Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy, Bride of Frankenstorm, closes the east coast.

Time to stay inside and watch Hong Kong movies on your battery powered tablets.

Underground New York Public Library

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And now for something completely different: Disneyfication of "Red Sorghum"

Mo Yan (Guan Moye) has been selected for the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2012 and there a lot of speculation on how he and others might cash in since he is first Chinese laureate for literature who is neither in prison or nor living in exile.

He will be looking at Beijing real estate with the 8 million SEK (Swedish krona) that is granted as part of the prize but he will really cash in with sales of his existing books. For example his publisher is coming out with 200,000 copies of his collected works which include "16 of Mo's books, including 11 of his long novels and five medium- and short-length novels". Mainland wheelbarrow manufacturers are hoping for a spike in demand as soon as the collected works are issued if buyers want to transport the entire load from the bookstore.

Fan Hui, an otherwise unidentified local official is said to have approached Mo Yan's father with the request/demand that he refurbish the family home since it would become a place for literary pilgrims to visit and that the home now belonged to the state since the Nobel Prize was an honor for all of China. Locals have dug up radishes or grabbed stalks of drying corn from the family farm trying to make a few yuan selling produce grown in the soil trod upon by a certified in the west genius.

There is even talk of theme park based on Red Sorghum replacing Mo's house and planting acres of the no longer wanted red sorghum to go along with the possibly planned mill and distillery. I haven't read the novel but based only on the relentlessly dark Zhang Yimou movie a theme park be as likely as a musical comedy taken from the Book of Job.

Literary Saloon; Marginal Revolution; China Daily
Hat tip to Chris Blattman

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gong Li in "Raise the Red Lantern"

The way we felt after seeing “Raise the Red Lantern” for the first time in, I believe, late autumn of 1992, may not have been on the lofty level as Keats cracking Chapman’s Homer but it was still quite a shock. We knew that here was something we hadn’t seen before. For many of us it was the first time we watched a mainland Chinese movie and a lot of the our reactions were to what it was not: there were subtitles that actually made sense and lush set design that wasn’t the same village and bridge from Shaw Brothers’ back lot we had seen in so many Hong Kong films. Most amazing, though, was the language. Where was the familiar plaintive, hectoring Cantonese, perfectly suited for whining and threatening? We expected to hear Cantonese in movies with Chinese actors, not the more stately cadences of Mandarin.

Most of all, though, there was Gong Li. “Ju Duo”, the Academy Award nominated Zhang Yimou movie from the year before that featured her had come and gone from the wastelands of the post-industrial Midwest before we had realized it, so this was the first time we saw Gong Li on a forty foot screen. From her first appearance under the credits as the nineteen year old fourth wife of a rural landowner, with her long pigtails and single suitcase, to the last when she has gone mad due to the wretched toxicity of her “sisters” and her own weakness, she dominates the film.

Song Lian is forced to leave her university studies when her father dies. She becomes the Fourth Mistress in the house of Chen Zuo Qian where she is to service her master sexually and produce a son or two. The red lantern of the title is raised at the door of the mistress who will be honored with the presence of Chen that evening. It is the high point and the only important event of the day—of any day at all. She gets a foot massage before she entertains him and gets to choose the menu for the communal meal the mistresses eat each day. Since they have no ability to think or act on their own these privileges are very important in the lives of the women. They are subject to ritual humiliation every day; each stands in on the front stoop of her house with her maid awaiting the lantern lighter. Three are publicly denigrated, one is granted recognition at the whim of the master of the house. Since they are competing for a worthless prize with no way of affecting the outcome the situation at the Chen household is full of hatred, bitterness and intrigue.

The plot of “Raise the Red Lantern” has a few twists none of which are really surprising although one is shocking in its casual cruelty. Women die and are replaced, the servants continue to serve; the lanterns are still lighted each night. The lingering shot at the end of the movie of the face a newly purchased concubine is extraordinary in showing the fear, dread and disgust that is just beneath the almost placid exterior of the fifth mistress.

Zhang framed, lit and photographed Gong Li in a manner fit for a cinema crown princess. She is often outlined by a window or even a half door with light streaming from above and one side, calling to mind portraits by Flemish master Jan Vermeer. Zhang is a master of light, form, mass and texture—the shots of Gong Li are perfectly composed studies that linger in the mind’s eye.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cherie Chung, Kelly Lin and Shu Qi walk into a bar...

Or rather showed up at the opening a new flagship store by luxury Swiss watch brand Piaget (if you have to ask you can't afford it). It seems as if everyone got the memo--not always the case--so each of them arrived in a dress with a deep V cut neckline.

Shu Qi wore a beaded red number with a flesh colored insert to better show off the zillion dollars in diamonds she was wearing around her neck and to make sure we noticed that her dress was slit up to here.

Kelly Lin has been keeping a low profile in the months since her Maldives wedding; she still knows exactly how sexy an actress can be by looking straight into the camera. She might have been competing in the "gown with most frou-frou" competition being held later that evening

Cherie Chung was a knockout in gray--she seems always to look great no matter where she is or what she is wearing. Take a look, for example, at this photoshoot where she has a very different look and still is glamor personified.

Piaget; Xinhua

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fan Bingbing, Lin Chi-Ling and Yao Chen in photoshoots

Fashion magazines lined up three of our favorites for their November numbers--generally the issue that is loaded with jewelry that ranges from high-end to insanely over the top so that the wives as well as the mistresses of wealthy men can easily let the old dogs know what they would like as stocking stuffers.

First comes Lin Chi-Ling in a typical "Vogue" editorial: beautiful model, lovely composition, product suitably displayed:

Then we have Fan Bingbing, trumpeted by Sina as the first Chinese actress on the cover of "L'Uomo Vogue". The constant "firsts" about which the Chinese entertainment press get so excited seem to show a sense of insecurity, a feeling that they are not quite sure of themselves in the European world of luxury goods, where China has become the largest and only growing market.

It would be notable if FBB was the first Chinese actress to win the Prix d'interprétation féminine at Cannes (actually that would have been Maggie Cheung) or the first to win the Nobel Peace Prize, but being the first anything on the cover of a glossy Italian men's fashion magazine doesn't really rate.

It was another characteristic "Vogue" type effort: leather jacket worn over nothing and opened to the waist of men's slacks, artfully messy, just rolled out of bed hair, even a small cigar used as a prop. She looked fabulous.

Yao Chen's classic profile is used to excellent effect by "Vision", a Chinese fashion magazine I have not heard of before. If the pictures shown on this tumblr page are an indication, "Vision" publishes images that look like those in every other luxury fashion magazine in the world. Yao Chen looks lovely in some uncluttered duo-tones.

Sina, 2, 3

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's award season already!

The often acerbic and usually coruscating proprietor of ULACA has published his awards for blogs based in or about Hong Kong. Your humble servant managed to snag one for not being a porn site.

The more one knows about Hong Kong political and cultural life the more one will appreciate his blog; those who have never been to the Special Administrative Region but who enjoy good periodical writing should have it bookmarked.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Li Bingbing eats pasta

Madame Figaro has a killer cover and editorial of Li Bingbing. It is more a study of light, shadow and mass than a fashion shoot as such. There is a bit of an Italian postwar Neorealism look--not only the shot of LBB lying prone in a set made to look like a hotel bedroom and about to chomp on a big forkful of spaghetti but also the image of her in a corridor swinging on a luggage carrier with a stout, semi-disapproving albergatrice in the background.

Great hair and make-up--the fashion assistants must have swept the shelves of the local beauty supply shops for hair gel--but what makes this shoot stand out is the implied but still laser-like eye contact with the viewer that LBB and the photographer achieved.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Chen Man corners the Bingbing market; Li Bingbing for Vogue

It has been a banner week for Chinese topliners named Bingbing. In addition to the FBB shoot for i-D Chen Man pointed her lens and Photoshop skills toward Li Bingbing for the October Vogue China. The images are almost impossibly lush--they must seem to jump off the screen when prepared for proofing.

Xinhua; Fashion Gone Rogue (again).

Tang Wei celebrates her birthday (again) at BIFF

This is the third birthday in a row that Tang Wei has had while at the Busan International Film Festival where she was the first non-Korean host in the event's history. During a question period with co-host Ahn Sung Ki, veteran star dubbed "The National Actor" by the Korean press, Tang Wei was given a cake and was serenaded by the audience.

She killed it on the red carpet in a color-block dress that looked like a long-sleeved version of the Stella McCartney Miracle dress.

What dreams are made of:

Projected one hundred feet high on a brick wall.

Check out Darcy Paquet's invaluable blog for information on Ahn Sung Ki (this link goes to actors biographies, he is the first one listed) and everything else about Korean film. If this is your first visit prepare to spend some time looking around. Yahoo China; Sina; Yahoo Philippines

Once again, Fan Bingbing by Chen Man

Fan Bingbing has served as muse/model for Chen Man in the past for Dolce & Gabana and as Bruce Lee. Here they collaborate for i-D magazine.

Chen Man is known for doing all the work on an image, from the initial photograph through manipulation in Photoshop and 3-D rendering. She said that images altered by software create “a reality that we can control and perfect in the way we choose.”

Chen Man portrait.
Her website is here. You will need a lightning fast internet connection or a lot of patience as Flash images load to fully appreciate it. Fan Bingbing images from Fashion Gone Rogue, Chen Man quote from White Rabbit. Chen Man portrait from Luxury Insider.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dangerous Liaisons continues festival slog; Cecilia Cheung and Zhang Ziyi at BIFF

Dangerous Liaisons has hit high profile film festivals on three continents: first at Cannes, then Toronto and now (and perhaps finally) the Busan International Film Festival. It may actually open soon--September 27 is the date for the official premiere. The stars and director have waved to audiences, answered questions that they first heard a year ago and acted as if they, if not the best of friends, at least weren't sworn enemies. At least so far.

There was the usual: a red carpet appearance, a press conference or photo opportunity and a well staged question and answer session filtered through interpreters. Cecilia Cheung looked as if she was enjoying hitting the rope line. Busan takes security seriously, with big, fit-looking plainclothes officers ready to pounce on anyone getting too enthusiastic.

Cecilia Cheung stopped to shoot a picture and was undeterred by a few maniacal looking fans.

Zhang Ziyi was more reserved--she kept her distance even while pressing a bit of flesh and looked more like someone on a royal progression than an actress hyping a film.

She seemed much more comfortable onstage in a more scripted and controlled environment where she could relax.

Both actresses agreed that they were on the lookout for something exactly that long, with Cecilia lighthearted and mock-serious while Zhang Ziyi was sardonic and a bit arch about it:

CRI; Yahoo China; Sina