Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Chairman - Gregory Peck (1969) - Zhinan Temple, Taipei

Another of the fruits of my trip to Taiwan earlier in the summer was to visit Zhinan Temple. It's the location used in The Chairman as the venue where Peck's character meets Mao face to face.

These days, despite being a fair way up a mountain, it's easy to reach courtesy of the MRT system and the Maokong Gondola near Taipei Zoo. Back in 1969 when this film was made I imagine the logistics involved in transporting two actors (Gregory Peck and Ric Young) as well as a bunch of extras and camera equipment was a little bit more challenging. Even though there are roads, it's still a fairly arduous trip. I went here twice (took the missus the second time) and walked back to the zoo on the first trip but opted for the speedy minibus the second time. They're both worth doing if you get the chance.

Anyway, the temple is actually split over several adjacent sites and we get to see two of them on film. The first part is as Peck & co approach some semi circular steps that lead up to a rather impressive Pai Fong (ceremonial archway). I'm having a bit of trouble identifying the proper name for this area but it appears that it might be the oldest part of the complex and is called Chunyang Temple.

There has definitely been some extensive remodeling since the film was made. The top photo (below) shows the entrance from the terraced garden (it's quite steep) that Peck and Young walk up at the beginning of the scene. If you compare with the top screen image you can see the same low wall in the background. The remodeling is quite obvious when you compare the next image. It shows a part of the podium that juts out and how the concrete wall has been changed. However, the most obvious change is the complete reconstruction of the archway at the top of the steps. The original, seen on film, was much more intricate and ornate whereas the current one just looks like poured concrete with a nice roof.

In the next part of the sequence we catch a brief glimpse of Peck walking along underneath some sort of covering. This is actually what is referred to on wiki as the Long Corridor. It looks as though this was an architectural feature of the Summer palace in Beijing and its style has been replicated here. I can confirm it is still there and covers the pathway that leads us up to the main site seen on film - Ling Xiao Temple - which can be seen in the third image below.

There is a pathway that leads up the side of the corridor (you can see it in picture #2 below) and this was most likely where the camera was positioned. I think the archway you can see in the second image above is the same one that's still there. Sadly, the temple building itself was undergoing some major renovations whilst I was there and was covered in scaffolding, so my attempt to replicate the same angle from the film doesn't quite have the impact I was hoping for. However, you can see it's the same place.

The final part of this on-location sequence sees Young and Peck walking up the front steps and onto the podium/terrace before entering the temple through a side door. Once again, my pics are a bit of a let down due to the scaffolding, but you get the general idea. What I did notice though is that a structure has been built on the left side which means the films camera angle would be blocked today.

If I get the chance next year, I shall try and return to get some scaffolding free images (assuming it will be gone by then). Also note the new addition to the front of the temple, and on the left of the third photo you can see the structure that blocks the film's old camera angle. The doorway is still there though (last image).

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