The similar feeling struck me again when watching the Japanese film — Close Knit (2017), where a young girl (Tomo) witnessed her uncle’s girlfriend (Rinko), who is a transgender person, encountering different kinds of discrimination in her daily life. As a way to channel her anger and determination to become a woman, Rinko set a goal of knitting 108 colourful woolly “penises” and then burning them as a symbolic way of letting go of her male identity, hoping this ritual inspired by the Buddhist idea of reincarnation would allow her to truly embrace her new identity without fear and worries. The act of knitting happened throughout the film, the scene where she finally burnt away “her past” with the help with Tomo and Tomo’s uncle is one of the highlights of the film. In this film, practice of religious ritual plays an important role in providing the emotional support for Rinko, and goes beyond to empower her to establish her identity in a society where LGBT is still a taboo subject to a large extent.
When it comes to tragedy on screen, the presence of sea generally creates a sense of tension to the story and makes it more powerful, like Titanic.
It’s hard to say if Dunkirk is trying to tell a tragic story. Over the viewing experience however, I could strongly feel how a war battle in the vicinity of sea left people being extra exposed and vulnerable, to an extend that the so-called enemy and alliance, defeat and victory seem less significant. Under the pressing situation, people had to make choices, voluntarily or involuntarily, in the solo hope of survival or going home.
One of the stories that stuck with me and worked its way into the film was a veteran telling me about watching people walk into the sea, just as if they were going to swim home. I asked him, ‘Were they literally trying to swim back to England or swim out to a ship; were they killing themselves?’ He didn’t know, but he knew they were going to die. It’s a chilling thing to hear. —-
For a war film that doesn’t involve much bright colour or long dialogue, what we are shown is three episodes of the famous World War II evacuation and a vivid depiction of lives associated with it. The desperate struggles happening near, above and at the sea clearly bring out a sense of belonging and patriotism among the British soldiers as well as civilians, which then led to a spirit of solidarity and people’s willingness to sacrifice. In contrast to the vastness of sea, the ugliness and narrowness of the nature of war is also largely revealed at the same time.
A sense of admiration and fear to sea seems to be universal, whether they are threatening a few little boats like what is portrayed in The Great Wave off Kanagawa (A print of which is recently showing at NGV), or an array of military ships in Dunkirk…It seems that any hatred, blood, screams could all be easily erased and conquered by the roaring waves, which in a way enable people to stop, to reflect and to forgive.
Major Kusanagi’s jump from the top of a building into the dark, gigantic urban jungle background is inevitably the highlight of the film. As a cyberpunk movie, Ghost in a Shell inherited the futurist and postmodern urban setting like the ones from Blade Runner (1982), with ubiquitous high-rises, flickering digital screens and rotating animated projections. Though obviously a duplicate of the skyline of Hong Kong, the 3D effect of city created by the latest CI technology has improved tremendously compared with the augmented film scenes in Blade Runner from the 80s. One day when the digital technology is mature enough to present such settings via virtual reality glasses, it would probably be another step closer towards the cyber-world that is depicted in the movie.
This is a film about 1930s Shanghai and its gangster past during the chaotic Japanese occupation period.
As a Chinese film, it is a nice piece of work that entails a sophisticated storyline and a unique style of art-house aesthetics, while still maintains its clear commercial intentions. With an all-star cast, it depicts the stories happening around three leading characters including a ruthless gangster leader (You Ge), a Shanghaiese- speaking Japanese spy (Tadanobu Asano) and a lustful concubine (Ziyi Zhang) of a gangster boss. Each of them was after something they wanted during the wartime, and all thought that they had had full control of the situation during the process of pursuing, while the end is pretty much tragic for all of them.
To me the film pays tribute to a wartime era where everything was unpredictable, all relationships seemed fragile, and people’s fate could turn into different directions at a blink of an eye. This might be the case for any wartime stories, however there seems to be an extra level of fascination involved when they are told in the 1930s Shanghai — back then a city under influences of different political parties, east and west cultures, while the local gangster groups still dominated the backend of the city’s criminal activities, and determined the ways things should be done in many circumstances.
I especially like the touch about the lives of a few supporting roles who have side stories that are peripheral to the main storyline. They include a maid who served the gangster family loyally but died as a victim as the result of a revenge spree by an enemy group, a dying gangster chauffeur who got rescued by a prostitute and then fell in love with her, and an actress who rejected the courting from the gangster’s top leader and hoped to get back with her estranged husband. They help the audience to catch a glimpse of people’s mentality during that era, where everything had some sort of unspoken rules, but they could also be steered away as lust and caution intervened.
The Chinese title, which literally means “A history of disappearing romance”, conveys a sense of both nostalgia and melancholy. With the end of war, aspects of the wartime humanity, genuine or distorted, all started to fall apart and became powerless, to a point that all comments seem absurd and further interpretation no longer seem necessary.
It is a bit hard to define what type of work “Love at Fifth Site” is — a digital installation, a creative project, or simply a film (even though there is no record of this on IMDb). The installation is made of 5 film clips, and you get to “watch” them by standing in front of 5 different screens. However, instead of listening to the characters speaking to you, you actually follow the characters’ dialogues by pointing your own phone at the screen at each of the site, with the help of an APP. At the same time you also get to experience the scenes by interacting with the props supplied onsite, which appeared to set in the same way as the ones in the film.
At first I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I encountered that at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, but it turned out to be a very fun and enjoyable experience to follow the development of a love story. The lack of music is the only small disappointment to this experience, as the audio and sound element would make the whole story more engaging together with the visual and interactive elements.
It is fascinating to see how this creative use of digital device gives people a new way of “being in control”, which has been seen in many other creative artworks such as this one. It certainly allows the audience to explore the visual space more actively compared to the traditional cinematic experience. However there has already been contemplation on a world where smart phone penetrates all parts of everyday life and even dominates people’s thinking and perception. An extreme but not unrealistic example has been demonstrated in Black Mirror-Episode “Nosedive”, where people constantly rate each other with their phones after every single encounter, and the whole social trust system is built upon that as a result.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to have the choice available in the meanwhile, so that we can all be easily surprised and inspired with that little device in the pocket.
Reality shows featuring pretty girls and their luxurious lifestyles is an eye-catching topic in every culture, just like people can never get bored of checking out celebrity gossip magazines. Whereas it is also common for this kind of show to receive all kinds of criticisms and controversies.
There is no exception to this show — Ultra Rich Asian Girls, which is a reality show featuring 4 mandarin-speaking Asian girls who lead luxurious lifestyle in Vancouver Canada. The show takes audience to have a glimpse of their daily activities including trip to private island, designer bags shopping spree, million dollar villa parties, etc., as well as documents how they interact with (or loathe) each other. However, as it is set in a special context where these girls actually represent the tip of an influx of Asian wealth into western societies, extra discussions involving racism, cultural identity and its unavoidable political implications among the diaspora group are triggered on top of the usual level of criticism over “the rich” and “materialism”.
In a more realistic environment, the “invasion” of Asian students, investment, and culture has affected the local economy in many countries such as Canada and Australia. As much as these countries welcome the wealthy migrants, they also need to face some pressing issues like the rapid rise of property prices and the changing face of their local communities, which in a way has shaped the wealthy Asians into a form of special community and sometimes given the concept of “yellow peril” a new form.
Leaving all the”why”s and”how”s that people have towards these Asian migrants alone, what this reality TV did is simply to give the “ultra rich” group a voice and to satisfy the outsiders’ longing to know them. Besides, there is also no doubt that the group will continue to grow, bringing more change on both inside and outside of many western societies, just like a side effect of globalization. The consequence is obvious – one can either embrace it or feel intimidated by it.
The reality show is now preparing to launch for its 4th season. After all, it is all the controversies and criticisms that contribute to the success of this TV show series.
I encountered two amazing LED-based art installations when travelling. Both artworks featuring twinkling LED lights in the darkness — one is set outdoor in the desert field of Uluru while the other one is indoor at Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney.
- Field of Light-by Bruce Munro
Over 50,000 bulbs light up a massive block of land the size of a football field at the foot of Uluru. The colours and strength of light of the bulbs change automatically and gradually as the audience move around the field in the darkness, making the whole filed come to life in a quiet and calm way.
Being in the red centre of Australia is already a mind-blowing experience. The Field of Light exhibition is certainly a nice touch that adds another layer of fascination to the place.
“I saw in my mind a landscape of illuminated stems that, like the dormant seed in a dry desert, quietly wait until darkness falls, under a blazing blanket of southern stars, to bloom with gentle rhythms of light,” he (Munro) said. “Field of Light is a personal symbol for the good things in life.”
2.Mega Death by Tasuo Miyajima – MCA Australia
Mega Death (1999) features about 3000 white LED counter gadgets on a three-walled billboard. The counters count down from nine to one, on to darkness without indicating “zero” then return to nine and repeat themselves. They are programmed to be completely switched off every few minutes, leaving the viewers in complete darkness, then go back to counting at various speed again.
The changing faces of numbers or digits appear in different forms in almost every piece of artwork in Miyajima’s exhibition- Connect with Everything, and this piece is the most impressive work in terms of its scale and design. Almost like some kind of ritual, the blue illuminated room and its numerous glittering LED counter gadgets is a very power visual expression that challenges the audience’s perception of time and changes.
“It is about the Holocaust, but it has parallels with global tragedies. It holds the meaning of many of the human-caused tragedies of the 20th century: the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, terrorist attacks … any mass death or destruction or killing where a life is taken before [its natural term].”
The use of LED lights in the darkness opens a gate for me to be fully immersed in these installation space. It’s interesting to see that both artists have chosen the same medium to express their concepts and ideas yet shape them into something quite differently, as one celebrates the greatness of lives, the other contemplates the meaning of death. While it is also undeniable that the two themes are closely interlocked with each other at all time and are simply showing the 2 different sides of the same story.
It’s been a while since the last time I watched a stage show in a small theatre…and I forgot what an intimate experience this can be. What made me feel this way are two Japanese theatre productions at Arts House Melbourne as part of the AsiaTOPA festival.
Both productions deal with the topic of 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, reflecting on the disaster’s impact on people’s living with a close glimpse to their inner minds. The simple settings on stage open up a new dimension where my attention is exclusively dedicated to the stage and the performance happening there.It hence becomes quite intimate — like witnessing a tragic process that interweaves the past and the future, the deceased and the lived and is something that is very delicate, fragile and easy to be overlooked if not contemplated carefully.
The first production: Time’s Journey Through a Room is about a man’s dialogue with the spirit of his deceased wife and his new girl friend, revealing his desperation for hope while also a sense of frustration of being worn out by the sadness.
The second production: Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance is a performance involving simultaneous interpretation of a woman’s voice talking about her husband who died in the earthquake. Performed by one person with headphones on, the production also uses a projection of moving images in the background as the person does the oral interpretation. Her shadow projected on the background creates a special presence of a person among the images of objects and sceneries.
Each of the two shows has a unique way of depicting the character’s mental reaction to their loss at the natural disaster, by gently letting the character’s voice being heard with a series of subtle and distinct expressions. They captured moments after a person is finally settling in the fact about death of the loved one and is trying to get on with life. Somehow, making sense of the unforgettable is actually helping the lived ones to forget, to move on and in this case, to heal as part of a national tragedy.
It’s very hard not to associate La La Land with The Artist, not just because of the singing and dancing part, but more the vintage style and nostalgia feeling the two films both have, even though I have pretty much forgotten about the actual story of The Artist.
La La Land has won 6 awards out of its 14 Oscar nominations. So it wouldn’t be surprising if La La Land harvest similar amount of attention as The Artist, who won 5 Oscars.
In fact, the film has already connected with audience on different levels all over the world, such as:
Naomi Watanabe dances to the theme music of La La Land.
and “Lie Lie Land”graffiti.
Back to the film, the main characters- Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling made a lovely couple — A young actress trying to build her career in L.A and a musician who is constantly facing the dilemma between art and living. The opening and the ending scenes are the highlights of the film to me. Especially, the ending is a flashback of the what-ifs that could have happened in their lives — a made-up “happy ending” that completes audience’s imagination for that couple, just as we have all wondered about wot-ifs at some stage of our lives. Watching the whole process actually unfolds in details are something that is quite powerful and fascinating.
Overall it’s a film showcasing the distance between dreams and reality, and the romance that happens on the journey from dreams to reality, presented with great music and dancing performances. Not so much a film for Valentine’s day maybe, but is a good option for couples who are facing choices or singles who simply want to fall in love.