Chen Chuan-xing, 2011, Taiwan, 160 min
Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles, PG
“I Choose not to Choose,” Zhou Meng-die
A legendary character in the Taiwan literary scene, Zhou moved to Taiwan with the Nationalist army in 1949, leaving his family in Mainland China. For years he led a life of hardship and ran a street stall in Taipei selling books in front of the Astoria Cafe, which became an important cultural icon in the 1960s and 1970s. Deeply influenced by Buddhism, his poems are full of references to Chinese classic literature and Zen, charming and graceful.
By following the daily life of the 90-year-old practitioner in this bustling world, this documentary tries to reveal his legendary life, his seclusion, unworldly personality and his philosophical thoughts. He leads a life not unlike the ancient hermits. In the contemporary world, such insistence adds a mystical hue to his already intriguing life and work. This film attempts to shorten the distance between the poet and his readers and bring his daily life and the affectionate aspect of him to the foreground. His friends, admirers and relevant historical materials would help us to see him through a visual perspective and to enter the poet’s world through a different angle.
童年失怙，沉默、内向。熟读古典诗词及四书五经，因战乱，中途辍学。1948 年加入青年军，随蒋介石军队来台，并遗有发妻和二子一女在家乡。1959 年起在台北市武昌街明星咖啡厅门口摆书摊，专卖诗集和文哲图书，并出版生平第一本诗集《孤独国》。1962 年开始礼佛习禅，终日默坐繁华街头，成为台北「风景」，文坛「传奇」。其国学底蕴丰厚，诗中喜爱用典，深受佛经影响，引禅意入诗，诗风韵致缠绵。
以「人间修行者」的角度切入，揭开90岁高龄诗人 – 周梦蝶的传奇故事，除了诗人在诗艺上的复杂精妙外，诗人的人生故事、诗人的孤高气节、诗人的思想、诗人的纯粹与「今之古人」的独特，在在都凭添诗人的传奇性与神秘感。
Chen Chuan-xing has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Ecole des Haute Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France. He is currently an Associate Professor at the National Tsing-Hua University, Taiwan. His research interests include art theory, psychoanalysis, film, and theatre, and he specialises in the analysis of visuals and images.
From the owner of a bookstall with sluggish business to an ascetic monk of the poetic world, Zhou Meng-die has been surrounded by a halo of myths and legends.
He is indeed a one-of-a-kind poet in Taiwanese modern literature, a unique cultural landscape in metropolitan Taipei.
In addition to the Buddhist hymns and the allusions to Buddhist scriptures throughout his works, the poet himself is a practicing Buddhist, and this shows up clearly in his work. And just as Zhou writes in his poem, “I Choose” (2004), “I choose to read his books and recite his poems, but I choose not to know him.”