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2014年12月25日 星期四

Clear Water Bay Peninula (清水灣半島)

The Clear Water Bay Peninsula must be one of the most beautiful places in Hong Kong. When the weather is good, it'll be unforgivable if we don't spend some time there. It's quite accessible even by public transport. One takes the MTR and get off at Diamond Hill and then take the No. 91 bus and go right to the terminus, then walk about 5 to 10 minutes to the starting point of the path which leads uphill and just follow the trail until one reaches the middle of the footpath leading to the Tin Hau Temple (the "Big Temple) just another 10 minutes walk away, quite close to the entrance to the Clear Water Bay Country Club. This is exactly what I did.


Not more than 10 minutes up the path, and we can already have a beautiful view of the sea.

2014年12月24日 星期三

Tung Lung Chau in Winter (冬日的東龍洲)

If some one were to ask me of the 263 islands in Hong Kong, which is my favourite outlying island, it's got to be Tung Lung Chau (東龍洲 ) (literally "East Dragon Island) or Nam Tong Island (南堂島) (literally, the "Southern Hall Island) although the locals call it simply Tung Lung To (東龍島). Why? It's got some of the most magnificent cliffs in Hong Kong and the tall waves there can't be found anywhere else in Hong Kong. I can never have enough of them., each time I go there.


Since January 2014, there were no longer any scheduled ferry services to the island as the old operator Lam Kee had decided that it was no longer economically feasible to continue. But I learned from the very friendly Mr Chan, one of the two partners of boatpeople.com.hk who collected the fare of HK$65 for the return trip from me that he had just re-started the service in October this year, buying back the boat he previously sold to Lam Kee. He said that to make it financially viable, he has switched to just providing services to and from the island from Sai Wan Ho on weekends but otherwise only by special appointment for various groups for fishing or tours by telephone or email. For those interested, his telephone no. is 2337 6568 and his email is info@boatpeople.com.hk.but I emphasize that I am not in any way connected to his company at all. 


I was lucky. It was really sunny on Sunday. The color of the water was the clearest emerald I ever saw on the island. 

2014年12月23日 星期二

Cheung Chau in Winter (冬日的長洲)

Hong Kong may not be the best city in the world to live in. Our urban areas are severely overcrowded. But for the same reason, we can afford a fast and efficient mass transit system and have no trouble getting to a shop or a restaurant within 5 to 10 minutes from where we live or work. We also got a government which is determined to let us have freedom to trade, freedom to do business, freedom to speculate, freedom to move in and out of the territory, freedom to worship, freedom to speak and write but unfortunately no freedom to elect our Chief Executive ("CE") and must indirectly choose our CE through a narrowly screened "electoral committee" from a list of  two or three candidates approved by Beijing. Fortunately, we still got a relatively robust and independent judiciary as yet free from meddling by the executive branch of our government. But we do have some compensations given to us by Nature in the form of our outlying islands with many relatively well maintained country trails which are easily accessible through our ferry services.


It's always a joy to ride on one of the fast or slow boats to Cheung Chau, a small outlying island shaped like a pair of dumb bells, a kind of island called a "tombolo", formed by two former tinier  islands  joined together in the middle by a sand bank.


We can have an unrestricted view of our beautiful harbor.


Once we're ashore, we got lots of choices of "tai pai tongs" (cooked food stalls) for having  rice porridge with all sorts of yummy ingredients: fish belly, pork slices, pork balls, beef slices, beef balls, pigs liver slices, cuttefish strips, served piping hot with rolled up rice noodles (popularly known as "pig intestine" noodles) in lard, soya sauce, sweet bean paste or chilli paste or sesame paste or sprinkled with a light cover of fried sesame seeds, with or without deep fried crispy rolls (commonly called "fried foreign devils"), saltish deep fried doughnut( popularly known as "salty fried cake"), or a bigger deep fried double-roll doughnut (popularly called "ox-tongue cake") or deep fried sweet glutinous rice paste cake liberally covered with sesame (aka "fried lump") .


stalls selling refrigerated desserts.


There are all sorts of small cafe-restaurants with very original and personalized decorations, like this tiny coffee shop.


Close by the shore are moored all sorts of fishing boats and shrimp trawlers


For getting ashore, the fishermen rely on these smaller wooden sampans called by the colorful name of "mellon peel boats", some of which are now built or covered over with a layer of fibre-glass.


Many locals love to plant flowers outside their homes  


Because of they got unrestricted access to the sun, the flowers love this island.


The fishermen are frugal and resourceful people. They never waste anything. They recycle used planks, foams and old fish nets for building such improvised rafts.


This is the path leading to the famous pirate's enclave called "Cheung Po Chai  Cave" at one end of the island


Not far from the Cheung Po Chai Cave is a tiny cove


Opposite to the cove is the time-sharing holiday home site of "Sea Ranch" on Lantao Island


Another view of the cove looking out on the open sea.


Part of the shore is sheltered by a ring of sub-tropical bushes


Approaching the cove


The deserted beach is already visible. 


The beach is so clean and its water so clear


This is the path from the Cheung Po Chai Cave leading to the beach


 I can never have enough of looking at leaves. I adore their vibrant color.


More leaves


The way back to the pier, signaling the end of a few hours' respite from the assaults upon my eardrums by the non-stop cacophony of people talking loudly in the streets, in the restaurants, in public transport, the blare from their radios, the loud noises blurting out from  a pair of low-grade speaker playing sales puff or what the store owners thought was "music" from cheap all-in-one box set CD, digital recorder and amplifiers with boosted-up basses, or the annoying ringing tones from passers-by's mobiles, the honking of impatient drivers, the rumbling of passing trains, the dull whir of the motors running or the tiny hollow sounding explosions as they accelerate, the heavy thumping of never-ending piling work, the screeches of winches which hadn't been properly oiled as loads are lifted ....instead of the soothing sound of the waves washing the shores. 




2014年12月22日 星期一

Peng Chau in Winter (冬日的坪洲)

Peng Chau has always had a special meaning for me. It was the birthplace of one of my best friends who shared an important part of my life in a foreign land, who first initiated me into the art of the silver screen and who later went on to become the guardian of what we may see and may not see on the public cinemas of Hong Kong. It's also the site of the biggest manufacturer in Hong kong of a most convenient form of having instant fire which no cigarette smokers and no family could do without in the 1950s and 1960s if they didn't want to go without the joy of blowing smoke rings or even just simply having their breakfast, lunch or dinner, an economic activity which played a crucial part in providing bread and butter for my family. But nowadays, it has become one of the few places left in Hong Kong where I can still  enjoy a leisurely walk without fear of being run over by a speeding car, van or lorry and to smell the salty smell of the sea.


a view of the bridge linking Tsing Yi and Lantao Island from the Peng Chau Island Trail

2014年12月20日 星期六

Fault of Jingle Bells? (聖誕鐘之過?)

The four powerful descending notes of Tschaikovky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat, first composed in 1875 and later twice revised in 1890 and 1893 have now almost become the "trademark" theme associated with the composer's name in more or less the same way that the two 4 hammer notes of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 are associated with the latter's name. Yet it wasn't always so. It was rejected by Arthur Rubinstein, normally quite receptive to new ideas, as "unplayable" when Tchaikovsky first played it to him.  Well, times have changed. The tempo, the keyboard pyrotechnics and the power required from the soloist proved a piece of cake for Lang Lang at the Cultural Centre last night. I had been looking forward to this concert for a long time. Lang Lang delivered a Tchaikovsky full of testosterone but his ocytocin somehow seemed to have made a mysterious exit from the music. The first movement is solemn, powerful, heroic and full of joy. At places, it sounded last night more like a symphony than a concerto. However, I am a bit disappointed at the second movement, which ought to have been played with a great deal more tenderness and delicate feelings to reflect its rather softer and easier pastoral-like mood but turned out to be nothing of the sort. It sounded empty and soul-less, mere notes. All he managed is to display is the element of mischievous child-like hopping about. The final movement was much better, full of brightness, life and energy but Lang Lang played at what appears a break-neck speed towards the end, giving the movement an urgency which seemed to me to be a bit too excessive. Was he in a hurry to go to a Christmas party in America or China or for another scheduled performance?  Lang Lang could certainly have done better as shown in the video which follows. But last night, his heart seemed anywhere else but in the music itself. As to where, heaven knows !




The only only other piece of music last night was Tchaikovsky's Syphony No. 4, in F minor, Op 36, a symphony which rarely made it to the concert halls of Hong Kong. This is a symphony written during a period in the life of the composer in which he underwent some rather turbulent emotions, having just been most unhappily married. Some say that it portrays the very intensive struggles he experienced in his life at that time. We hear lots and lots of conflict in the music, especially his strive against fate. It's full of bombast and strain, which suits quite well Van Zweden's energetic conducting style. Sometimes, I imagine that Van Zweden is trying to be another Carlos Kleiber. Whether or not that is so, his first movement is quite dramatic. We hear Tchaikovsky's bitter superhuman struggle against loneliness. The second movement is much more relaxed and is said to portray the memories of his youth and his dreams. The third movement, in the form of a Scherzo, is where his imagination could run freely to whither it fancied. I like in particular the fun-like pizzicato plucking by the strings at the first half of this movement, something which is most delightful. In the final movement, with elements of the sonata and its variations, Tchaikovsky seemed to have found joy in the tradition of the Russian people in combatting the dark struggle of the first movement. Its festive mood is most evident in the huge variety of sound and its fiery tempo. But for this piece I would have left the concert hall a most disgruntled man.

2014年12月19日 星期五

Kis ukusu (Winter Sleep) (冬日甦醒)

Long films can often be a drag. Social psychologists tell us that a human being's full attention span can seldom last more than 40 minutes, an observation connected with the capacity of the human memory. That's why usually  classes in high school seldom last more than that length of time whilst at college level, classes may increase to about an hour or so. And perhaps for that reason too, feature films usually run from between 90 to 110 minutes, the last often considered to the upper limit. A film of 196 minutes without any breaks? Yes, that's what Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan managed to do with his latest feature "Kis ukusu" ("Winter Sleep")( 冬日甦醒 ) which he co-wrote with his wife Ebru Ceylan. It speaks volumes about his skill as a director if he manages to do so without boring us. This is exactly what he did!

According to internet sources, Nuri Bilge and Ebru were inspired to do the film by some of the stories of that great 19th century Russian dramatist and short story writer called Anton Chekhov, one of my favourite authors and a true master of those genres. But I can't figure out which of the stories the Ceylans relied on. Perhaps it might not be a bad idea at all if I were to give myself an excellent pretext to re-read some of Chekhov's stories, which are always such a joy to read. I still remember one of the things Chekhov said about the use of words and stage props: each one of them must serve a purpose and if an author can't think of any good reason why it should be there, it should be cut out! Hence the remarkable economy of his short stories and his drama. Even if one can't find which of the stories the Ceylans picked on, it is obvious that they've adopted a most Chekhovian style in their film: everything of significance is skilfully revealed by what the characters say to one another and by their action in the apparently most trivial and banal details of everyday living, where nothing much happens. 

2014年12月14日 星期日

Visionary Sounds : Zimmermann & Van Zweden

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) and Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) are very different composers. They are alike only in that neither can be classified as West European: Sibelius is a Finn and Prokofiev is Russian and that both wrote "serious" 20th century orchestral music. Yet we encountered both of them in a single night under Van Zweden.

Sibelius loves the countryside of his native Finland, its bleak,bare and austere mountains, populated by little more than tall firs and pines rising against its dark rocks and the rugged silhouettes of its craggy hills, steep precipices plunging abruptly into the freezing waters of its fjords, the huge waves crashing upon its rocky shores, the thick cover of snow upon the roofs and roads and tree tops, the arrival and departure of its seasonal birds, the explosion of wild flowers in its brief summers, the vast expanses of its grey skies in its long winters, often ravaged by unpredictable blizzards and snow storms amidst spine chilling gusts and the heroic struggles of its people to survive and thrive under such harsh conditions. Often we get glimpses of such in his music, even in his Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op 47 where the violin strives to express the feeling of that grim persistence of the Finnish soul in its heroic efforts to transcend its environment. I don't know why. Our guest solo violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann somehow failed to fully express that kind of quiet, heroic struggle lurking beneath the surface through the bowing upon the violin strings which I feel should be there, thus turning the violin concerto into a rather bland and almost tensionless piece of music. I came with a great deal of expectation. I came away a bit disappointed. Is it time lag or other factors affecting the artist?




The only other piece of music that Saturday night was Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 in B flat Opus 100. This was another piece of music intended by the composer to express the glory of the "free and happy Man". It's a "hymn to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit" and in that sense rather like Sibelius' music but in this case, the forces that Russian spirit had to contend with was no longer the forces of nature but the military might of the Germans during the closing stages of WWII in 1944, when the Russians were fighting hard against Hitler's armies in East Europe and also their motherland The symphony is supposed to portray the struggling human spirit in the first movement, the horrors of war in the second movement,the tragic victory of Russia paid in the currency of untold human suffering and deaths in the third movement and then the sudden change of mood in the fourth movement when the music finally burst into joy, punctuated by memories of the horrors it just underwent. It was magnificently played. Just Van Zweden's type of music!



2014年12月13日 星期六

La Belle Vie (The Good Life) (美好生活)

La Belle Vie ("The Good Life") (美好生活) (2013), the first feature film by new French director Jean Denizot has a most unusual story. It's inspired by case of a real life "kidnap" of his two sons by Xavier Fortin, after he lost a custody battle with his wife. He was eventually arrested in the Pyrenées by the French authorities 2009. What's most unusual is that for some 11 years, Fortin was able to lead the life of a fugitive in the French countryside with his two sons who did not receive any formal education and yet seem in every way quite normal and decent.

In this debut film, we see two kids 16-year-old Syvain( Zacharie Chasseriaud) and 18 year-old Pierre (Jules Pélissier) leading a life of a goat sherd in the beautiful French countryside having such fun as they could swimming under a waterfall, running around and otherwise leading what could be described as an "idyllic life" and working as farm hands under false names when they got the chance but under constant fear of being arrested and having to hide from a countrywide search for them.

2014年12月12日 星期五

Le Dernier Diamant (The Last Diamond) (終極鑽石)

I have seen many stories of love, stories of various kinds of marginal people, stories of politics and a murder but never any traditional crime stories. So it's a welcome change to get a hour of so of pure suspense from an action packed film "Le dernier Diamant" (The last diamond)(終極鑽石) by Eric Barbier ("Le brasier" 1991, "Le serpent " 2006).

The plot looks simple, while on parole from jail, the burglar Simon (Yvan Attal) meets his buddy Albert (Jean-François Stéverin) who tells him of his plot to steal the "Florentin" (one of the biggest diamonds in the world which got missing mysteriously during WWII, a diamond said to be accompanied by a curse because it always brought bad luck to its owner but which is now estimated at least 40M Euros) when it's due to be auctioned at Antwerp by Julia (Bérénice Bejo), as arranged by her recently widowed father. The carefully worked out plot was executed almost perfectly, just as planned with its plan A and plan B. But there's a twist. Whilst the burglars are celebrating on a yacht, all of Simon's gang got killed by two of their Russian co-partners in the burglary but Simon and Albert escaped. With the help of Julia, to whom Simon showed some clear evidence of implications of his father with a shady foreign diplomat involved in previous jewellery thefts, they try to get the Florentin back by switching a near perfect replica of the real diamond with the original when the original is due to be exchanged for money(Julia's father having obtained possession of it by robbing Simon's gang through their Russian burglary partners in the yacht) to the real buyer, a Russian. In the end, with some hiccups, the real diamond is recovered and Julia got her man.

2014年12月11日 星期四

Les Combattants (Love at First Fight)(初戀戰士)

There are all sorts of films of adolescent romance around. But I have yet to see one which begins in the most unlikely situation there can be: a fight to qualify for a free army boot camp organized by the French army to interest young French boys and girls to enlist.

Thomas Cailley's (Paris Shanghai 2011 and Baba Noël 2012) the low key romance of "Les Combattants" really starts in that impossible situation.  We see Arnaud Labrède ( Kévin Azaïs) refusing to fight with his opponent, a girl Madeleine Beaulieu (Adèle Haenel ) because he thought it too insulting. But he doesn't know at all what he would be getting: a girl who has always wanted to become a soldier so that she would be able to learn all the survival skills she needs and be prepared to face the end of the world which she thinks might come any minute and who for such purposes has been incessantly training up herself physically by a punishing regime of food intake, training by running, and swimming and weight bearing. He is obviously no match for the girl until in the grid lock hold down in which he is overpowered, he snatches a last minute victory by biting her ear! The girl hates him. The effects of such an affront to her ego lasts for quite a while so she continues to ignore Arnaud until both of them are accepted for that boot camp.

Arnaud is actually a teenager whose father, a carpenter, just died and he's in the middle of a a summer vacation having no plans in particular except to help learn the family business now run by his elder brother who doubles up as a landscape carpenter. He's therefore most surprised to see Madeleine again swimming in the garden where her parents had ordered a wooden cabin to be built beside the pool. So engrossed was Madeleine with her daily training that she forgot the last date for enrolling for the army boot camp. When Arnaud learned about that, he offered to take her on his motor bike to the registration booth in the next town, an offer she instantly accepted. As he was there, Arnaud thought that he would join too since he could always opt out without having to pay for any fine as he too was mildly interested in the idea of learning some useful skills like learning how to drive a truck etc. whilst Madeleine. a wealthy college student with a degree in economics and an environmentalist, wanted to learn telecommunications. Then the two went through a course in survival training during which unexpectedly a huge forest fire broke out and wiped out an entire town and in which Arnaud had to carry her to safety for an immense distance as Madeleine got sick and fainted. When he found that help in the form of the headlights of a search vehicle in the smoke filled street, he collapsed. After they recovered in hospital, we see them side by side.

The cinematography was excellent. So were the acting of the Kévin Azaïs as the shy, plain bu caring young boy Arnaud and Adèle Haenel as the cool, strong minded and tom boyish aspiring woman soldier Madeleine who finally succumbed to the caring but unarticutive charms of Arnaud.. The chemistry somehow got right, despite differences of age, educational and social background. But is not human history full of examples of how love can bloom in the most unlikely places!



2014年12月10日 星期三

Gemma Bovary (新包法利夫人)

It's difficult to imagine  anyone who has ever studied European literature not having heard of the 19th century realistic novel "Madame Bovary" by the famous French novelist Gustave Flaubert, known for his fastidiousness in choosing the right word for his ironic narrative about the tragedy of his "romantic" heroine, Emma Roault, fed on a diet of dime novels favored by teenagers and bored suburban housewives, who out of unbearable "ennui" and boredom with the monotony of uneventful rural life as the wife of a good natured but dull, doting and clumsy husband who manages barely to eke out a decent living as a second rate run-of-the -mill medical practitioner, takes as her lover first a law student who appears to appreciate the finer things in life, Léon Depuis, and after he leaves her, a rakish Rodolphe Boulanger who set out deliberately to seduce and then abandon her. When she got into heavier and heavier debts behind her dumb-witted husband's back because of her taste for luxury items well beyond her means and was pressed for payment, she committed suicide by swallowing arsenic after her desperate appeal to Léon and Rodolphe for help met with indifference. The novel has already been made into a film first by Vincente Minnelli in 1949, then by Claude Chabrol in 1991 and finally in 2000 by Tim Flywell. So I was most curious what the new woman director Anne Fontaine could do with the story for the fourth time under the now slightly altered name "Gemma Bovary"(2014). Before the film, I thought that if I were the director I would probably make a "spoof" of that story which had been done to death. I wasn't far wrong.

When the film opens, we see a man Charles Bovery (Jason Flemyng) burning stuffs belonging to his wife in his garden, amongst which was his wife's diary which he told his curious next door neighbor Martin Jourbet (Fabrice Luchini) saying that he had not the heart to read it.  A telephone sounded and Charles took the call inside his house. Martin took the chance to pick up the diary and surreptiously hid it under his windbreaker and then left as if nothing had happened. In the comfort of his study, he started reading.

2014年12月9日 星期二

Dans la Cour (In the Courtyard) (盡在庭院中)

According to certain studies, some 300,000 people are suffering from a most debilitating psychological but seldom recognized or admitted disorder in Hong Kong with only a quarter of them seeking treatment. That disorder is depression (the "blues"), a kind of emotional state in which one feels inextricably irritable or sad, hollow, apathetic, lethargic and life appears meaningless, hopeless and one suffers from restless and sleepless nights, loses appetite, has unexplained headaches or other body pains, has no will to budge, can't remember things, can't concentrate on one's study or one's work or control one's thoughts and perhaps as a result thereof feels trapped, helpless, worthless or guilty or one starts drinking or taking drugs and becomes subject to unnameable fears and becomes reluctant to bestir oneself from one's bed or refuses to leave one's room or one's house and see others or to talk to them or otherwise to go out and do the kind of things which one previously take great delight in including sex or one's favorite hobbies. In a serious case, one may even begin to have suicidal thoughts. Some describe this condition as “living in a black hole” or in a devotional and mystical context, one calls it "the dark night of the soul" or simply "spiritual dryness".

But depression seems an endemic disorder, not just confined to modern day Hong Kong. In the film "Dans La cour", Pierre Salvadori (who studied film and drama at the Sorbonne, had made 10 films, mostly comedies) portrays the new life as a concierge by an ex-musician Antoine Le Garrec (Gustave Kervern) who had had enough of life. All the action takes place in the courtyard of an old fashioned Parisian mansion. There he meets all kinds of people with problems of their own: a fastidious man living on the third floor who always complains about other tenants/owners' placing things in the courtyard, noises at night etc, an ex-footballer who received a leg injury whose insurance company bought the apartment he's now living in and who is now obsessed with the idea of making some money by selling repaired second-hand bicycles but whose stock keep accumulating because he never made any sales, a semi-retarded gentle giant of a man with a huge dog who is hooked on a minor Indian cult advocating the angel of light and who had no place to stay and begged to be allowed to stay in the storeroom on the cellar and finally Matilde (Catherine Deneuve), the recently retired lady in her 50's who is now doing some voluntary counseling work who for some reasons has become paranoiac about certain harmless cracks in the building in which she and her husband are the managers and who chose Antoine for the vacant post of concierge cum handyman although he did not have any qualifications for the job simply because, as she told her husband, she got an "intuition" that he was the right man for that post.

Les gens du Monde (Inside the News)(世界日報的報人)

Le Monde (literally "The World") is one of the most respected daily newspapers in France (the other being Le Figaro) having immense influence in one of the most important countries in Western Europe. Founded in 1944 by Hubert Beuve-Méry at the suggestion of Charles de Gaulle  but on condition of complete editorial independence, this daily with a circulation of more than 300,000 per day worldwide and available on the internet since the end of1995, its tenured journalists all have a financial stake in the newspapers and elect its editors and managers on a collective basis. But we seldom have any chance of how it's actually run. But thanks to Yves Jeuland, we now have a chance to see it in action. In "Les gens du Monde" (The people at "Le Monde") we're shown how the journalists of its politics pages worked during closing stages of the French Presidential elections in 2012 in which the socialist François Hollande ran against the then incumbent Gaullist President Nicolas Sarkozy (President 2007-1012).

What helps to make the film credible is that all the important political journalists, editors, managing editor play themselves including Didier Pourquery, Abel Mestre,Thomas Wieder, Raphaëlle Bacqué, Ariane Chemin (one of the oldest), Arnaud Leparmentier, Caroline Monnot,David Revault d'Allonnes, Florence Aubenas, Patrick Roger, Serge Michel, Sylvia Zappi, Luc Bronner, Aline Leclerc,Patrick Jarreau, Cécile Prieur, Gérard Courtois, Nabil Wakim, Nathaniel Herzberg, Josyane Savigneau,Erik Izraelewicz, Jean Plantu. etc.

2014年12月8日 星期一

Celebrating RTHK's Radio 4's 40th Anniversary (香港電台第四台美樂四十年慶祝音樂會)

Last Saturday's concert at the HK Cultural Centre was unlike any other. It's a concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Radio 4 of RTHK.

To commemorate this special occasion, we were treated to a revised version of a piece of music written some 10 years ago by local composer Richard Tsang for the 30th anniversary of the same radio station: viz. "Overture FM" now re-entitled "Commentaries" . It's a piece intended to highlight the fact that it's a radio station broadcasting "classical music" in two languages English and Chinese and thus involves both speech and music. It's composed in "contemporary" style: plenty of contrasts, conterpointing English and Chinese recitation of certain poem-like words about time, change, identity, sensations, existence and between the sound of words and the sound of music, a rather conceptual type of music, more intellectual than purely "musical", playing variation or cutting in with new sounds upon the theme song of Radio 4 which Tsang composed in the 1980s. Perhaps for that reason, it's called "Commentaries"?

Hippocrates (醫手遮天)

All medecins (medical doctors) are required to take what's been called the Oath of Hippocrates which in its ancient form runs something as follows: "By Apollo (the physician), by Asclepius (god of healing), by Hygeia (god of health), by Panacea (god of remedy), and all the gods and goddesses, together as witnesses, I hereby swear that I will carry out, inasmuch as I am able and true to my considered judgment, this oath and the ensuing duties:
1. To hold my teacher in this art on a par with my parents...To teach his/her family the art of medicine, if they want to learn it, without tuition or any other conditions of service. To impart all the lessons necessary to practice medicine to my own sons and daughters, the sons and daughters of my teacher and to my own students, who have taken this oath-but to no one else.
2. I will help the sick according to my skill and judgment, but never with an intent to do harm or injury to another.
3. I will never administer poison to anyone-even when asked to do so. Nor will I ever suggest a way that others (even the patient) could do so. Similarly, I will never induce an abortion. Instead, I will keep holy my life and art.
4. I will not engage in surgery--not even upon suffers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of others who do this work.
5. Whoever I visit, rich or poor, I will concern myself with the well being of the sick. I will commit no intentional misdeeds, nor any other harmful action such as engaging in sexual relations with my patients (regardless of their status).
6. Whatever I hear or see in the course of my professional duties (or even outside the course of treatment) regarding my patients is strictly confidential and I will not allow it to be spread about. But instead, will hold these as holy secrets.
    Now if I carry out this oath and not break its injunctions, may I enjoy a good life and may my reputation be pure and honored for all generations. But if I fail and break this oath, then may the opposite befall me".

In 2014, "Hippocrate" has become the name of a film by Thomas Lilti ('Les Yeux Bandés 2007), the second film of this general medical practitioner, about the first year in the life of a young intern whose father is the head of the hospital where he is attached as a "houseman". It's not a the kind of film like Emergency Room but through the eyes of the young Benjamin (Vincent Lacost) and his initial conflict with Abdel (Reda Kateb )an Algerian colleague posted to France to get his "equivalence" who cared more for the comfort of a patient than the strict and rigid guidelines which all doctors are supposed to follow. Young Benjamin did not do an EEG on a patient because the EEG machine had not been repaired for months owing to budget cuts by implemented by a chief hospital administrator whose previous experience is in computer production as a result of which an alcoholic patient Monsieur Lemoine (Thierry Levaret) nicknamed "Tsunami" because his violent resistance to treatment, developed some unexpected convulsions during the night and died the following morning. It was Benjamin's first death and it deeply affected him. He tried to evade responsibility by lying to Lemoine's separated wife who came to find out what happened that it was Abdel who was the doctor in charge when in fact it was him although Abdel did assist him in helping the patient. His father also tried to cover him when confronted by Madame Lemoine.

2014年12月7日 星期日

Un Beau Dimanche (Going Away) (美好星期天)

The French are good at making improbable tales probable through loose narratives and accidental encounters and good acting. One such is Nicole Garcia's Un Beau Dimanche (literally "A Beautiful Sunday") (formal English title "Going Away")(美好星期天).

When the film starts, we find a group of fleeing bums and illegal immigrants being rounded up in the middle of the night amidst dog barks, cries and shouts by uniformed police armed with with helmets, batons, guns, torches etc from a broken down house somewhere in France. Next we see Baptiste Cambière (Pierre Rochefort ) teaching mathematics in a classroom to a group of primary students. When the school term ends, we hear the school's principal asking Baptiste if he would like to continue teaching as a permanent teacher but was told that he preferred being a substitute teacher because it suited him better to be a temporary teacher as it allowed him to better explore how different people in different environment deal with life. Everybody leaves for a long weekend as it's Whitsunday or Pentecost  (7th week after Easter) but Baptiste notices that Mathias (Mathias Brezot) a small kid of 8 was all alone, leaning against the front wall close to the school entrance kicking the air out of sheer boredom, waiting listlessly to be picked up long after everyone is gone. He got down from the classroom from the window of which he caught sight of Mathias just as he was preparing to leave . He asks Mathias who he's waiting for. Mathias says that it's his dad. He asks him if he telephoned his father and is told that he already did many times but got no reply. Baptiste asks him where he lives. He akes him home in his motor cycle. He finds Mathias' father there, apparently having a good time with a girl and was invited in. His father said he made a mistake thinking that it was the turn of Mathias's separated mother to fetch him home. Seeing that his father, a race driver at Monte Carlo and his girl were not too keen to look after Mathias over the long weekend, Baptiste offered to do so. At first Mathias's father half heartedly said he shouldn't bother Baptiste but then thanked him when Baptiste told that that it was not too much trouble. He allowed Baptiste to take Mathias away.

Mathias felt bored at his house having nothing to do. Baptiste offered to take him to the beach. When they were there, Mathias said that he did not like it there but that he knew a better beach a little further down.So off they went. When they arrived, Baptiste found that that where Mathias' mother Sandra (Louise Bourgoin) was working as a waitress at a seaside restaurant. Sandra was surprised and invited Baptiste to stay over the long weekend if he did not have anything special to do. After work, she took him to a bowling alley and then bar where she bought him a drink. Baptiste told her he never drank but as Sandra said there was no harm trying, he reluctantly gulped down a glass of whiskey . Shortly thereafter the alcohol went into his head. When another guy tried to chat Sandra up, stuffed some money into his jacket pocket and told him buy himself a drink, he felt so offended that he got into a brawl with the man but was beaten up. Sandra took him to a hotel room and nursed him.

The following day, two toughs who had been looking for Sandra a few times in the past several days finally tracked her down and beat her up unless she repaid the 50,000 Euros she borrowed from them. When Baptiste  saw her black eye and asked her what the trouble was, she confessed, after much hesitation, that she never wanted to work as a waitress her entire life and started a restaurant of her own but it didn't work and all she succeeded in doing was being constantly hounded for repayment of her debt. As she had had enough of such harassment, she told him she would flee to Spain, where she said she got some friends. On the way, Baptiste asked her to stop by a big estate with a huge manicured garden, swimming pool, tennis court etc where he said he might be able to find someone who could help Sandra. He never told her that it was in fact his home he deserted a couple of years ago. There we learn that he used to a bright astrophysicist at university and though he was his mother's favorite son and his younger sister Liliane (Dominique Sanda)'s favorite brother, he decided suddenly that that it didn't make any sense to follow the kind of life for which he was groomed, like his elder brother, jockeying for money, power, social advancement, in short the bourgeois rat race.

He asked to see his elder brother alone and asked him to advance him 50,000 Euros from the 15% shares he had in the family company which his brother was trying list on the London Stock Exchange but told him that otherwise he did not want any share of his inheritance from his father. He was called a fool by his younger brother who said that no one ever refused an inheritance. He grabbed him by his shirt and forced him against the wall, fury in his eyes but desisted at the last minute from further violence. He got the money for Sandra and then left. Will he abandon his search for freedom which he said he so treasured? Will he quit taking only temporary teaching jobs of not more than 3 weeks? Will he finally cease his life of running away from long term commitment? Will Sandra who seems to have developed a genuine affection for him because as she said, she loved him because he always looked so sad be a sufficiently good reason for him to break his settled "new" way of life?

It's a simple story told in an unhurried pace, with well timed surprises as the events unfolded, relying for its effect entirely on the excellent quality of the performances of its two protagonists: Pierre Rochefort and Louise Bourgoin who made everything appear so "natural" and "believable", a story of two people who met in the most unlikely circumstances who somehow was fated to cross path with each other with possibly life-changing consequences. Will the felt need for a caring parent for young Mathias be a sufficiently powerful cicatrice to bond a more permanent relationship which can somehow withstand the frittering of some very real class differences or will their chance encounter on that "beautiful Sunday" remain as little more than a memory marking an ephemeral episode in the unfolding of two otherwise very different streams of lives of two very different people whose only link appear to be that both are buffeted by that unpredictible openness towards an unknowable future? It's anybody's guess. 


2014年12月6日 星期六

Eden (伊甸園)

After a dozen of so of films, one after another, one begins to lose track and snippets from different films begin to flood one's mind in no particular order. This weird feeling becomes 甸even most pronounced when one sees a film whose images appear like an almost continuous stream of rapidly jumping disco scenes in which one sees various figures frozen in different dancing postures before rapidly sinking back into total darkness every second or two amidst the deafening din of heavy rhythms and in the case of the kind of disco sound produced by   
Paul Vallée (Félix de Givry) in the fourth feature directed and co-written by Mia Hansen-Løve's 131 minutes "Eden" (2014)

Eden tracks the rise and fall of the Paul, a French disco DJ, founder of the type of disco sound called "Garage " popular in the 1980s and dying out in the early 2000s. It's a kind of sound which as Paul explains, is a mix between "euphoria and melancholy": heavy lively rave rhythm interspersed with quieter, slow, dreamy and sad blues-like sound. The camera follows very closely the diurnal rhythm of the life of Paul, with constant changes of venues between a sort of communal hostel between his core group of close friends all involved in the disco business in one capacity or another, his exploration of different kinds of vinyl bluesy sound to be mixed into the regular disco sound, his stints at Radio FG, his need to organize special events to suit the fickle tastes and moods teenagers and those who refuse exit from that cocooned stage of their development in Paris or some gigs in New York, his need for cocaine to produce the kind of euphoric "feel" which he tried so hard to mimmick with sound, his volatile relationships with first one girl Julia (Greta Gerwig) from America, Louise (Pauline Etienne)  and then another Yasmin (Golshifteh Farahani). He lives in a the world of the imagination, a life which is by no means easy. His best friend, a cartoon artist committed suicide the moment his first full length book was out. In the end, the reality of having to earn sufficient to keep body and soul together forces him to quit the kind of life he feels comfortable with and to take a more conventional and dreary job. As the film closes, he was seen exploring another kind of adventure of the spirit, attending a course on writing skills, presumably hoping thereby to strike out into a new direction to continue his exploration of this world and that of his own interior life and a new girl appear to take a "special" interest in him as a person.

2014年12月5日 星期五

On a failli être amies (Almost friends) (幾乎成為朋友)

My first film last night is "almost" a comedy. It's a film directed by Anne Le Ny ( known for  The Intouchables(2011) Le Goût des autres (2000) and Ce que cuex qui restent (200&) and co-scripted by her with Axeille Bachman "On a failli être amies (Almost friends) (幾乎成為朋友)(2014) about two women and a man: Carole Drissi (Emmanuelle Devos) and Marithé Bressy (Karin Viard) and Sam Drissi (Roschdy Zem)

As the film opens, we find a group of middle aged women mostly former employees of a toy factory which had recently been laid off trying to retrain for new jobs at a Government Professional Re-training centre. One of them obviously do not belong, Carole Drissi, the part owner, food taster, customer relations officer and wife of its other proprietor of a one-star Michelin restaurant, Sam Drissi's "Le Moulin Blanc" in the suburbs of Paris. She seems not to know what she wants because she has occupied those roles for the past 20 years, always living in the shadows of her husband, the enthusiastic chef-proprietor of his restaurant having plans to expand and open another branch close to where the Professional Re-training Centre. She feels comfortable with a lady training officer there Marithé Bressy and asks if she could have her deal with case. With a bit of hesitation, Marithé accepts. That the start of a bizarre triangular relationship, initially entirely professional between Marithé and Carole but once Marithé meets Sam when she was invited by her friends to dine at Sam's restaurant and Carole, who was going to Marithé's office behind Sam's back, introduced her to Sam as a friend she meets at the local gymn, it develops by stages into something wholly personal.

2014年12月4日 星期四

Respire ( Breathe) (佔友慾)

In many ways, this second adventure by actress turned director , "Respire ( Breathe)"(佔友慾) (2014)  based on a novel by Anne-Sophie Brasme and co-adapted for the screen by Julien Lambroschini and the director is a "growing-up" story but it's one with a difference: it's told the viewpoint of a woman, with a melodramatic twist.

A beautiful, vivacious, outgoing, bohemian Sarah (Lou de Laâge) turns up as a new student in the final year high school class of the quiet, introvert, pensive, passive and always melancholic Charlie ( Joséphine Japy) whose parents are undergoing a divorce and is arranged by the teacher to sit next to Charlie. Sarah introduces herself as the daughter of a mother who is working for an NGOin Nigeria, street-wise about many things in the larger world, with some interesting sex with an English boy and now living with an impossible aunt. Very quickly, they turned into the the best of friends, with Sarah starting out at first asking if she could come to Charlie's house to do revisions because she couldn't put up with her aunt with whom she was then living and gradually actually living in Charlie's house, sharing her bed in a middle class home( where Charlie lives alone with Vanessa (Isabelle Carré ) her mother being deserted by Charlie's father Sasha (Radivoje Bukvic)) and much else including her interests, her leisure, her friends and her sensitive feelings. Sarah takes Charlie to parties where they tell jokes, take walks together, go to beaches, share stories, drink with other high school kids, smoke not only cigarettes but hash and generally do the kinds of things teenagers do. Charlie never felt so happy.

2014年12月3日 星期三

L'Homme qu'on aimait trop (French Riviera) (以女兒之名)

In many ways, L'Homme qu'on aimait trop (French Riviera) (以女兒之名) (2014) by French director André Téchiné  is a film of mystery.

It's a love story played against the background of the fight for control over a casino in Nice, Le Palais de la Mediterrané, whose founder just died and left  40% of his stake in it to his wife Renée Le Roux (Catherine Deneuve) and 10% of it  to his daughter Agnès Le Roux (Adèle Haenel), who had just returned from Africa to claim her inheritance but as her mother had been persuaded by her young and handsome lawyer Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet)  to take over the management of casino in the hope that she would retain him as his manager  she delayed in giving Renée's her shares. With Maurice's help, she won control but to the surprise and disappointment of Maurice, she did not appoint him as manager because she felt him "too pushy". So Maurice turned his attention to Renée, an innocent, young, introvertic  girl with few friends and whose only interest is in opening a bookshop which also sells various exotic artifacts and in swimming. Maurice was very attentive to her although in the beginning he deliberately told her that she is not "his type" of girl and that he was already married and   had many lovers. He did however tell Agnès not to listen to all the gossips about himself. Agnés fell for his charms and was soon head over heels in love with him. Maurice then arranged for her to meet Fratoni, who had close connections with the Mafia and who is already in control of a number of other competing casinos in the area and to offer to buy up the beneficial interest in Agnès shares for 3 million francs. That was in mid-1970s.When the money was transferred into Agnès' bank account, Maurice arranged for the money to be placed in two separate safe deposit boxes one opened in his Agnés' name and the other in Maurice's own name, ostensibly for security reasons but with a most peculiar condition, viz. that each could have complete access and full power of disposal of its contents to the other's safe deposit box.  When the arrangement was announced to Agnés at the bank and the relevant documents presented for her signature, Agnés looked a bit suprised but after a moment's hesitation, put her signature to it. When Renée tried to implement a plan to re-organize the casino so as to cut losses, upon the advice of Maurice, Agnè voted against it resulting in Renée losing control of the casino and the Fratoni ganging up with the other sharesholders, gaining complete control after which he had the casino would up.

2014年12月2日 星期二

Geronimo (婕羅妮慕)

There are Romeo and Juliette stories aplenty: two young lovers caught between ethnic or clannish conflict for dominance, the inveterate hatred each side has for the other, the keenly felt dent to a very Mediterranean sense of honor involved and the ensuing violence this triggers. But seldom has such a theme been treated with the unrelenting tension one sees in Geronimo, a 2014 production written and directed by veteran director Tony Gatif who already had some 17 films under his name

Young Nil, a 16 year old Turkish girl ran away from her arranged marriage on the wedding day to join her lover Lucky (David Murgia) another teenage Gypsy boy. The Turk family consider it a huge humiliation which they are determined to expunge by demanding that the Gypsies return the girl and if they are not prepared to do so, to threaten and if need be, to launch an a full scale attack on their members. Geronimo (Céline Sallette ) a fearless ethnic Spanish female field social worker, an ex-"problem teenager" previously "canned" in a girl's reformatory but since rehabilitated and now assigned to work with the children and teenagers in a little suburban Council housing estate in Southern France and who still believes in "miracles" , is equally determined to stop what she sees as the impending bloodbath. Leading the revenge attack ostensibly for the recovery of tarnished ethnic "honor" is another teenager Fazil (Rachid Yous), the brother of the Turkish bridegroom.

2014年12月1日 星期一

La Rançon de la gloire (The Price of Fame) (榮耀贖金)

After many serious and semi-serious榮t's a break to see another comedy "La Rançon de la gloire" (The Price of Fame) (名聲之贖金) (2014) directed by Xavier Beauvois, based on a real history of two desperate amateur kidnappers, a Bulgarian and a Pole, who tried clumsily to demand a random for the corpse of the famous silent tragi-comedy film director Charlie Chaplin (who produced the modern classic "Modern Time") which they stole from a cemetery of Vevey, Switzerland 

When the film starts, we see Eddy Ricaart (Benoît Poelvoorde) at the gate of a prison, as if reluctant to get out. He had only an Algerian in a truck waiting for him : Osman Bricha (Roschdy Zem) whose life he once saved. Osman drives him to his barely furnished home in a caravan site in the suburbs where he lives with his 8 year-old-daughter Samira (Séli Gmach) with little more the most the basic furniture: no telephone, no TV, no washing machine and an unrepaired refrigerator. Osman offers him another broken down caravan a little distance off. Osman works as an assistant worker driving a truck and helps to fix broken city lights (allusion to one of Chaplin's film?). His wife is in hospital because of a serious injury to her pelvis as a result of overwork as a cleaner. As Osman does not have medical insurance and is an illegal immigrant only married by an Imam in a mosque but has no formal papers to prove that he is legally married under Swiss law, he is not entitled to claim social security for the relevant medical expenses for his wife's treatment. He tries to get a bank loan for the 50,000 Swiss Francs needed but is refused. All that the bank's credit officer would offer him on his salary is 5,000 Swiss francs to be repaid each month of 100 to 200. Inspired by a TV documentary on the life of Charlie Chaplin indicating how rich he was, Eddy got a "brilliant" idea of how they could get the money: they would steal the corpse of Charlie Chaplin and demand a huge ransom. He thought it was an excellent idea because it didn't involve the risk of any killing or violence because the man was already dead. Osman said he was crazy. But when Osman found that there was no way he could find the money, he became desperate and decided reluctantly that they would give it a try. The film is about how they bungled up the "random demanding" portion of their plan: Eddy telephoned the Chaplin family from a public phone booth, disguising his voice by muffling the mouthpiece of the telephone, identifying himself as "Mr. Money"  and demanding to speak to Mr. Chaplin ! It was treated as a joke.

The following day, Eddy spoke through the same public telephone booth to the Chaplin family squeezing his nostril to prevent voice identification and when the voice on the other side of the telephone expressed surprise at the huge amount, he immediately lowered the figure on a "commercial basis" from 1 million to 500,000 Swiss francs but the other side demanded proof that he got the coffin. So Eddy and Osman went back to where they buried the coffin and produced several photos which they sent to the Chaplin family. Then they got to decide where to deliver the money. They named the spot but due to a pure accident, the money was taken by two strangers who just thought they had removed a briefcase. But as the police were ready, these two two strangers were arrested. Then Eddy made the demand again for the fourth time but Osman found Eddy so clumsy that he took over the phone and lowered the figure to just 50,000 Swiss francs as the final "offer" and told the other side that they would telephone them where to deliver the money the following day at 3 p.m. The police had all the public telephone booths in the small town monitored and when they made an appearance, they were instantly arrested. They led the police to where they hid the coffin and were brought to trial. After knowing of why they wanted to do this totally incompetent and amateurish "kidnap", the  Chaplin family did not wish to press charges  but the police insisted on going on with the trial. In the end, they were found guilty by the judge but did not have to go to jail because their defense counsel urged that it was a more like a joke than a real kidnapping in which no one really suffered any real loss and that in all likelihood Chaplin would certainly have sympathized with such the miseries of such poor immigrants at their wits end to get some much needed money, as Chaplin himself was an immigrant like the two "criminals". In fact, they paid Osman's hospital charges for them. When the film ends, we find Osman and his wife and daughter bringing some flowers before the Chaplin's newly renovated grave and thanking him for all he did. After the screen credits, we are shown two young men removing a bronze statue of Chaplin at the lakeside and transporting it into their van. Are they thieves who love Chaplin so much that they had to have his statue or do they just want its value in scrap bronze?

It's a very simple film about the plight of the poor and destitute immigrant workers in Switzerland. Perhaps Beauvois wants to show how even "criminals" might have a "human" face, just like ordinary people, with all their problems, their plights, their weaknesses and their "folly": Eddy takes Samira for an enjoyable ride on the lake, then to a fair ground and the circus, something she had never been to and teaches her French and seems an otherwise amiable enough fellow. Samira says she wants to become a veterinarian when she grows up but once Osman finds out that it requires 5 years of college education, he told her that it is absolutely out of the question and that she got to work the moment she finishes her baccalaureat. But Eddy consoles her that she could work at the zoo as an alternative but she refuses to hear him. By accident, Eddy was asked by a lady Russian equestrian to improvise as a clown because one of the two circus clown has just resigned. Eddy did gave an acceptable performance without any training. Maybe we are supposed to find Eddy's last minute improvising as a circus clown a hint that he's a "natural" clown. However, since what he is playing is very far from funny, are we to think that the real point is may be that behind what superficially appears "funny", there's usually a sob story, as Chaplin's "comedies" were? When Beuavois said during the Q & A session at the end of the film that he intended the film as a tribute to Chaplin, this really seems a likely explanation.

The acting by Benoît Poelvoorde, Roschdy Zem and Séli Gmach are good but they are not good enough to salvage the rather too subtle "message" of Beauvois and the rather loose "plot". To me, maybe the rather grandiose music by Michel Legrand being played when the two bumbling criminals were driving on their "mission" to "kidnap" the Chaplin's corpse was intended by the composer to bring out the dramatic irony between the the pettiness of the "crime" by the two bunglers by contrasting between the two worlds: the rich, famous and orderly and the poor and down and out and disorganized on the verge of disintegration, something evident by the deliberate jazzy and jarring sound right in the middle of the main classical melody played out very loudly by the orchestra?  If not, then I can't find any rapport between the music and the action unfurling on the screen.


2014年11月30日 星期日

Hollywood Thrillers: Film Music (驚慄荷里活)

Film Music is a very very much underrated musical genre. Often, we are moved by it without even noticing it. We really ought to forget that mindless nonsense which we still hear from time to time to the effect that film music is "best" when it is unnnoticed: it's dangerous because it is a half-truth. It has a certain superficial plausibility to it which hides the fact that very often film music can positively add to the effect a film produces by enriching our  esthetic enjoyment of the complexity of our cinematic experience precisely because it portrays a mood which precisely may be the opposite of the "natural" mood of the action unfurling on the silver screen eg. a scene of bloody violence may be accompanied by some calm, well balanced baroque, classical or even some very "romantic" melody or alternatively an idyllic scene of two lovers kissing in in soft light on a beach may be accompanied by music with harsh rhythms and discordant sounds to highlight the contrast between surface of "reality" and some deeper subterranean clashes and the secret motives and secret intentions of the characters on the screen: the music can serve not only to "enhance" the mood of the relevant action, but can also hint at some underlying reality or form an ironic "comment" on the action. Whatever the effect of music on the film may be, we got the chance to sample the music written for some thrillers by 3 famous 20th film music composers Bernard Hermann (1911-1975), Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995)and Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) last Saturday.

2014年11月29日 星期六

Murray Perahia & St. Martin in the Fields in HK (梅理.柏拉雅與聖馬田樂團在港)

If you were to tell others that you are a classical music fan and yet have never heard St Martin in the Fields, I'm quite sure that you couldn't have been one for very long. This wonderful orchestra has already been around from the earliest moment when I started to listen to serious music in the early 60s. I still remember how shocked I was when I first listened to their vinyl disc playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons through a tube amplifier and a pair of JBL horn speakers: though they are many, they play as if they were just one huge complex string instrument. Recently they came to Hong Kong as part of a 10 city Asian Tour, led by famous pianist, arranger and conductor Murray Perahia who, like the orchestra, has made so many recordings of excellent music that it's would be well nigh impossible to count them.

They gave two concerts: one on 1st and another on the 2nd November, 2014. I went to their first. They started with a composition by Mendelsohhn's (1809-1847) Sinfonia No. 7 in D minor, one of the 11 string symphonies the precocious teenager wrote between 12 and 14. It has a very energetic, rhythmic and joyful first movement, a rather easy and leisurely second movement  lightly touched by a tinge of sadness. It's third movement reverted to the lively rhythms and energy of first with a theme which was first played as the main theme which was subsequently mimicked stealthily as if by a naughty child trying to make fun of the adult before being resumed by the adults with more variations. The final movement  in Allegro molto brings everything to a dramatic close with all the necessary contrapuntal contrasts.

2014年11月28日 星期五

Le Beau Monde (High Society) (上流社會)

There are probably hundreds of films on the theme of adolescence "coming of age". In traditional tribal societies, the entry from adolescence into adulthood is often violent: the adolescent usually has to undergo a period of deliberate isolation, then perform some acts of "bravery" often involving completing some risky or dangerous tasks needed for the survival of the tribe, enduring certain physical and psychological pain in the process and when the ordeal is over is formally recognized, admitted and welcomed as a true member of the world of adults. But in contemporary society, there are no longer any kind of clear cut and socially recognized "rites of passage" marking such a transition from the adolescent world to that of the adult and for females, the lines of transition are even more blurry, vague and amorphous: perhaps signaled only by a dim awareness of a certain loss of "innocence" or loss of her  "virginity". It's seldom that we get a film portraying this often ambiguous, hesitant and confusing period for a young girl. But we have one such from Julie Lopes-Curval, who directed and co-wrote the script for her film with Sophie Hiet, deliberately produced, perhaps as her gesture of support for the feminist cause (?) by an all-female team "Le Beau Monde" (2014)

2014年11月27日 星期四

Sils Maria (坐看雲起時)


Being a famous actress has never been easy: one has to tread ever so gingerly so as not to injure one’s most precious asset, one’s reputation and for those who are not yet quite there, the need to create a scandal from time to time just to stay in the limelight in the risky hope that the fickle public still has one within their treacherous hearts, or in this age of instant satisfaction, more likely, their ephemeral eyes. Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) a famous international actress/star in her 40’s is facing three dilemmas all at the same time: she’s in the middle of a divorce and has to negotiate terms with her husband about the division of family assets; next, she has to decide whether or not to receive a prestigious award in Switzerland on behalf of Wilhem Melchior, whose play the "Maloja Snake" catapulted her into fame some 20 years ago when she played the role of a talented, ambitious and scheming 18-year-old Sigrid who drove her 40-ish boss Helena into suicide as a result of a complex love-hate relationship and third she was strongly advised by Valentine (Kristen Stewart) her young, easy going yet independent-minded personal assistant and confidante to accept an invitation by a famous up and coming theatre director Klaus Diesterweg  to play the role of the older protagonist Helena in a revival of "Maloja Snake" and has to decide whether or not to accept that role. That’s the pivot of the film "The Clouds of Sils Maria" by Olivier Asayas ("Paris, je t'aime" (2006), "L'heure d'ètè" ( 2008) and incidentally the ex-husband of Maggie Cheung) who both wrote and directed this cine melodrama.

2014年11月26日 星期三

Libre et Assoupi (Nice and Easy) (輕鬆自由)

We are all accustomed to work. We think of work as giving "meaning" to life and some may even believe that work is one of the most worthwhile objects in human life. We tend to condemn those who have reached the age of majority but who don't work as every one else  or who don't work as much as we do as "lazy bones", loafers" , "parasites" or otherwise morally reprehensible. There're certainly some good reasons why we hope and expect all able-bodied man of sound mind to contribute to the common welfare of society. But it's possible that not every one may think that way. Are they justified in so thinking? If I remember correctly, there's a highly respected and intelligent and intelligible philosopher whose thoughts are full of common sense who has written an essay which came as a shock to me when I was young: "In praise of idleness" by Bertrand Russell in 1932. There he said "I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached." Benjamin Guedj's Libre et Assoupi(Nice and Easy) (輕鬆自由) is a most unusual film which takes up this subject in a light hearted and interesting manner.