人生保齡 - Boyhood

January 27, 2015

Life doesn't give you bumpers.

Life doesn’t give you bumpers.

描寫成長的電影,通常都集中敘述改變主角生命的一件事,從而道出人生大道理。Boyhood卻是反其道而行,用主角長大成人十二年裡看似毫不相干的生活片段,立體地呈現眾人的成長路。(突然想到人們在婚禮播放的「成長片段」…)

看 Richard Linklater導演的電影,泛起一陣似曾相識的感覺。在Boyhood (《我們都是這樣長大》)裡,唸高中的Mason和他女朋友的對話,就像《愛在黎明破曉時》裡的情侶對世界的浪漫憧景一樣;Mason媽媽對未來焦慮,長期處於不安,跟《日落巴黎》主角的中年危機有三分相似;Mason爸爸向兒子分享自己感情事時流露的滄桑,似乎與《情約半生》中爭拗不斷的夫妻相互呼應。

在Mason和他父母的互動中,我們看見兩種截然不同的人生觀和育兒哲學。媽媽價值偏向保守,認為人生就是要完成不同里程碑:結婚、成家立室、生兒育女、供書教學。在不斷追趕里程碑的路上,她天天為口奔馳,沒有時間好好計劃人生,不能把自己從成長的迷惘中拯救過來,伴侶多是酗酒和有暴力傾向的人。爸爸卻是一個典型的嬉皮族,今天有酒今天醉,長期沒有正式工作。他對子女的管教自由放任,不過倒是善於與他們溝通,三言兩語就說明白了艱深的處界法門。那一種的管教方法比較優勝?

電影沒有提供答案。如果人生是打保齡,父母的照顧就是防止你打落坑的bumpers。你可以依賴bumpers,但這樣打並不過癮。當我們可以拆掉bumpers,放膽打直線球,就是長大而自立的一日。有人希望囝囝可以局局全中,又有人希望囡囡可以球球「落西」打出旋轉球,不過,只要子女可以天天都胸有成竹打保齡而不落坑 - 為了自己所信念而活、不和不流,絕不苟且度日、追名逐利 - 父母就完成了他們的責任。重要的是,這樣活著的人才會對周遭的感覺,是真真正正的活著。

Thank you.

Thank you.

Mason媽媽在餐廳遇見了多年前到她家修水喉的喉匠Ernesto,她的一句「You should go to school」啓發他發奮進修,悄悄地改變了他一生。在此我希望對在我生命中不經意影響了的人說一句-謝謝。

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Adaptation

November 17, 2014

Charlie Kaufman / Donald Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman / Donald Kaufman

Why is this movie even called Adaptation? The word ‘adapt’ wasn’t even mentioned once in the movie.

If evolution is the key for the survival of the human race, then adaptation would be the key to survive the human life. Charlie said that he never believed that there were some golden rules that would lead you to success. If one’s life is only about fighting for A and B because one believes that A+B = Success then life would definitely be dull and boring. But that’s exactly the trap that Charlie fell into: he wanted to write something that is the antithesis of a Hollywood story –  a story without chase scenes, sex scenes or the main character learning some profound lessons. He believed that by targeting the niche market his movie would be a success. Even when he found it impossible to go on he refused to add a few chase sequences and spectacular ending into his movie. His failure to adapt is the reason of his own misery.

The orchid chaser, John, on the other hand, knew how to adapt. “I once feel deeply, you know, profoundly in love with tropical fish. Had 60 goddamn fish tanks in my house…. Then one day I say, “fuck fish”. I renounce fish. I vow never to set foot in that ocean again.” He have had a number of things that he felt crazy in love with over the years, but he managed to move on without any strings attached, and this made him a much happier guy compared to Charlie. The the movie didn’t offer any clues as on how he did it. Streep’s character, Susan, asked, “but why?“, “done with fish” he replied. But nevertheless the lessons I learnt from John is – being able to move on easily doesn’t mean you didn’t have the passion for the thing you once loved.

Another way to adapt is to understand the fact that we are only a tiny part of a huge system. John told us a story about insects and flowers which explained the idea, “we’re all one thing, Lieutenant. That’s what I’ve come to realize. Like cells in a body. ‘Cept we can’t see the body. The way fish can’t see the ocean. And so we envy each other. Hurt each other. Hate each other. How silly is that? A heart cell hating a lung cell.” When one sees the world through the lens of hatred and hostility, there is no room for adaptation for there can be no genuine conversation. It’s only when we are removed from our tinted lenses and realise we are all inextricably linked, that we will be able to share our stories with others and our legacies can live on.

The Brotherly chat towards the end revealed the golden rule of adaptation, “you are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago“. When we care too much about the external markers of success, what we can all do is to react, but not adapt. Knowing that subtle difference has been a eureka moment for me.

Interstellar Gravity

November 12, 2014

Christopher-Nolan_Fotor_Collage
I don’t usually compare movies, nor people or things for that matter, because every movie is a work of art on its own right. No matter how hard one tries it would only be a comparison between apples and oranges. So what I am trying to do here is an analysis, not a comparison.

In Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón was trying to tell a story of courage, survival and redemption set in space. Space took a backseat whilst the actions of the protagonists took centre stage. The disheartening silence of space has the ability to captivate audience and exemplifies a sense of despair which makes the story more compelling. Meanwhile, space is not a background, but a character on its own in Interstellar. The scale, colours and the otherworldliness of space confront the audience to think about questions on love, sacrifice and human nature.

Both directors wanted to tell us a great story. While I have great admiration for Nolan’s persistence in keeping film making real with his 70mm IMAX film cameras and reluctance to rely on green screens, Cuarón quest to use pioneering cinematography techniques and cutting edge computer imagery to tell stories should not be dismissed. Whichever tool is used to tell the story, I believe it is fair to say that both movies have provided us with a transcending experience and pushed the limits of the space genre.

迫爆公共交通

April 6, 2014

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看見司機為爭路張牙舞抓、行人過馬路無章可遁、交通警察為私利到處留難司機,《開羅開車開到狂》不但展示了開羅都市的交通困局,透過訪談被困在車龍中的通勤者,更讓我們了解開羅市民生活的燥動不安及他們對國家發展的期盼。

日復日、年復年,在人車爭路的混亂之中,一個有序卻不平衝的交通生態系統不經意地萌生﹕不成文的響號語言、超車爬頭的禮節、塞車時跟旁邊司機閒聊。這個有機的生態體絕處逢生,按自由意志進化,與本片的載體 — 埃及,與它不思進取的腐敗政府 — 構成懸殊的對比。

從開羅交通的這一切,我看到的不是她的雜亂無序,而是雜亂中人與人之間的距離。導演Sherief Elkatsha說,開羅雖亂,但在大街小巷裡,陌路人也會交頭接耳說過不停。反之,在香港(導演來港數天參加香港國際電影節),雖然公共交通效率高,人們都在精密的系統裡遊走,他觀察到的卻是通勤者的anonymity(匿名性),意思就是雖然成千上萬的人每天都被困在一個密閉的空間中,在地鐵巴士中向著同一個目標(商業區)進發,但大家都仿佛都活在各自的私人空間中,毫不相干。

在公共交通效率上,開羅跟香港站在兩個極端。然而,我們想要的,是一個有人情味的運輸網絡,抑或是一個乏味、無情、人人鬥過你死我活的公共交通系統?當我們每天都埋怨地鐵巴士迫爆的時候,不妨思考一下這個問題。

Woody Allen’s Roma

December 17, 2013

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Not one of his best works, but the thing about Allen’s romantic comedy is, not to mention it gets me into thinking about my life, I always get to feel a little cocky when I get one of his well-crated jokes, or, when I understand the a conversation full of name-dropping (sorry for being so self-absorbed here). Getting lazy in writing an organised review….. What I see in the story:

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The one-and-only Mr. Allen: Unlike his previous works in which he always plays the cynical, liberal intellect who has a fetish for name-dropping and a pessimistic view of the human race, this time he plays this self-absorbed, centre-right opera director who has an addiction to prove himself right.

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The ordinary-turned-famous Leopoldo (played by the always wonderful Roberto Benigni): In contrast to opera director’s pursuit for fame and glory, Leopoldo quickly got tired of the attention from the paparazzi. Through our laughs on silly paparazzi questions directed towards Leopoldo, we reflect on the media’s constant yet pointless scrutiny on celebrities. Leopoldo story also tells us that some people aren’t incapable to be extraordinary, they choose to be ordinary.

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Jack, Monica and John (Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and Alec Baldwin): Classic from Allen’s playbook – boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy couldn’t be in love with the girl for whatever reason, boy dates the girl anyway, girl leaves boy heartbroken. We know the ending of the story from the get go. But this time, with shadowy Baldwin constantly jumping in for a second opinion, this romantic tragedy is given a fatalistic touch. One sad realisation form this story: in where I am from, if one drops names like the Ellen Page’s characters does, one isn’t a pseudo intellect, one’s a nerd.

Rodriguez has no idea his album has been a big hit in South Africa

Rodriguez has no idea his album has been a big hit in South Africa

Once in a while, you see stories about some undiscovered talents on the news. They touch your heart because there is the element of sympathy: you are sympathetic because it seems that the world has missed out on something for a long time, and you try to comprehend the reason of the world’s indifference; and more importantly, you are sympathetic because you realise, in no time, you are standing in the shoes of the subject in the news – you are, coincidentally and obviously, the victim of another brutal talent un-discovery. You find a sense of consolation reading those stories, or, to put it more bluntly, a sense of relief – for knowing that your talent may be discovered someday.

Searching for the Sugar Man is not one of those stories. This story not only touches your heart or exploits your sympathy, but it also inspires.

The story started with the quest of a Rodriguez’s fan to track down his idol’s whereabouts. “Every obstacle during the search has been an inspiration,” he declared. It took him years and, I assume, a dozens of inspiration for him to finally locate the most popular yet mysteriously American singer in South Africa. To his surprise, Rodriguez knew nothing about his popularity nor his obscure role in ending the Apartheid in South Africa.

To say Rodriguez is a man of modest means would be an outrageous understatement to his humility. He did not seem to be excited, or even interested, when he learnt about his bigger-than-elvis identity in South Africa. When asked about whether he regretted not knowing about that identity earlier by the Director, Mr. Rodriguez found no words for the answer. He didn’t seem to have thought about this very idea or the word “regret” at all. His lack of response renders the rationale (“well, you could have been a superstar”) behind the Director’s question out of place, and, almost offensive.

If life is a story, the story always has a narrative demanding us to be talented, ambitious or famous. To Rodriguez, that narrative did not matter. He didn’t seem to have thought about himself being talented when he wrote those songs, nor thought about being ambitious when he did those hard-labour construction jobs, nor thought about being famous when he ran for city council. To Rodriguez, what matters is: he loves what he is doing.

The newspaper declares Rodriguez a hero (and a zero).

The newspaper declares Rodriguez a hero (and a zero).

When we love what we do and we do it only because we love it, we could achieve a state of serenity, very much like the state Rodriguez was in as he took stage for the first time in South Africa, and probably first time ever. When you do something only out of love, these things usually don’t come into your mind: fame , shame, success, failure, glory… well, you get the idea. That’s how you don’t get butterflies in your stomach when you got thousands of fans cheering at your debut concert.

So, can I also escape the usual narrative of life and do the things I love? Maybe. In the world we live in today, it takes courage to take a stance against or ignore (in Rodriguez’s case) and do the things we love. But I guess the takeaway from Rodriguez’s story is that, if we can be authentic and persistent about the things we love, someday, you’ll be home – the place where you feel most comfortable about.

There is a long way to go.

We, human, are driven by a number of innate forces. There are forces that perfect us – the pursuit of truth and freedom; and the ones that could wreck us – the lust for love and power. For most of the time, these forces are within our control (well.. maybe not so much about love). By carefully exerting these forces upon the world we live in, we are one step closer to finding our meaning and feeling alive. In Cloud Atlas, we could see all these forces at work, in those who rebel against oppression: slaves breaking off of their chains, people fighting for the slaves, abandoned old people escaping the elderly home, a police chief liberating the clones; those who seek the singular truth: a reporter uncovering a conspiracy, a curious clone seeking for the truth about her birth, an anxious tribe man investigating the origin of the mountain goddess; those who seek power or money: a doctor poisoning a bounty hunter, a landlord profiting through exploiting slaves, an oil company colluding a nuclear explosion to protect their business, a writer gaining fame from a ruthless murder; and those who love (everyone) and willing to to kill for in the name of love.

No matter if we're born in a tank or a womb, we are all Pureblood.

“No matter if we’re born in a tank or a womb, we are all Pureblood.”

Not only we are born with these forces, we often think that we could control and even outsmart these forces. We even start taking control of something more than ourselves: scientists playing with the law of physics to create nuclear power; ‘archivists’ cloning humans and enforcing cannibalism to sustain them. Our arrogance has blind us from the bigger forces at work, forces that disregard time, race, geography or creed. These forces “begin long before we are born and continue after we perish”. Some call these forces karma, others see them as God-assigned fate. On a less fatalistic note, they are simply forces beyond our control, because the story of our lives are inevitably bound to those that walked the face of the earth long before us, and naturally affects those who come after us.

"But they got somethin' else. A hunger in their hearts, a hunger that's stronger than all their Smart.  A hunger for more."

“But they got somethin’ else. A hunger in their hearts, a hunger that’s stronger than all their Smart. A hunger for more.”

While religion, fate or karma might be there to console us in confronting the forces beyond our control, they are pessimistic and passive. They are not there to transcend us to the next level. Cloud Atlas has offered us another way out: struggle for truth and freedom by Autua, Hae-Joo and Sonmi-451. They showed us that sometimes we need to be at war with fate or karma to realize our innate drives: the pursuit for truth and freedom. Nevertheless, we need the religion or karma to keep us from our destructive arrogant nature, well, maybe with a little flexibility. As Meronym told Zachary: people has been worshipping Sonmi-451 for hundred of years, but in a different way.

What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?

“What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”

There are many voiceovers in Cloud Atlas, they are wonderfully written story punch line selected from the novel. However I missed many of them as I was processing too many storylines and recognizing the faces… But there was this one that struck me most:

“I understand now that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can first conceive of doing so. Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.”

We are all just part of an immensely large cast in creating a a timeless, singular human story. Our lives are not our own.