30 January 2007
上星期的某個夜晚，路過 扎有二百多個營地的Saint-Martin Canal，拿起相機拍了幾張照片。兩三個人圍著一張長櫈，其中一個人從袋子裡拿出三雙運動鞋，放在長櫈上，我拍了下來。那人緊張地向我衝過來，要搶去我的相機。我立刻對他說，我把相片刪去好了﹗第一次感都自己在北京遇上了公安。然後在他的監視下，刪去了一張，原來還保有一張。朋友來幫我解圍，他們的鞋子已經收起了，然後向我朋友抱怨，說我獵奇心態才拍他們照片，「我們不是猴子﹗」我想拍的，是他們的生活現實，沒有絲毫不尊重的意思。但對他們來說，或許這種心態已經是獵奇了。但直覺告訴我，事情並不那麼簡單，因為他們緊張，但不憤怒，很可能他們是在做黑市交易，貨品是 -- 鞋子，求生工具之一。
鞋子，一雙扎實的鞋子，對終日在街頭闖蕩的人是必需品。所以在Harold Pinter 的 The Caretaker 裡， Davies 需要一雙舒服又扎實的鞋子才能去 Sidcup。但有了這樣的一雙鞋子，也就意味著他必須離開 Aston 及 Mick的家 ， 再次踏上他那漫長的流浪生涯。所以，他拒絕試鞋子，直說，「鞋子不合穿」。
正因為一旦穿上了鞋子，我們就要離開，所以戈戈很想脫下他的靴子，留下來。Samuel Beckett 在 Waiting for the Godot 裡，一開場就讓戈戈坐在一個墳墓狀的路邊土敦上，努力地想要脫掉他的靴子。但靴子太緊，枷鎖般地鉗著他，脫不下。流浪是無止境的。或許，停下來的時候，就是在墳墓裡。這叫做安息。
電影上，最深刻的是伊朗導演 Majid Majidi 的《小鞋子》(The Children of Heaven)。兩兄妹因為家裡窮不想為父親增添壓力而兩人共穿一雙又破又爛的鞋子，哥哥上午穿去上學，中午跑回家轉讓鞋子給妹妹上下午班去。後來，哥哥努力參加賽跑，一心想要取得季軍，因為獎品是一雙鞋子。衝刺前，哥哥被人撞倒，被扶起來時，他問︰「我得了季軍嗎？」「不，是冠軍﹗」站在頒獎台上，哥哥看著那雙鞋子和自己腳上那更加殘破的球鞋，流出了眼淚。
關於鞋子的遐想還有很多很多。但人們總愛把它和女人連在一起，當中不能不提鬼才導演 Almodovar 和他的 《情迷高跟鞋》(Tacones Lejanos, 1991)。片中幾次出現高跟鞋的特寫鏡頭，如跳舞的人妖，Rebecca懸在一根鐵杆上，母親的演出，片尾打開的窗戶等，這些鏡頭或帶動情節發展，或隱含了導演的喻意，在很大程度上提高了影片的表現力和感染力。這裡，高跟鞋成為了女性成熟、自私、愛慾、暴力和自信的象徵。
另一部電影，Francois Truffaut 的 L'Homme qui aimait les femmes (1977) 則將女人局部化為雙腿，然後再物化為一雙高跟鞋，最後，更簡化為高跟鞋踩在地上的「咯咯咯」，這時已和男人的心跳聲結合為一。這種近乎fetishism (戀物癖)的遐想，將高跟鞋變為色慾對象，想像主人家那雙修長纖細的美腿，然後她必然會魔鬼的身材和天使的臉龐，最後男人不自覺地愛上她。
我對鞋子的痴狂，只能算以前對芭蕾舞鞋的珍愛。新的舞鞋買回來，要經過break-in的工序 ，很神聖的一個過程，有點「新鞋落地」的 ritual feel，必需全神貫注和充滿感激的心情來自己動手。上一次做這件事是什麼時候了？以前曾經一度成痴，書桌上的擺設是一隻小型芭蕾舞鞋，鎖匙扣是芭蕾舞鞋，項鍊吊飾也是，不用說，從來不查閱的月曆，亦是芭蕾舞，還有一件胸前印有芭蕾舞鞋的 Sweater，每次排練前，必定穿著它熱身，不分季節。
現在愛上阿根廷探戈，最愛的，是紅色和黑色那兩雙高跟鞋。然後，Los Angeles的雕塑家 Bruce Gray做了這樣的一個雕塑，我覺得，他是為我做的，嗯…… 一定是這樣的﹗
29 January 2007
Come. Let us go down and let us confuse their language so that they will not understand each other's language, each will not understand their fellow. So Yahweh scattered them from there over the face of the entire earth, and they stopped building the city."
-- Babel, Genesis (Chapter 11)
To prove Man's power, men started to build the Babel tower, and men ended up in miscommunication with each speaking his own language. Today, with all the technological advancement, the world is getting smaller and language barrier ceased to exist. Yet, people are more than ever incapable of understanding each other. The distance is the mental coldness and the barrier is our eagerness to be understood without the willingness to understand.
The Mexican director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, created this epic of anxiety of modern man and woman who set their lives in Odyssey in search for reconciliation. In multiple inter-cut story strands, the film sets its four seemingly unrelated episodes in different country and native language. The first story takes place in Morocco when a goat-herder father passed on his two young sons a rifle he got from a black-market dealer to guard their goats from jackals. To test the power of the rifle, the aggressive and cunning young brother, Yussef, shot at a tourist bus and killed an American. In the hot climate of world politics, the incident was immediately blown up by the media to become a terrorist attack. In a fire confrontation with the police, the elder brother, Ahmed, was shot.
The second story takes place in a bourgeois home in San Diego where the Nanny (illegal immigrant from Mexico), Amelia decided to bring the two kids (Debbie and Mike) to Mexico to attend her son's wedding since she couldn't find a replacement. After the banquet, she confided the driving service back to San Diego to her nephew, Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal), who is always charming but proved to be unreliable. To escape the border control, Santiago started a car-chase with the police. Amelia and the two kids ended up lost in the desert in desperation.
The third story is about the couple, Susan (Cate Blanchett) and Richard (Brad Pitt), who traveled to Morocco in order to recover from the grief of their recent lost of a third son. However, blame and misgiving followed them everywhere and griped them in every word they heard from the other. "I don't want to talk about it now." / "Tell me when you are ready for a confrontation!" They are drawing further away from each other with every passing moment in the trip. Then in a bus-ride through a mountain ridge, Susan was shot at the upper shoulder and dying.
The fourth story moves to Tokyo where the deaf-mute teen, Chieko, suffers from a psychic shock (witnessing the suicide of her mother) that affects her reality and moral balance. Her new life with the physically and emotionally absent father and her disabilities deprived her as a social and emotional outcast for all her physical allure. Loneliness and marginalized in the big, crowded city of Tokyo, she attempts to fill her strained, needful existence with a first sexual encounter. When a cop came up to her for an investigation on her father, she took the move.
Tragedy is universal
When men set themselves into endless Odyssey, tragedy becomes universal. All the stories are highly charged with dread and emotional tension as tragic incidents triggered by human stupidity and carelessness steadily multiply. We need no grand conspiracy to destroy someone's life but a mindless move or a little sign of impatience is good enough. It's only when looking back that we human beings are able to discern the thin line that separating the predictable and unpredictable consequence (the gun shot), the realistic and unrealistic decision (bringing kids to Mexico), the guided and misguided judgment (the car-chase), the contained and uncontained explosive impulsion of youth (Chieko's rebellion), forgiving and misgiving calculation between couples (Richard and Susan). With each story develops, the moment-to-moment focus in these life-and-death situations underlies a strong sense of irony that works like a last act of twist into a crime film. Yet, we see it clearly how innocent these people are, even the one who sets up the whole situation. "Misunderstanding" + "Bad Luck", is this the formula to the origin of human tragedy?!
Sacrifice of the innocent
When mindlessness and impulsiveness become aggressive, they can be culpable. Yet, in the film, it's always the one next to the aggressive who checks the bill. Ahmed got two bullets to repaid the two shots of his younger brother (one at Susan, one at another police); Amelia and the two kids' lost-in-the-desert Odyssey is a direct result of Santiago's brutal outrage after long-term deprivation; Susan's shot and belated treatment due to vexed diplomatic difficulties epitomizes America's paranoid and predicament in present world politics; Chieko's fatal temptation of the cop is the revenge for her insecurity and abandonment by the society.
Have we ever tried to stop the sacrifice of the innocent?
When Santiago grasps the head of a chicken at one hand and spins at high speed the chicken's body with the other hand, I think of the poor American man beheaded and filmed in Iraq. Santiago breaks the neck of the chicken in 5 seconds, much shorter than the Iraqi soldiers. Head-off, the chicken runs away in a degree of pain which is beyond my imagination. Hilarious, the Mexican kids chase the chicken while Mike is totally chocked. The kids' insanity is comparable to those who watched the video of ultimate human suffering. In the next shot, we see Mike eating a chicken drumstick, deliciously.
Would you also be one of the lambs of God?
The helplessness and the selfishness
Gunshot, car horns, disco beats, light flashes, yells, boisterous banquets, latin music, telephone shouts, heavy traffic and noises in an overcrowded city... People pushing, jolting, rushing here and there in hysterical screamings for help, for attention, for love... Yet, in the epic of anxiety and frustration, they are alone and helpless. Chieko's deaf leaves her in total silence, disco for her is no more than flashes, she can't even dance to the beats; Amelia is trapped in the vaste empty desert with two kids; Ahmed and Yussef are caught in unspeakable fear for being an international terrorist; Susan is abandonned in a rural village with a veterinarian and a witch-like woman to save her life. We are captivated in an eternal state of inner anxiety and agitation.
The performance of Brad Pitt is irreproachable. In him, we see the helplessness and frustration of a man. Wealthy and strong, Richard believed in his ability to protect his family and his loved ones. Yet, his youngest son died in sleep and now his wife is dying in his arm and he couldn't do anything but wait for the mercy of some distant gods. For Susan's fear is of mortality but also the "unjust" of being an American abandoned in a remote third world reality. For Richard, all these are the greatest punishments and mockery from the hell. His final emotional breakdown during his phone call with his little son is one of the most touching moments in the film.
While he was waiting for a helicopter in incertitude, some elder tourists and kids were getting sick from the heat and requested the bus to leave. Under the urgent stress, Richard could no longer be rational but selfish. The bus finally left in fear of another attack, leaving Richard and Susan in the village among the "terrorist".
Is reconciliation possible? Iñárritu said "yes".
Therefore, Yussef disarmed and pleaded, "I killed the American, I was the only one who shot at you. They did nothing... nothing. Kill me, but save my brother, he did nothing... nothing. Save my brother... he did nothing."
Therefore, the lost-in-desert was ended and saved. Amelia would probably be sent back to Mexico where a potential lover is waiting for her.
Therefore, the Japanese cop clothed Chieko with his coat and read her love letter in a restaurant.
Therefore, on the TV screen the Japanese restaurant, the anchor reports in Japanese the safe return of Susan to the States after a false drama of terrorist attack.
All the four stories are cleverly linked up at the end. Chieko's father is a great adventurer whose absence might be the cause of his wife's suicide. The cop came to Chieko not for her mother's death but a rifle her father might have sold to a Moroccan some months ago. Her father did, but as a souvenir to his Moroccan guide. The rifle was later sold to Yussef's father and with it, Yussef shot Susan. Due to the accident, Richard and Susan's trip in Morocco was delayed. Therefore, Amelia had to bring their kids, Debbie and Mike, to Mexico for the wedding. Then there is the car-chase and lost-in-the-desert. The rifle is the link between all these people and it turned their lives into peril.
The most evident defeat of the film is the complete waste of Gael Garcia Bernal's talent as an actor. He plays this charming and unreliable young man, very convincingly, yes, and that's all. He is largely reduced to a minor role and I came to the cinema for him! Even worse, up to now, I can't figure out what happened to him at the end? Compeletly lost! On the contrary, the fours kids' performance in the film is extraordinary!
Photo credit: Babel (2006) Alejandro González Iñárritu
18 January 2007
Guest Writer: Bono Lee
單身女團 -- 李照興
她們現在都沒有拍拖; 她們不是從未嘗過拍拖，只是現在都不再急了; 她們有些是剛跟情人分手，而且不少是拍拖多年，有一兩個甚至已離婚; 她們有一定的經濟事業基礎; 她們肯定不算老，甚至可說正值花樣年華，但同時自覺已不像20來歲的後輩一樣敢作敢爲; 她們在人海之中碰上近似的好姊妹於是結爲深交同哭同笑; 她們聯群結隊去做gym然後到文華食cake跟著到時代廣場shopping; 她們，大多是30歲上下。
《紐約時報》報道了這種近年興起的新三十成人典派對，對比起往日十八成人，現在的都市青年，很有機會到三十才真正成長: 終於完全完成學業（現代人求學時間太長，有些28歲又返學府）, 脫離家庭, 真正選擇職業與生活。
17 January 2007
另一個網站是 my space，本來以為這是一個讓獨立音樂人發表作品的網站，最近又個法國朋友叫我開account，「在 myspace寫blog，更多人看」。真的嗎？於是我到myspace轉了個圈，這個網站包羅萬象，是認真的artisits的發表和宣傳平台，是徵友求愛的寂寞俱樂部、亦是色慾遍野的酒林肉池，總之，任君選擇﹗但意外地，竟然讓我撞上 Woody Allen 和 Catherine Deneuve，他們就如所有網民一樣，平起平坐，一起對談交流。忽然想，可能kundera正在某個地方寫blog，如果 walter benjamin的年代也有blog，他亦會寫blog嗎？我想會的，因為當年沒有出版社願意發表他的作品﹗唏，我們不也一樣嗎？﹗
我不喜歡msn。ICQ 的年代我也有個account，但不常用。我是 3 字頭，7位數字，即「outdate」的象徵，朋友說，嘩，已經去到7位數字啦﹗msn online，見朋友online，"oh, you are still alive!"。 然後盯著online list上的舊知新歡，半小時、一小時、兩小時…… 大家互不打招呼，offline﹗就如大家對坐在火車上，兩個小時的旅程中裝作互不相識，感受能不酸嗎﹗所以，我不喜歡msn。如果你在msn上遇見我，你該知道我正處於極度無聊之際。
今天，我們就像一隻隻生活在這個巨大而纖細的網絡上的無聊小蜘蛛，無論你往哪個方向走，你總要面對無數的分岔口、無數的可能性，同時你亦變得無所遁形。人與人的關係，來得容易，去得更容易，所謂的 "hi - bye friend"﹗一切都已變得無所謂了，大家於對方的格值是「一蚊雞」。這是不是另一種不能承受的輕?
16 January 2007
15 January 2007
Then she remembered the same panic once reigned over her, it's seven years ago, when she was 17. She was standing at the middle of an examination hall, sitting in front of her, 5 adjudicators. Then the same D-string cracked. Inexperienced, she was stunned, sweat ran over her, she pled for a second chance.
However, on the path to success, there is not always a second chance. What's the probability of breaking the same D-string during two most important performances in your life as a violinist? Isn't it a joke? Why the D-string has to crack when you are playing Pachelbel's Canon in D Major?
As the first violinist of that evening's chambre music concert, she knew she had to pass the test which guarantees her a contract of freedom, a new life away from London. The Cellist started, with full confidence, she joined in as the first violinist. She led in the actual canon, then the second and third violinists followed with 2 bars of interval each. At the 17th repetition of the bass chord, she heard the "Dong", and the D-string flapped at her face like a slap, bounced over, then died out on the violin. She looked at the broken violin over her shoulder, "shit!" For the rest of the performance, she had to play 5 notes down on the G-string and the canon continued. For her it was if she were playing in a funeral band marching behind her own coffin. All was lost!
"Am I waking up from a nightmare or my nightmare is just about to begin?" She asked. Picking up the violin from the floor, she opened the case, once again, her fingers were caressing the three strings and the broken one. The red violin, she inherited it from her grandmother, "take this, it's your destiny!" The old woman said to her and handed over her her won destiny.
My destiny, and my betraying D. She threw herself once again into the bed and let herself be crushed under the wheels of fate.
14 January 2007
He is now driving northbound up to Calais, leaving Paris to his southeast. In some 30 minutes, he would be at the closest point to her. His car is taking 110km/h... still, the french cars are overtaking him at 150km/h. Why he is always in such a state of inertia when all the others are taking action to surpass him? He hopes, he can only hope for a fine and clear sky so that he would be able to see her.
After three stops for direction, his trip is delayed by 15 minutes. Finally, he is now standing on the tallest rock of the coastline. West to him is Atlantic Ocean, north to him is the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Chanel. This is the point closest to Dover with only 45km apart. The port and cityscape of Dover is discernible. The buildings lined up from left to right, punctuated by occasional space break. The tops of the buildings shrink into a tiny image powdered by a layer of smog and late afternoon dust. He imagines her opening the window of the White Cliffs Theatre where she will have a concert tonight. He imagines her looking at the other end of the sea during the rehearsal break, waving her bow in the air to him, scribbling in the foggy sky messages of love for him. He sees the vibration of the violin strings like a network of airwave, he listens to her violin resonating in the air, the words of her love and her disappointment. Her disappointment... on her sad innocent face. He sees her, floating in the air amidst the thin layer of smog, like the last time when he saw her, she was wrapped in her white cotton bedsheet, emitting her fragrant. "Caught it!" he wispered to her ears then held her tight to him.
There is another world beyond this seemingly intraversable sea, a world that promises him happiness and hope. Is it really intraversable? In 1785, the frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard successfully crossed the channel with an airballoon. Almost a century later, on 24 August 1875, an Englishman called Matthew Webb swam across the Strait in 21 hours and 45 minutes. Different attempts were contemplated by great adventurers to cross the strait, to go to the other end of the world. Today, one can easily travel with Eurostar, with a car or even walk throught the tunnel. What is dragging him here? What is dragging him?
The two cities may be within arm-reach, yet the two individuals are separated by a whole universe. Is the distance killing him or his own inertia? Why he is so incapable of action?! Once again, he sees the disappointment on her face and the white bedsheet stained with her tears. Looking over the channel, he reaches out his arms, he wants so much to hold her in his arms, to wipe the tears on her face.
Why he had to let her down? Why? He streches his arms in the empty air, the floating image of her is fading away, he clenches his fists to fight against the empty space like a lunatic. Hovered between anger and remorse, he cries out her name.
13 January 2007
9 January 2007
5 January 2007
Half a century ago, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg started the idea of a commonwealth Europe, which was later joined by the UK, Denmark and Ireland in 1973. Today after its sixth expansion to include Romania and Bulgaria, this big elephant of 500M populations becomes the most economically powerful and unified states federation. Its official language grows to 23, including the dialects of Catalan and Basque. According to The Independent, the translation and publication cost is budgeted to 3.5M Euro per year.
This gigantic empire is the most successful example of bloodless regime change in the contemporary history. Most of the new members walked through the living memory of dictatorship to a more liberal democracy and economically advanced stage. Expansion is the historic triumph of the EU, but expansion means change and change is always disruptive. Self-double is the immediate result.
The ultimate dream is a unified Europe and the long-term economic implication is, of course, prosperity. However, short-term results are the flux of westward migration causing unemployment and burdening local services in the West and the abandonment and population drop in the East. Such as, in Romania, 10% of the population has migrated to the West (mainly in Italy and Spain) while in Bulgaria, it's estimated that in some decades, 30% of its population will be lost to the West. Thus, the backlash is the "anti-Polish Plumbers" in France and the restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians workers in most countries. There is also the fear of increase of organized crimes in the continent. Turkey's candidacy arouses the fears of losing the EU's cultural coherence by integrating Muslims into European societies. The situation is further complicated by the competition from the emerging economic powers of Asia which has already been bearing down on the sluggish European economics.
Thus, when the EU is enlarging itself ceaselessly, internal unbalance is getting serious and doubt on the absorption rate arises. There are cries urging a stop to this absorption. It is believed that if the Constitution is not going to be passed in 2009, countries such as Ukraine, Croatia and Turkey will have to wait for a longer time. The empire is a never-so-successful one and yet a never-so-self-doubting one. As the big elephant grows and walks, it's losing its sense of direction. There is a serious discrepancy of "where we are coming from" and "where we are heading to". The EU as a whole is happy party for all, but on the individual level, members are not so happy with the party.
4 January 2007
法國給世界締造無限的想像空間，這個想像的世界華美璀璨、浪漫醉人，縱然左腳踩著狗屎、右腳沾著小便，大家亦要不慌不忙地在鐵塔前下倩影。放大照片，你發現東南西北圍著落泊的身影。這群流離失所的人在花都比比皆是，一片繁華美境下埋藏著一顆炸彈。而這顆炸彈在法國人心中越來越具體化。06年12月初兩份雜誌 «La Vie» 及 «l'Humanité» 公佈調查報告，指48%的法國人擔心自己有朝一日會變成流浪漢，35-49歲的活動人口組別，數據更高達62%。肯定自己不會淪為露宿者的，只有17%。
這種對將來的悲觀和嚴重不安正不斷滲透法國各階層，失業成為每個法國人心中的死亡炸彈。在這個福利社會，以前法國人都抱有 the state will do it! 的心態，但面對國家經濟倒退，人口老化及失業率高企等社會現實，法國人開始感到國家靠不住，但「人人自危」的情緒其實已在潛意識裡隱藏多年。對失業的恐懼深遠地影響著打工仔和老闆之間的關係，這個打工皇帝的天下和近乎鐵飯碗的制度相信很快就不保，但同時亦暴露了法國人的不靈活和不善改革的一面。記得去年三月，法國大學生反對新就業法時，有一句經典標語充分表露了年青一代的精神萎縮︰「face aux precarites, soyez inflexibles!" (be inflexible in face of precariousness)」。 當美國人提倡一生人從事四種不同的職業的時候，法國人寧可一生人打一份工。於是沒有人自動辭職、其他人亦沒法轉工，另一方面，鑒於六個月薪金的昂貴賠償金額，老闆亦盡量不炒人，job market 的 mobility 停滯。一旦失業，無家可歸的威脅便立即浮現。每兩個法國人便有一個擔心自己會露宿街頭，當然是一個嚴重而可怕的警號，但這種「同是天涯淪落人」的感覺亦令法國人更關心街角的可憐人。
今天法國政府便公佈將立法保障露宿者，「有個瓦遮頭」是人的基本權利，國家將負起這個責任，讓「家」和教育和醫療一樣，成為每個法國人的平等福利和基本保障。有了一個穩定的居所，失業人士才可以重新找工作。政府計劃在短短兩個星期內透過法例，但郤要2008年開始行動，預計2012年完成全國性安置計劃。這麼快速的決定，除了為大選的拉票關係外，還有另一個關鍵人物。這個人叫 Augustin Legrand。
一個人的力量有時真的可以改寫歷史，一個小小的決定往往帶來意想不到的後果。或許只有以破釜沈舟的決心堅持到底，我們才能摸出個頭緒來，才不會被自己的信念欺騙。31歲的演員 Augustin Legrand 為了拍攝他弟弟 Jean-Baptiste Legrand 製作的紀錄片而在街邊生活了六個星期，體會流浪者的辛酸和死亡的威脅。去年10月，Legrand 三兄弟成立了 Les enfants de Don Quichotte (Don Quichotte 的孩子們) 為流浪者爭取權利，要求政府介入和立法援助。他們在巴黎的 Saint-Martin Canal (即 小 Amelie Poulain 和她媽媽將條金魚放生的小運河) 架起二百多個帳蓬，幫助流浪者渡過這個寒冬。12月26的 boxing day，他們遊行了，原來聖誕老人和篷頭垢面的流浪漢相去不遠矣。這一幕二百多個紅色帳蓬讓法國人一目驚心，12月28日，政府公佈撥出危急款項七千萬歐羅 (七億港幣) 改善露宿現況。
七億港幣對一個打工仔來說可真是天文數字，但試想想，最近香港某公子花了一億舉辦婚禮，七億其實真是小意思﹗更諷刺的是，12月23日，同一個政府動用了 7.9 billions 歐羅 (8百億港幣 ? 唉﹗的錢多到我都唔識數﹗) 建造六架核能潛艇，另配 250 枚導彈埋單再加9億歐羅。究竟所謂的 national defense 是指招兵買馬，還是救助有需要的國民重要點？