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… On this day, I see clearly, everything has come to life.

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with 聚言莊﹕The House Where Words Gather.

The Watch Log: THE UNDERDOG KNIGHT, PAINTED SKIN, MAD MEN

March 28th, 2009: THE UNDERDOG KNIGHT

A disjointed film that feels like it isn’t fully formed.  Yet, it’s seductively mesmerizing and, ultimately, a satisfying movie experience.  Now, I may be giving the film more credit than it deserves because my judgment is impaired by the mesmerizing presence of the seductive Ellen Chan Nga-Lun (who I have admired since she played my cousin Tony’s girlfriend in the TVB series THE SEASONS) but the outstanding performance by Liu Ye makes the film compelling.  It’s hard to believe that the actor from this film is the same actor from Stanley Kwan Kam-Pang’s LAN YU.

The performance is so good, it compels you to overlook that the romantic subplot is underdeveloped, Liu Ye’s character doesn’t really go anywhere and the Captain Jiang plot thread comes abruptly from left field.

CHINESE LESSON OF THE DAY:

gin_ming.gif

The spirit behind Liu Ye’s character is inspired by the Chinese expression “gin yi yung wai” or “having the courage to do what’s right no matter the consequences”.  The opposing philosophy and, quite frankly, the prevailing attitude among Chinese people is embodied by the phrase “ming jit bo sun” or “a wise man who understands the situation can do what’s best for his personal safety”.  Basically, “bend with breeze so you don’t break”.  It’s this kind of attitude that yields bullshit (sorry, there’s no other way to put it) plot points like the French collector suddenly deciding to give the priceless “Dragon Tongue” spear back to the Chinese government.

Yes, it’s a bit of a weasly attitude but that’s what happens when you come from a people who have been living under the whims of various kings, emperors, tyrants, despots, warlords, dictators and Politburos for thousands and thousands of years.

March 23rd, 2009: PAINTED SKIN

In honour of the new Formula 1 season, I’ll use a car analogy for this entry …

Though it has the stylings of a “costume epic geared for the international market”, PAINTED SKIN is powered by an engine that has its roots in the junky ghost/spirit movies of the late-1980s/early-1990s that were inspired by the success of A CHINESE GHOST STORY.  Basically, it’s one of those old-school action/romance/horror/supernatural/comedy but with souped-up production values and a solid cast.  The only things missing are the alluring Joey Wong Tso-Yin, the ubiquitous Wu Ma and the bald one Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong (oh wait, this is PAINTED SKIN not EROTIC PAINTED SKIN).

If you go into the movie expecting a fun ghost story then PAINTED SKIN is a good story well told.  If you go in wanting to deconstruct the movie like it was 2046 then it probably isn’t for you.

I’ll have more to say about PAINTED SKIN when I do my annual Hong Kong Film Awards preview post.

March 17th, 2009: MAD MEN, Season One

Much like George Costanza, I have different worlds that rarely collide.  There’s my HK/Chinese culture world, my sports fan world, my North American culture world and my UK culture world.  So, when three different people from three of my different worlds (sports fan, UK and North American) mentioned a show called MAD MEN and recommended it to me because it was brilliant, I figured that it was worth a look …

… And boy, am I glad I did rent the season one DVDs because the show is fantastic.  It takes an episode or two to get going but, once it does, it’s a captivating look at the sense of self, ambition, denial, identity and self-worth.  As the show is set in the 1960s, it highlights the fact that times change but the issues that every individual faces stays the same.

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