Saturday, September 27, 2014

Last Publication

My senior high school classmates gathered this evening at the apartment of Chun-Ting's parents. We sat in the living room silently listening to the conversation between our teacher and Chun-Ting's father.

Chun-Ting's father picked up some documents from the desk and started to explain to our teacher that this is his son's last publication: A Unique Set of Centrosome Proteins Requires Pericentrin for Spindle-Pole Localization and Spindle Orientation. He could barely continue with his explanation due to a sudden wave of sorrow reddened his nose and eyes.

"He should have at least lived to fifty," he later told us while explaining how he taught his son to cope with epilepsy. One of the things he taught was that don't ever go swimming because the seizures would be too strong and nobody would be able to pull him out of water. He then pointed us to one of the photos that were on display: Chun-Ting was wearing a life jacket, apparently doing some water sports. Along this line of thinking, he seemed to find his own explanation about his departed son.

Chung-Ting's father also expressed a deep regret toward his daughter-in-law, who is also our senior high school classmate. "They lived at different places, so how could they have children?" He explained with a gesture showing a figurative distance. It was something he could not tell our teacher when he was asked how many children the couple has. The only response that he could utter then was just "no", followed by an awkward pause.

Chung-Ting's family decided on what the primary photo would be used in his memorial services. It was took when Chung-Ting was waiting at a park in Boston for the Fourth-of-July fireworks to begin. He was holding a brochure and smiling broadly toward the camera. There was another candidate photo, that was took when the couple was moving to west coast. Their place was cleaned up and stuff packed. Chung-Ting was sitting on a chair seemingly looking out to a window. "It is also a nice photo, " Chung-Ting's father told us, "however, we all agreed on using the one that Chung-Ting looks directly at the camera."

Next morning, at 10AM, family members and friends will accompany Chung-Ting for his last trip on earth. They will escort Chung-Ting's ashes to a fine place at Yangmingshan. He will have a nice view there and we shall remember him fondly.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Believe Me

If there is only one person in the world who would believe what I said, I want it to be you.
- Evania

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kuma (2012)

Kuma Film Poster
Kuma (2012)
Kuma in Turkish literally means "second wife". Although it is not a common phenomenon, taking a second wife is how the film unfolds -- in disguise: what appears to be a son's wedding later turns into a father's wedding. Fatma, the first wife who was diagnosed of cancer is the master mind behind this fake wedding. She needs a "successor" to look after her family in case she was conquered by her illness.

In a dramatic turn of event, the father passes away unexpectedly, while Fatma is curred from treatment. That leaves Ayse, the second wife, in a curious position. She naturally has an affection toward Hasan, her fake husband, but she is turned down by his confession about his hidden sexual orientation. As young and beautiful as Ayse, she finds herself vulnerable to the temptations from outside world.

Director Umut Dag comes from a Kurdish immigrant family living in Vienna, thus he presents a honest view of what a modern immigrant family is like. There are clashes of generations and cultures old and new. Most importantly, it is how the family struggles through these clashes that captures the audience's attention.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cold War (2012)

Cold War Poster
Cold War
Highly touted as Hong Kong's best cop film in ten years, Cold War by first-time directors Lok Man Leung and Kim-ching Luk is an action-packed film with a fresh perspective from high-ranking officers in Hong Kong's police force.

Cold War in the film is the code name for a rescue operation of a missing police van along with five police officers. One of them is the son of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operation), Waise M.B. Lee, who is also acting Commissioner of Police because the commissioner is away for a diplomatic tour in Europe. He was ready to take an aggressive approach before his rival Deputy Commissioner of Police (Management), Sean K.F. Lau, intervened and replaced him as the leader of the operation.

The rivalry between Lee and Lau is clearly a strong foundation of the film's plot. Lee is more experienced and well-respected by first-line police officers; on the contrary, Lau is young and modernized. The later is also considered a favorite candidate of next commissioner by the over-seeing government branch, Security Bureau. Building form this foundation, the plot is developed into a clash between lower and higher ranks, who seem to fight for a greater control of police force's future.

We got great seats at the second row, from which we had a clear view of the two directors who came to the screening and answered questions from the audience. They were fairly reserved about a sequel, but my hunch was that they already had the follow-up story in mind. What they would need was approval form the audience in terms of box office sales.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pieta (2012)

Poster of Pieta
Pieta by Ki-duk Kim
Winner of Golden Lion for Best Film in the 69th Venice International Film Festival, Pieta by Ki-duk Kim is also the first Korean film to win the top prize at one of the three major international film festivals.

The film was announced as a special screening at Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (therefore was not included in the official programme booklet). It sold out so quickly that Evania only managed to book us on the first-row seats, which with hindsight, was not an ideal distance to see a film with many violent scenes.

Even though I had certain expectations before going to the film, I was still shocked to see for the first time how the director presented a gruesome reality through his storytelling. A major part of the film was used to depict the protagonist, Gang-Do, a merciless collector for a loan shark. He went through his daily routine by visiting loan-takers who were unable to pay up. His strategy was as simple as crippling his vulnerable clients so their insurance payments could meet the differences.

Things started to change after a mysterious woman appeared out of the blue in Gang-Do's life. His attitude toward his clients and his job gradually changed after he met this woman who claimed to be his long-lost mother. The director kept the audience in a suspicious mood, while presenting the transformation of Gang-Do: he became more humane toward his clients, and cared nothing more than his "mother", even after he discovered the underlying truth.

The last scene of the film will linger in the audience's mind for quite awhile. It's a moment of clarity, transcendence and enlightenment.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Suicide Shop (2012)

Poster of The Suicide Shop
The Suicide Shop
We were attracted immediately to the synopsis of the film when we surveyed the programme to determine which ones we would like to see in this year's Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. The Suicide Shop by Patrice Leconte looked like a promising black comedy, but we did not anticipate that it is also a musical with many many songs in French. Normally, I would not consider it as a problem because that's one of the reasons that people love about French movies. However, those songs with foreign lyrics could be  powerful lullabies that put an exhausted engineer to sleep easily on a Friday night. It's a shame that I fell a sleep briefly during the film, but I did wake up in time to see Marilyn Tuvache dancing.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Home Renovation, Indefinitely Postponed

Starting from August 26th and up until October 21st, Evania and I worked with several interior designers on defining what our future home should look like.

The department that we live now is more than 30 years old without any major renovation in between. After living here for more than three years, we have started a wish list for a better home. For example, we want to have an additional bathroom, instead of just one that is too large. We also want to have a balcony that could be used like a greenhouse, so clothes could be hung there to dry even in a rainy day.

The final space plan is very different from what we originally had in mind. One designer suggested that keeping kitchen and bathrooms close together will reduce effort and cost. When we went to Michael & Nicole's new place at Sanxia District, they also inspired us with how modern design has usually put kitchen right next to a balcony where a washing machine is placed. Gradually, we reached a design that both of us feel satisfied, and we were ready to kick off the renovation project, with one last hurdle: our upstairs neighbor.

Alas, eventually we decided to indefinitely postpone our renovation project due to reasons that I would rather not say. The whole process, however, was time worth spending. We got to know two interior designers who we struggled to decide which one we should hire. We also learned more about our expectations and that would be a valuable asset in our future decision-making.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Helter Skelter (2012)

Helter Skelter by Mika Ninagawa
Photographer turned film director, Mika Ninagawa, tonight attended Taiwan's premier of her second feature film, Helter Skelter, which just made its debut in Japan one day earlier. The director brought a great news with her: its first-day box office had beat Hollywood heavyweight, The Amazing Spider-Man.

Helter Skelter is based on a manga with the same name by Kyoko Okazaki. It focuses on a fashion icon, Lilico, played by controversial actress Erika Sawajiri. Lilico's body starts to deteriorate while she struggles to maintain her icon status. In addition to the signature colorful images constructed by the director, the film is also filled with the dark side of Lilico: selfish, greedy and manipulative. This kind of sharp contrast between the images and characters is a telling representation of the reality in modern society.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Play (2011)

Play by Ruben Östlund
Based on actual crime cases happened at Gothenburg, Swedish director Ruben Östlund explores the interactions between a gang of five black teenage boys and three well-to-do teenagers, two white and one Asian at his latest feature film, Play.

This group of black boys, aged 12 to 14, robbed other children on about 40 occasions between 2006 and 2008. They used an elaborated scheme called "little brother number" or "brother trick"[1]. One of the boys would accuse a victim stealing cell phone from his or his friend's little brother. When the victim denied such wrongdoing, another boy wound diplomatically suggest that to clarify the misunderstanding, they should all go and show the cell phone to the little brother, who was of course fictional.

The film is certainly not with an Hollywood ending. Instead, these boys get what they wanted and enjoy a meal together afterwards. Although one of the boys, the one on the poster actually, runs into the parents of one of the victims in the following day and gets his role reversed as a "victim", the scene does not feel like anything that could be described as a revenge. On the contrary, it demonstrates that the stronger ones have the power to dominate the weaker ones.

  1. Official site
  2. Pressbook