It's a rare cinematic experience to go through the greater part of 104 minutes of screen time with just two actors constantly repeating certain lines from a play over and over again with only some slight variations in a house or whilst cycling on a narrow grit path upon an embankment close to the sea in an out of the way little seaside town in the south west of France without yawning from time to time. Yet that is exactly what happened last night when I saw Philippe Le Guay's Alceste a bicyclette. The two actors are Fabrice Luchini as Serge Tanneur and Lambert Wilson as Gauthier Valence. They were rehearsing the lines from what is thought to be one of Molière's greatest plays, Le Misanthrope ou l'Atrabilaire amoureux (the Misanthrope or the Cantankerous Lover) , a 17th-century comedy of manners in Alexandrines first performed on 4 June 1666 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, Paris by the King's Players. It's a play in which Molière was do his best to satirizes certain hypocritical practices and ideals of the French aristocrats but his criticisms actually may be extended to all humanity and not just the French nobility at the time. Different from other farces of the time, Molière characters there are much more rounded out, much more dynamic, more truly human and not just cardboard figures of fun as similar farces in the 17th century. Its principal character is without a doubt Alceste, a very complex character who holds on tenaciously to some very strict standards of honesty and hence harbors a horrendous hatred of what he considers the unacceptable conduct of the ordinary men and women around him, ie. practically everyone. That's why Molière entitles his play Le Misanthrope (or Misantropist). Yet in the play, despite his values, he loves the heroine Célimène, a playful and flirtatious girl who is courted by a number of other men including Alceste, Oronte, Acaste, and Clitandre.She is always talking behind people's back but is most careful about keeping up appearances. As a result of such complexity, there are endless academic debates as to how exactly the character of Alceste is to be interpreted: is he a hero or is he a fool or in a way another kind of hypocrite, a bit like Don Quixote. The foil to Alceste in the play is Philinte, a polite man who truly cares for Alceste but thinks that one should sometimes not tell others his true opinion for the sake of saving other's face. Who is right, who is wrong?
After the heavyweight "The Nun", it was a most welcome relief to be able to see my fourth French film in the film festival, David Moreau's "20 ans d'ecart "( literally "20 years difference") but subtitled "IT Boy" in English. It's a fast moving romantic comedy about how an uptight perfectionist just under 40 editor of a popular fashion magazine called Rebelle, Alice Lantins' ( Virgine Efira) life was completely transformed by a 19 year-old student Balthazar Apfel
My third film at the French Cinepanorama is La Religieuse (The Nun) based on an 18th century novel written by the French Encyclopedist Denis Diderot in about 1780 but not published until after his death in 1796. It's co-adapted for the screen by Jérôme Beaujour and the director Guillaume Nicloux.
It's a film about the fate of a nun called Susanne Simonon ( Pauline Etienne) whose letters of petition to his real father formed the backbone of the story. She was the youngest daughter of the Simonon family and was about to be sent to a convent when she turned 16 but she resisted with all the force of her will. She was told by her parents that they had little choice because the marriages of her two sisters Armelle and Lucie had exhausted her lawyer father's estate. To persuade her to drop her resistance, her mother (Martina Gedeck ) who loves her but could not resist the
insistence of her strong willed ostensible lawyer father, tells Susanne the darkest secret of her own life: Susanne was the fruit of "sin", ie. one night of love between her and her real father, the Marquis de Croismare and asks that Susanne goes to the
convent as her own act of contrition of her sin to God. Susanne, a sweet, naive and innocent girl who has got some real musical talent who really believes in God and especially in the need for complete honesty before God, reluctantly agrees. That is the start of a series of revelations of what really went on in two French convents.
Movies are musts for me. See, I'm a what they call a film buff. But not only are films exciting, boring, uplifting, depressing, titillating....(add to taste), the people who work so hard or so little to produce and to make us fork out our cash or plastic can be sources of fun too.
1. After a difficult day a
struggling actor returns to his neighborhood and is shocked to find a
cadre of police and fire trucks surrounding the smoldering remains of
his house. "What happened?", he asks. One of the officer's says, "Well, it seems that your agent came by your house earlier today and while he was here he attacked your wife, assaulted your children, beat your dog and burned your house to the ground." The actor is struck speechless, his jaw hanging open in disbelief... "My agent came to my house?"
It's the French Cinepanorama in Hong Kong. I saw my second film last night: L'amour est un crime parfait (2013) directed by the brothers Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu, originally written by Philippe Djian and adapted for the cinema by him and featuring Mathieu Amalric as Marc, Maïwenn as Anna, Karin Viard as Marianne. The original story was taken from Dijan's Incidences. Dijan already had a number of novels behind him like Bleu comme L'enfer (1986), 37.2 degré le matin (1986), Ne fais pas ça! (2004), Inpardonables (2011) and Krocodil (2013) some of which had already been adapted for films.
Trust the French on the know how of portraying how love can arise and how they can go away but always with its own peculiar twist. Just as people can love in different ways, so French directors will always have their own manner of saying the same thing but in a way which is entirely original and even the same director can do the same thing differently in different films. This is the thought that occurs to me at the end of the film Une Autre Vie of French director Emmanuel Mouret who writes, directs and frequently acts in his films, among them Change Of Address and The Art Of Love.
Mouret likes to portray love but in his latest offer, he does it with a sombre wist. A bit like Erich Rohmer, he is often obsessed with exploring moral dilemmas through his films. In this film, he treats that subject which had been done to death: adultery.
After Ohrid, it's another 178 Km before we'd arrive at our next destination, Skopje, located on the upper course of the Vardar River, on a major
north-south Balkan route between Belgrade and Athens. It is a center for
metal-processing, chemical, timber, textile, leather, and printing
industries. Industrial development of the city is matched by growth in trade, logistics, and banking as well as culture and sport. According to the last
official count from 2002, Skopje has a population of 506,926 inhabitants
but according to two unofficial estimates for more recent period, the
city has a population of 668,518 or 491,000 inhabitants. Seismic
movements have formed medium-sized mountains around the city. It's
bordered by Šar Mountains to the west, by the Jakupica chain to the
south, and by hills to the east that form the early Osogovo Mountains,
which are situated on the border between Macedonia and Bulgaria.
George Gershwin must be one of the most dearly beloved American jazz composers of all times. An emigrant from Russia to Brooklyn, he was little exposed to music until his father bought him a second-hand piano when he started to self-teach himself until he's sufficiently good to be hired as a pianist to play the latest releases by a musical publisher at age 15. He was very talented and instead of playing songs by others, soon started writing songs of his own and by 20 had a number of hits in his own name including the song Swanee, made famous by Al Jolson's.
Have been reading quite a lot of philosophy recently. The most recent being the kind with an extremely long name: " phenomenology". You may wonder what on earth that may be. I had the same thought at the beginning. In the course of doing do, I had to learn about all sorts of weird sounding words like phäinomen, noumen, noema, noematic, noesis, noetic, ontological, ontic, dasein, seinlessen, gelassenheit,eignetlich, geworfenheit, befindlichkeit, entschlossenheit, zielichkeit, verfallen, verhanden, hijdlichkeit etc.Quite enough to give you a headache. But there can certainly be other much more enjoyable neologisms like these ten which I found on the internet:
Our first sight of another little 3,500 year-old coastal town in Montenegro called Budva (Будва in Montenegrin and Serbian and Budua in Italian and Μπούντβα in Greek)
with some 18,000 locals living there, mostly Serbian with a smattering of Muslims and Croats. It forms part of the so-called "Budvanska
rivijera", famous for its sandy beaches, diverse nightlife, and
samples of Mediterranean architecture . It now has more than half a million
visitors a year but tourism also brought problems, mainly
shortage of water, electricity and parking spaces.
According to historians, some people were already living there in 5th
century BC.Legend has it that the town was founded by Cadmus the
Phoenician, a Thebean exile. A bone of contention between ancient
Greece and Rome, upon the fall of the Roman Empire which divided into Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire, Budva became the defensive barrier which separated the two powers. In the Middle Ages, Budva was reigned
by a succession of Doclean kings, as well as Serbian and Zetan
aristocrats.For close to 4 centuries, from 1420 to 1797, it was ruled by the Venetian Republic which
strengthened its fortifications against the Ottoman Turks and until
early 19th century the people there spoke Venetian.Then it was ruled
successively by Austria, France and Russia. In 1813-1814, Boka Kotorska
and Budva joined Montenegro in an alliance and thereafter until the end of WWI in
1918, it became part of the Austrian Empire after that part of
the Kingdom of Yugoslavia but it was annexed by the Kingdom of Italy in
1941 and upon being liberated from the Fascists at the end of 1944, it reverted to
Yugoslavia. It's now part of the newly independent Montenegro.But the
town was rocked by an earthquake on 15 April 1979 which devastated most of its
old buildings. It took them some 8 years to have them restored to
their original form. The Old Town, along with the city of Budva was said
to have been discovered by a Greek sailor by the name of Boutoua.
Eventually the Roman Empire took over the whole Montenegrin coast but since it was under Venetian rule for 4
centuries, much its architecture is Venetian in design but many doors,
hinges, windows, balconies and many other small but noticeable things remained Romaneque. The town has a
typical Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and mild winters, and
230 sunny days in a year. Budva is referred to by the locals as the
Montenegrin Kuwait, because of the number of resident millionaires
compared to its relatively small population: there are
approximately 500 millionaires in that town of around 22,000 people. Many
of the newly rich re-invested their money in real-estate, buying homes
in central Podgorica and Belgrade, which resulted in higher real-estate
prices in Podgorica and Belgrade.
After Belgrade, we had to go to another small town, Mostar the fifth largest city in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But we had lots of mountains and rivers to pass through.
It was quite cloudy. As we had a lot of distance to cover, we had to leave quite early. When it was time for our first rest stop, it was still quite early, the mist on the river had not yet dissipated.
I had a taste of Romanian song and dance last night at Shatin. When the show opened, we had a small group of musicians on the left of the stage: two violins ( one of which has only 3 strings, used not for playing melodies but only for complementing the rhythm of the main melodic line from the first violin and/or accordion) one viola (played surprisingly vertically, held upon its side between the chin and shoulder instead of upon the top left corner of the bat-like surface of its body!), one doublebass and an accordion and a male singer. They started playing a song full of minor notes. The the male voice sang in a deep voice with the kind of variation somewhat like the glissando on the violin. What struck me instantly was how like the flamenco jondo style of singing it was. It made sense, the flamenco style moved West with the gypsies from Northern India.Whatever the true reason might be, after the singer had sung his soul out, there was a complete switch of mood: it became gay and exciting as he was joined by a troupe of male dancers all dressed in colorful floral patterned shirt and black trousers the same way and some female singers/dancers each in her own colorful flowing dresses with emphasized hemlines and fluffy underdress which they would lift from time to time but all with two ribboned braids one on each side of their shoulders. It's as if after lamenting the sorrow of leaving their home thousands of miles away or some more recent misfortunes they've decided that there's enough of that sadness which is eating into their here and now and that they really must make a virtue of necessity and concentrate in making the most of their present and to find such ephemeral joy as they can the living present. I turned to the Programme Notes. That opening piece is called "Gelem, gelem--Gypsy Anthem", a song written by Zarko Novanovic which he himself calls "Opre Roma "("roma"" the Gypsy term for "human") , often used by gypsies in different countries as the anthem of the Roma. The song was written in 1949 after the Gypsies were massacred by the Nazis in the Porajmos (The Romani Holocaust in World War II) and was adopted as the anthem of the Gypsies everywhere in first World Romani Congress in 1971.
Snakes must be one of the most dangerous reptiles around. Perhaps that's why most people have an instinctive aversion to them and upon seeing them, most women would scream. And we got good reasons to react so. According to the Bible, it was a snake who got mankind into the kind of trouble the effects of which they are still suffering today .That's what I was thinking when I saw one whilst hiking to Mui Wo. But like other cases, there's more than one way of looking at snakes. 1 Two snakes are talking. The first one says 'Sidney, are we the
type of snakes who wrap ourselves around our prey and squeeze and crush
until they're dead? Or are we the type of snake who ambush our prey and
bite them and they are poisioned?'. Then the second Snake says "Why do
you ask?" The first one replies: "I just bit my lip!"
After the relatively difficult mountain trail to Tai Tung, perhaps I ought to introduce another much easier trail, also on Lantao Island. You can take the MTR to Tung Chung, get out from the shopping mall on to the road until you get to a Gas Station. You then take the narrow path to its right to go on to a paved path between the coast and the MTR tracks and stroll through it until you reach a tunnel which will take you to Pak Mong Village (白芒村). Then you go on to what's now called the Olympic Trail (it used to be called the Old Mui Wo Trail 梅窩古道), about 7 KM of nicely paved path with direction indication notices erected at the side of the trail wherever there are turnings. Just follow the path and it'll take you all the way to Mui Wo. Along the way, you'll pass through the now disused Silver Mine Cave and a short distance below it, a magnificent set of waterfalls.
Tai Tung Shan must be one of the highest mountains in Hong Kong. I first went there years and years ago. But it has never lost its fascination for me. So from time to time, I would pay it a revisit for a bit of exercise and to jog my memory of the happy times I spent with an old friend who used to roam the mountains and countryside of Hong Kong with me and who has since left for the country of the maple leaves. I really don't know when he'll be back and have a drink with me for old times sake. But one can't really live in the past. As the weather in October was cool and dry, I chose a steep path: from Tung Chung straight up the mid-mountain trail. I was in for a surprise.
Saturday nights for me always arrive with a certain expectancy and excitement. It's concert time. This Saturday was no exception. Two big names: Lorin Maazel ( earlier this year he played Mozart No.41 and Brahms No. 2 with CSO when it arrived in HK in January) and Richard Wagner. However, unlike other Saturday nights, the concert did not begin at the concert hall of the Cultural Centre but at its ground floor lobby. Yes, the lobby! There, 83 year-old Paris born American conductor, composer and violinist of Russian-Jewish origin conducted our first piece of the evening: Wagner's Siegfried Idyll. It was a very special piece of music for Wagner. It was written specially for Cosima, Wagner's second wife, in celebration of the birth of their son called Siegfried on 11th June 1869. Early on Christmas Day morning in 1869, Wagner arranged for a small band to appear on the staircase outside Cosima's bedroom at their home by Lake Lucerne and played this piece of music. It was Comisa's birthday. We had a dozen of choice musicians from the HKPO to do the same for us at the staircase of the hall's lobby. It was a unique and most intimate experience to be able to listen to that piece of music not 10 feet away from the conductor. Almost all the themes of this short piece came from Wagner's opera of the same name. It's first theme came from Act III of that opera about Brünhilde's awakening and its second came from Brünhilde's slumber in Die Walküre whilst a third came from a German folksong Schlaf, mien Kind.(Sleep, my baby)
Since picking up the camera a couple of years ago, I'm beginning to get a little the hang of things. Whatever the results may be, taking photographs is fun. But that may not be the only kind. We may have not only the fun "of "photography but also fun "about" those who engage in it. What do I mean?
It's a blessing to learn to play the violin. It may be an even greater blessing to listen to the performance of a truly great violinist which makes one feel that when one finally decided not to going on playing any more, one probably had made the right decision. That's how I felt last night at the Cultural Centre when I listened to the play of Kyung-Wha Chung.