Huang Bo: A plain actor with overrated skills

By Zhang Xi (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-20 17:52
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Huang Bo: A plain actor with overrated skills

Huang Bo (central) with former winners of the best leading actor prize at Golden Horse.

Surrounded by flowers, cameras and entertainment reporters, mainland-famous actor Huang Bo has made his name well known in Hong Kong and Taiwan. He won the best leading actor prize, the Taiwan Golden Horse Award, in 2009 for his role as a farmer in the movie Cow. In fact, it took only three years to catapult him to stardom.

How did a short, plain-looking guy who played a clown-like role in low-budget films win such a prestigious award? Is it because the judges of film festivals have aesthetic fatigue, so they chose an “ugly” man instead of a handsome guy to win the “golden horse”?

It’s understandable, since judges and cinemagoers have begun to tire of “big” movies and stars. It has been almost 10 years since the first big-budget film Hero was produced in 2003. Now audiences can see blockbusters every year that attract audiences with their A-list stars and splendid scenes.

When people wanted to see new faces, they discovered Huang Bo in 2006. That’s the year he played a stupid criminal in China’s so-called “first” black comedy film. At that time, the 32-year-old was not a known name in the movie industry.

He always played little figures at the bottom of the society in films likeCrazy Stonein 2006 and Cow in 2009. The roles in these movies were those of dirty-faced stupid men speaking in dialect to attract a laugh. His films were not meant to provoke audiences to engage in deep thinking, but simply to jeer at the characters’ bad luck. Audiences could tell themselves, ‘Oh, I’m luckier than this poor guy.’ But when they walked out of the theater, did they also ask themselves, ‘What did I just watch? Am I as stupid as the character Huang played for laughing at the simple story and his performance?’

It doesn’t mean that films about minor figures must be foolish or full of bad luck. The Oscar-winning movie Forrest Gumpis a great one, for it makes audience think deeply about humanity. It is a tonic for the weary of spirit. For those who feel that being set adrift in a season of action movies is like wandering into a desert, movies like this are an oasis. Can Huang and his movies provoke audience like this? Definitely no.

Comedic actor Charlie Chaplin won the hearts of audiences with his great sense of humor and slapstick comedy skills. He created many grand and inspired moments in movies. His films are real black comedies, versus Huang’s movies that are only about crimes and dark sides.

Huang, don’t believe audiences are foolish enough to continue to accept your farces and acting skills. You always repeat yourself in movies. Your fortune will not last long if you continue to perform the same roles, and your plain appearance will not be an advantage forever. People will begin appreciating handsome actors in leading roles again.

If the Chinese film industry needs this kind of “black comedy” to win audiences, then it is the tragedy of our industry and Chinese movie audiences. To watch comedies or to make tragedies? It’s time to decide.