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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Decline

The local TV station showed a bunch of interviews with the producers, director, and major actors on Detective Montalbano series. Something the producer said about the series location caught my attention. He said he went all around Sicily looking for a place that could stand in for the fictional Vigata. When he got to Ragusa he knew he had found it. The place was nearly deserted. Hardly anyone lived there. No hotels, no restaurants, no ice cream parlors. Nothing. It was a forgotten place with beautiful churches and streets and houses that had been abandoned. "It was like a faraway place," the producer recalled. Now, of course, Ragusa has become a hot tourist destination thanks to the popularity of the Montalbano series.

The mental image of a deserted town with crumbling past glory fascinates me. I am living in an era of human history that saw unprecedented population growth nearly everywhere in the world. I can only experience the fall of civilization and the gradual emptying of cities through books and movies and ... wait, there are hardly any movies or books depicting the decline of civilization, because movies have also been existing in the era of unprecedented population growth.

I have heard of only one nonfiction book that explicitly describes the details of decline over time: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. George R R Martin likes the theme of declining worlds too, but I haven't read those novels. Perhaps the subject is too depressing for most people to write about.

In reality various civilizations have undergone this "emptying" process in history, from Alexandria of Egypt to Maya cities to the Silk Road. Books usually describe the excavation of ruins but not while the civilizations are transformed into ruins. People are still hanging around but the numbers dwindle and houses stand empty and crumbling slowly. I wonder what it's like to live in the midst of the decline.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sound of Noise

This is the most weird and funny movie about music. I have never seen anything like it and doubt anything like it exists. One of the most bizarre aspects is how the movie deftly makes the music-obsessed vandalists and the tone deaf and music-hating detective BOTH sympathetic.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

一代宗师


在纽约跟朋友去 Angelika 看一代宗师。王家卫我基本看不下去,阿飞正传与重庆森林都是看到一半昏睡过去,对春光乍泄略有兴趣但是尚未提起足够的精神 hunt it down。对一代宗师的兴趣完全来自武打港片。

袁师傅与洪三毛各自做了叶问武打设计,但二者都不是非常忠于正宗咏春。也是没办法,咏春手势小巧,一招致命,不好看,没法拍。

一代宗师,一言蔽之,就是一系列的 still photos,加上梁朝伟的旁白。That is all. 摆 pose 永远比不停在动的人生更美观,更简单,更易定义。对十五岁少女来说,“一坛醉生梦死酒”和“从前有种无脚的鸟”听着非常深刻;五十多岁的晚中年男还在哼哼似是而非故弄玄虚哄小孩的浪漫诗情,亲爱的,听着真有点让我起鸡皮疙瘩。

人物苍白平板,剧情懒惰俗套。华丽昂贵的武打场面及其精美的灯光与摄影,其实并不比七八十年代的经典打戏更炫,第一场的雨中群殴更有抄袭 The Matrix 之嫌 --- 或者说袁师傅 "reprise" 他在 The Matrix 中的创作。据说梁朝伟与章子怡为拍此片都曾苦练武术,但效果参差不齐,章子怡的打戏英武而优美,抢尽风头,而梁朝伟的几场打戏没有留下任何深刻的印象,恶毒地说不比 Keanu Reeves 或周润发强多少。但是,一代宗师的打戏在今时今日也算是拍得好了,尤其是袁师傅一一演示各家流派精髓,还是很赞的!另外值得一赞的是影片的音响,尤其是打戏的音响设计,是我听过的最好的武打音响设计。

所有的故事都是作者一手操纵情节从而操纵读者的悲喜,差别只是操纵手段的高低。我个人的看法是,如果能让读者感受不到作者之手,给他们自然而逻辑的进展的幻觉,就成功了;反之则是作者招之即来挥之即去,滥用 deus ex machina。王家卫就是这毛病。如果必须写一段 close but not touching 的恋爱,可以编出很多更自然更有逻辑的桥段,将两人隔开,而他只抄一段武侠片最烂俗的 trope (不孝弟子害死师父然后报仇),再简略地抄一把 Graham Greene,实在是懒透了加弱爆了。

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sound of Noise




15 minutes into this movie, I'm almost choking from laughing too hard. It's a heist movie about music. Six drummers are planning on something very big to shock the city, and the only cop who can stop them is tone deaf...

Black deadpan Swedish humor at its best. In one scene a drummer in a symphony rehearsal looked at his nearly-blank music sheet and muttered, "Fuck Hayden."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Nighthawks

Nighthawks

最近在纽约附近出差,昨天星期六进城去 Whitney Museum 看了 Edward Hopper 素描展览,跟油画成品对比,可以看出他的创作思路和素材收集过程。终于看到了著名的 Nighthawks 这幅画,果然 ...我着迷地站在那里看了半天。今天闲着无事,心痒难熬,跳上火车进城再细细看一遍。

现实主义可以比超现实主义更加迷幻神秘。Andrew Wyeth 和 Edward Hopper 证明了这一点。

Conference at Night

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pathos

在电视上看见 Theater Talk 节目访谈 Christopher Plummer。他说到 Laurence Olivier 有大明星必须的那种舍我其谁的 arrogance,但是缺一样天赋,pathos。Olivier 可以演出 pathos 但是他不具有天然的特质。Plummer 解释他所指 pathos 是一种 vulnerability,人生的全部喜怒哀乐都集于一体的体现。他说马龙白兰度(在银幕上)就有这种 pathos。然后他很谦虚地说自己也没有 pathos,我想大概是对的。Plummer 是 upper class 家庭出身,缺少天然的 pathos 也不奇怪。我立刻想到 Philip Seymour Hoffman 那是绝对有天然的 pathos,但或许未必有天然的 arrogance。当然,他们是演员,没有也可以演出来。

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Dream


There was a crowd in front of the elevators. I had to watch two elevators leave before getting on the third with a few other riders. I hit the bottom for the fourth floor. The interior was all brass and gleaming with a golden shine, and surprisingly spacious. I thought I had stepped into a glamorous Hollywood movie elevator from the 1940s. With a slight shudder, the elevator began to accelerate.

From windows on three sides of the elevator I could see the ground receding rapidly under us. The elevator was attached to and ascended along the external wall of the building. It never stopped for the fourth floor or any other floor. I began to feel dizzy. Eventually the building wall curved and the elevator moved laterally. We stood with our backs pressed against the wall and stared at the cloudless blue sky rising in front of us.

Suddenly a boom approached from somewhere under our feet and grew louder. A plane with a smooth pointy nose barged into the view, its body and wings gleaming with metallic silver gray in the sunlight. It flew so close to the elevator that I thought it was about to crash into us and crush everyone inside, but it barely scraped the glass window we were facing.

I was staring at the belly of the plane right above when the wings suddenly retracted and wrapped around its body. I wanted to raise my hands and cover my faces before it was to crash into the elevator, but the long, round, wingless tube continued to glide gracefully over us and toward the edge of the building and disappeared.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Junkyard Dogs (Walt Longmire Mystery #6)

The series is getting better and better. This one is not only hilarious but also elegantly plotted. I read it in 3 days.

Timon of Athens

During the intermission of Timon of Athens at Folger, I eavesdropped on a discussion among the 3 persons (who looked like a mother with t...

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