板起來打我。」父親嚴厲的指導,是高祥晴至今都難忘的場景。

高祥晴貼身跟在父親身旁,逐步學起,16歲就出師獨當一面。南部大小宮廟多,全年都有酬神廟會,1980年代大家樂、簽賭風氣正盛時,一晚甚至要跑10場,有時一個廟埕還同時放兩齣電影,高祥晴一人同時兼顧兩組電影放映,總共4台放映機也不成問題。在香火鼎盛的大型宮廟,還曾有過同時放映四部電影,一條路上架設4台銀幕,場面十分壯觀。

父親以電影放映扛起家計,高祥晴也帶著妻兒投入露天電影的放映工作,養活一家大小。而今1990年出生的兒子高璞元,也回到台南老家傳承這門技術。高璞元自小也跟在父親身旁幫忙,小學二年級就能獨立看顧半自動放映機的露天電影。

大學主修視訊傳播設計系的高璞元,喜歡看電影,相較於放映,攝影更是他興趣所在。他畢業後到台北參與許多電影、電視劇的拍攝工作,例如《必娶女人》、《紅衣小女孩》等。高璞元工作一段時間後,始終難忘膠捲電影放映時所散發的溫度和質感,不願家族的放映技術失傳,2015年與同樣從事電影幕後工作的妻子,一起回到台南,成立「熊南人電影映像工作室」,復甦已經沒落的露天膠捲電影。

 

露天電影浪潮

過去,露天電影是農業時代台灣人生活的重要娛樂之一。露天電影能匯聚人氣,每當地方準備放映電影,銀幕才剛搭設,廟埕就會擠滿等待開演的民眾,醃水果、烤鳥蛋等攤販也在週邊叫賣,氣氛熱鬧滾滾宛如夜市。

1990年代有線電視台的出現,大眾擁有更多視聽娛樂的選擇,露天電影日漸式微,加上電影拍攝技術由膠捲走向數位,露天電影成為過去式,而膠捲電影更幾乎在現代銷聲匿跡。

現在台灣只剩中南部舉辦廟會活動時才會出現露天電影,一場電影放映必須出動2台動輒二、三十公斤的放映機,大大考驗放映師的體力。於是技術門檻低、方便輕巧、價格便宜的投影機,也在這波式微的浪潮裡取代放映機。加上放映機裡的零件大多都已無人生產,讓許多放映機逐漸退役成為骨董,淪為擺在博物館內供人欣賞結構與工藝技術的機器。

對高祥晴父子而言,無法放映的放映機就像失去了生命。如今擺在熊南人電影映像工作室外的放映機,是高家在1980年自國外購入,單是機頭就要價新台幣二十幾萬,來自日本與西德的技術人員製作的放映機,在高祥晴的維護保養下,仍在服役中。

原本設計用於戲院或機關學校室內以燈泡為光源的放映機,不適合作為露天播映。高家購入後,請來師傅將機身以翻砂技術製模,重新用生鐵打造,光源則改為碳精棒,搭配水銀製的反光鏡,以技術組合成這台適合露天放映的膠捲電影放映機。

 

十八般武藝的放映師

一部用膠捲拍攝的電影,平均約有4.5貫的膠捲底片,所以放映時必須同時準備2台放映機。一貫底片播完,要立刻切換至另一台放映機播放下一貫底片。許多人都以為放映電影的工作十分輕鬆,只要把膠捲底片放上,按個鈕,電影便能放映。但放映師必須隨時觀察銀幕畫面與機器運轉狀況。

例如以碳精棒為光源的放映機,是利用二條正負極的碳精棒,藉由電流通過時發出高達一千瓦的強光,隨著放映,碳精棒會越來越短,放映師必須不停觀察兩隻碳精棒之間的距離,若放任不管,光源會瞬間不足,使得影片中斷。又或者底片斷片,放映師就要立刻停止機器運轉,切換另一台放映機,不能任由光源聚積在同一張底片上,高溫會引發底片燃燒,甚至毀損機器。

露天膠捲電影的影片來源,是跟片商排片,一部片三天的租約將近新台幣十萬,多半是由幾位放映師合資,輪流放映承租的影片。隨著露天電影的放映從膠捲放映機轉換到數位投影機,放映價碼也從一場三到四萬,下滑至一場2,500元。市面上的膠捲電影越來越少,高祥晴索性將手邊的膠捲電影買下,宛如寶貝的收藏著。

一般而言電影在拍攝完畢後,會製成多版拷貝。正片會先製成A版拷貝,再由剪接師剪接成B版拷貝,音效師加上聲音特效成為C版拷貝,經過戲院首輪、二輪甚至三輪後,露天電影拿到的膠捲,大多已是F版拷貝的尾輪場,底片品質自然沒有首版好。所以更加考驗放映師維護底片與放映機的功力,每次放映結束,都要替每貫底片鋪上新的報紙,即使現在已不常放映膠捲電影,高祥晴仍會不時地檢視膠捲底片的品質。因為膠捲影片的稀少與珍貴,有人建議高璞元減少放映,但對他來說,放映時底片雖會拉扯磨損,但溫度能蒸散底片上頭的濕氣,而且只有放映中的膠捲影片,才能活出它存在的價值。

膠捲怕熱也怕水,尤其放映機馬達剛啟動的前5分鐘,瞬間摩擦力帶來的高溫,極度耗損底片,所以露天電影的放映師會在正片前剪接約五到十分鐘的片頭,類似現在戲院開演前的廣告或預告片,而片頭內容全由放映師決定。除了片頭,放映師也會在每貫底片後面剪接片尾,銀幕上一出現片尾畫面,就像暗號一樣,通知放映師該準備切換另一台放映機囉!

一場晚上六點開演的露天電影,放映師早上九點就必須開始準備,打包機器,整理底片,風塵僕僕來到活動場地,架設銀幕是第一步。如何用三條繩子牢牢支撐一根柱子,尋找適合的著力點,裝上布幕,還要考慮風阻與路燈等各種會影響放映品質的因素,搭建銀幕往往需要一小時,若遇到下雨,還要像搭帳棚一樣撐起帆布,以免放映機淋到雨,考驗放映師面對身處不同天候的應變能力。

 

編織膠捲電影甦醒計畫

近年廟會的露天電影改以投影機放映,膠捲電影幾乎銷聲匿跡,高璞元回到台南的第一件事,便希望舉辦膠捲電影放映活動。然而,機器的維護不易,零件缺少,加上去年一次颱風淹水和火災,倉庫裡上百部的膠捲受到毀損。面對種種考驗,高璞元仍不放棄,籌備一年,終於在今年1月,農曆春節正月初二到初四,在台南郡西路上工作室的前方,舉辦一連3天的露天膠捲電影放映活動。

屬於庶民的休閒,露天電影放映的多是以武打、喜劇或科幻片等,不太需要動腦,輕鬆有趣的影片。高璞元的放映活動,便挑選了《流氓狀元》、《逃學威龍2》、《少林寺十八銅人》、《神龜大戰飛天怪獸》等電影。原以為現在大眾已對放映機失去興趣的高祥晴,在高璞元的百般說服下,重新架起膠捲放映機,沒想到幾天下來竟吸引了上百人參加,場場爆滿。

即使機器的維護與膠捲電影的稀少,預現了露天膠捲電影的式微,但高璞元卻始終保留這帶有家族情感的文化記憶。不只積極尋找合作單位播放膠捲電影,也向文化部提出圓夢計畫,希望舉辦露天膠捲電影的全台巡迴播放,喚醒大家的回憶。更計畫邀請國內外電影工作者,徵件膠捲電影,甚至在眾人都轉做數位電影的時候,立下要將數位電影轉成膠捲的宏願。

面對逐漸沒落的露天電影,高祥晴也曾嘗試過其他副業,但在高璞元眼中,從事電影放映時,父親散發出的自信笑容,令他難忘。即使被眾人都說傻,父子倆仍堅持復甦膠捲電影,在放映機的答答聲裡持續散播露天電影的溫暖人情。

英文

Projectionist Gao Xiangqing: Conjuring the Magic of Open-Air Cinema

Chen Chun-fang /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Robert Green

Do you remember the excitement you felt as a kid when you helped set up seats in front of the local temple, brought along your own snacks, and leaned forward with anticipation waiting for the movie to start?

As the audiovisual entertainment industry expanded, open-air cinema was gradually squeezed out by movie theaters and cable TV. Although the golden days of outdoor movies are long gone, Gao Xiang­qing and his son Gao Pu­yuan have not forgotten the warm feeling of gathering together during screenings in their hometown of Tai­nan. To this day, they are preserving the traditions of open-air cinema and hoping to entice new generations to enjoy those magical memories from the 1970s.

 


The film projector’s sprockets whirr as it projects a movie at 36 frames per second. The projectionist must pay constant attention to the projector’s every movement and to the film feeding through it. The perfect screening is arrived at only through a delicate dance between projector and projectionist. 

An inheritance three generations on

Projectionist Gao Xiang­qing, born in 1964, began to help his father, Gao Jing­shan, at the age of 13, and has since accumulated four decades of experience as a projectionist. For a time in the 1970s, Gao Jing­shan was the chief technician at Tai­nan’s Chung­hua Theater, where he acted as projectionist and maintained the theater’s equipment. After pornographic films were shown at the ­theater, however, Gao Jing­shan was detained by the police and spent two weeks in jail. The experience prompted him to seek greater freedom as a projectionist by turning to open-air cinema. 

Gao Xiang­qing’s first step to becoming a projectionist was to study how his father rewound films after a showing. He watched intently as his father operated the rewinding machine, using his fingers as a buffer to control the rewinding speed and also to check the condition of the film. If he encountered damage or irregularities, he would stop and inspect it more closely before continuing with the process. While he checked the film with one hand, the other held a wooden guide that ensured rewinding at a uniform width. “When business was good, we had eight screenings a night, and to make sure that the film was ready, you can bet we had to rewind it quickly. If I did a bad job or worked too slowly, my dad would whack me with that wooden slat.” To this day Gao has not forgotten his father’s strictness.

At 16, Gao completed his apprenticeship and became a projectionist in his own right. Temples both large and small are common in southern Taiwan, and they hold temple fairs throughout the year. In the 1980s there was a craze for lottery-style gambling. Some who made money would host films outside temples to thank the gods for their luck, and at some temples a couple of movies would be showing at the same time. All by himself, Gao could manage two showings at once, and sometimes even operated four projectors without a hitch.

Just as his father had relied on film projection to support the family, Gao also recruited his wife and children into the projection business to help the family make a living. Today his son Gao Pu­yuan, born in 1990, has returned to Tai­nan to take up the projectionist’s craft. Pu­yuan also started to learn from his father at an early age. By second grade, he could already manage open-air films shown with a semiautomatic projector. 

After majoring in film and video studies in college, Gao Pu­yuan moved to Tai­pei, where he threw himself into various film and television projects. Unwilling to let the projectionist skills cultivated in the family be forgotten, Gao moved back to Tai­nan with his wife, who also worked in film production. Together they founded the Bear Men Film Studio in the hopes of resuscitating the dying art of open-air cinema.

Outdoor cinema’s golden age

In the past, open-air cinema was a popular entertainment at a time when people had little money and few options for amusement. On movie nights, temple courtyards filled up by 4 p.m. with residents awaiting the show. Sellers of marinated fruits and roasted eggs hawked their wares, and the atmosphere was as lively as a night market.    

In the ’90s cable TV arrived in Taiwan, and open-air cinema began to decline. And as digital filmmaking techniques replaced film, open-air cinema became almost a thing of the past. Outdoor screenings using traditional film nearly vanished altogether.

Today open-air screenings can be found only during temple fairs in central and southern Taiwan. Each traditional film screening required two projectors, some 20 or 30 kilograms in weight, and tested the skill and physical strength of the projectionist. During the decline of open-air projection, old-fashioned film projectors were increasingly replaced by digital projectors, which take less skill to operate and are lighter and cheaper.

The film projector that currently sits in the Bear Men Film Studio was purchased from abroad by the Gao family in 1980. The projection mechanism and lens alone cost more than NT$200,000. Under the loving care of Gao Xiang­qing, this projector manufactured by Japanese and West German technicians is still in service today.

After the Gao family purchased projectors originally intended for use in movie houses, they asked a craftsman to make a casting mold from the casing of the projector and reproduce it in cast iron. The light source was changed to a carbon arc lamp in conjunction with a mercury reflector. The result was a projector suitable for open-air film projection.

Masters of their art

Because a movie shot on traditional film requires on average 4.5 cans of film, screening them requires two projectors. When one reel spins out, the projectionist must immediately switch to another projector to show the next part of the film. Many people are under the impression that a projectionist’s job is pretty easy—just load the film and press a button. But a projectionist must constantly monitor the image appearing on the screen and keep an eye on the functioning of the projector. A carbon arc light projector, for example, uses two carbon rods, one positive and one negative. Up to a kilowatt of electricity courses between them to produce the lamp’s powerful light. As the movie is projected, the rods burn down, and the projectionist must constantly monitor the distance between them. If they are allowed to get out of adjustment, the light can suddenly fade and the film projection will be interrupted.

The films for open-air projections originate with film distribution companies. A three-day rental can cost as much as NT$100,000. In general, costs are shared among projectionists who then circulate the film between them. As open-air projections switched over from celluloid to digital, the price dropped from NT$30,000‡40,000 per showing to NT$2,500. Celluloid films are increasingly hard to find. Gao Xiang­qing opted to build a treasured collection that he purchased himself.

Both heat and water are destructive to film. The first five minutes of using a projector can be especially precarious. Outdoor projectionists will therefore splice on five or ten minutes of “snipes” (lead-in film), with content of their own choosing, at the beginning of a movie. Aside from the beginning of the film, projectionists also add “cue marks” to the final frames of a reel of film. They then monitor the screen, and when they see the marks appear, it acts as a signal for them to switch projectors.

Film reels restored

In recent years, film projectors have all but disappeared as people showing films at temple fairs have switched to digital projectors for their outdoor screenings. When Gao Pu­yuan returned to Tai­nan, the first thing he wanted to do was to hold a screening using traditional film projectors. But they are not easy to maintain since parts are in short supply. Moreover last year flooding caused by a typhoon, and then a fire, damaged the warehouse used to store their films, ruining over a hundred films. Despite the difficulties, Gao refused to give up. After a year’s preparations, a three-day open-air film festival was held in January.

As entertainment for common folk, open-air cinema often relies on light, escapist fare, such as kung-fu and science-fiction films. For his film festival, Gao Pu­yuan selected The Kung Fu Scholar (1993), The 18 Bronzemen (1975), and Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), among other films. Gao Xiang­qing had assumed that interest in watching movies rolling on the reels of old projectors had already vanished. But Pu­yuan won him over to the idea of bringing open-air cinema back to the public. He never imagined that in the end they would draw throngs of people and project films to overflowing audiences.

Gao Pu­yuan has since proposed an ambitious plan to the Ministry of Culture to gain support for an open-air film festival that would tour Taiwan. As part of the plan, he would like to invite film industry professionals from home and abroad and solicit films for screening. In this age of digital production, he would also like to fulfill his dream of converting digital productions to film.

Because of open-air cinema’s gradual decline, Gao Xiang­qing for a time tried his hand at another profession. But for Gao Pu­yuan, seeing his father’s confident smile while he works the projector is unforgettable. Even when people poked fun at their plans, father and son have persevered in reviving interest in movies shot on film and rekindling amid the whirring of the film projector the human warmth of open-air cinema.