October 19, 2004

Time Flies

Kept busy over the weekend; in a good way. There were certainly moments of misery and (not the same thing) sadness, but despair was kept at bay and there were pleasures too.

I saw friends; family; two shows; a movie. My father phoned me from the other side of the world at just the right time. There was virtual contact with various people, and physical contact with others. There was, however uncertain its foothold, some perspective.

Friday brought Tempus Fugit, from the people who made my beloved Foi, and I liked it a lot. It was fun. And I mean fun fun. It's the second unexpectedly lighthearted, upbeat piece from Les Ballets C de la B in quick succession. Like Wolf, it lacked the intensity of most of their work, but there was still plenty that was remarkable about it. Even the percussionist got to defy gravity.

Saturday brought Tropicana, from the people who made my beloved Dance Bear Dance, and I liked it a lot less, though it had some fine things in it. There were quite a few strategic overlaps with the earlier show, but it all seemed a lot more random and flimsy and unfocused; and perhaps a bit sold out. The first act, a kind of Dadaist amusement park ride involving a lot of spooky noises in the dark, is entertaining but doesn't really go anywhere, except geographically; the second doesn't even have that. It's still worth seeing, if you're reasonably patient, but a disappointment.

On Sunday I finally made my way to Hero, which I enjoyed a great deal, though it goes on a bit towards the end and doesn't really sustain all that pomp and bombast. The influence of Crouching Tiger is hard to miss, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's lovely to look at, anyway, and the colour-coding conceit works nicely. (It brought to mind The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, which has a vaguely-similar trick with costume colours though to very different ends.)

And tonight I swung. Not just out of duty. And taught a step class, not just out of duty. The world is still a long way from vibrant colour, but it's no longer the bitter, crushing monochrome of a week ago.

Thank you for being in it with me.
Posted by matt at October 19, 2004 12:56 AM


Bugger. Seeing Tropicana Thurs. Was looking forward to it until just now. Still, perhaps you have effected a useful lowering of expectations.

Enjoyed Tempus Fugit too, more than Wolf but less than Foi. I do think they should just make a rule to leave out any attempted comedy from future productions. The near-high-speed-head-with-floor-collision made me shout out loud in panic.

Saw you a few rows in front and to the right, standing-ovationing with Ian and ?your sister?, but failed to catch you on the way out.

Posted by: Max at October 19, 2004 11:07 AM

And glad to see that you enjoyed Hero, though it's a shame it has only come out here now (it has been available on DVD since 2002); although there isn't a tremendous amount by way of storyline - and I think that in this instance that isn't overly important as the film was intended as a cinematographically impressing piece - I did like it very much, perhaps in some ways more than I did Crouching Tiger.

I'm not quite sure how you feel the latter has influenced Hero, though, at least any more than any action film influences another; if you mean the style of fighting - flying around in defiance of gravity &c. - the presentation of wu xian is effectively the Chinese equivalent of science fiction, and has been around in books since forever, and on film since at least the seventies (a favourite television series of mine as a kid was a Taiwanese take on this, and this would have been in 1984-1986), though I guess that Crouching Tiger was the first attempt to bring an old-hat technique into the mainstream in the West. If you like the genre, look out for the House of Flying Daggers, which is up for limited release from Boxing Day (or just ask me for the DVD) and also features Zhang Ziyi.

Posted by: Stairs at October 19, 2004 11:49 AM

[Max] No sister, just some adjacent stranger. Tropicana can only be improved by approaching it with lowered expectations.

[Stairs] No, I didn't mean the style of fighting -- I am somewhat aware of its history. Rather, the big-budget mainstreaming of it, allied with sumptuous cinematography and a (slightly ponderous in this case, I thought) strong emotional storyline. And I'm certain that some of the music was the same -- perhaps they both drew on the same traditional song?

House of Flying Daggers was trailed before Hero (I thought it said New Year's Day, though?) and I was looking forward to it even before your recommendation. I shall try to resist the lure of the DVD and catch it on the big screen. Want to come with me?

Posted by: matt at October 19, 2004 01:42 PM

Ah, well apologies if I came across as patronising :)
Are there any Chinese movies that don't have a strong emotional storyline? Rhetorical, of course, I know the answer to that, but they do have a thing for using love and the confusion that it causes as a foil against which a great many things can be contrasted... hmm... like... with most films ever made :-D Oh we are a two dimensional species!

I don't know about the music; the soundtracks don't sound overly similar in terms of recurring tunes, but then then prevalent guqin (the strummed zither) and erhu (the two stringed fiddle) tend to be played in the minor, and seem to adhere to traditional Chinese musical metre, so some of that stuff can sound very similar if you go by memory - I certainly find it hard to distinguish between tunes. As for the war drums and clapped riffs, yeah, I suppose that they're pretty much the same.

I wasn't planning to see HFD at the cinema, but if I'm around at the time, then ask me again :)

By the way, the home made paste turned out to be leagues better than the shop bought kind - I stank of Asian supermarket for two days after, but oh, small price to pay; you'll have to be experimented upon at some stage! Urk, my left thumb nail is still peppery from all the green chillies... perception of personal hygiene plummets.

Posted by: Stairs at October 20, 2004 11:24 AM

don't you know if 'tempus fugit' is somehow available on dvd?

Posted by: mouk at March 15, 2005 11:01 PM

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