Except for farmers, few people like rains. And even farmers don't like rains at harvest time. And owners of vineyards of various chateaux hate rain falling at the wrong time. It could mean poor quality wine. But rain won't necessarily be unwelcome all the time.
never easy to be a Catholic priest. It's even more difficult to be one
in the contemporary world, where, except in places like Korea and the PRC, church attendance in Europe and America is dwindling by the
Catholic priest's soul is burdened with just too many dark and shady secrets of the human psyche in the most intimate details within that tiny enclosed space behind the screen of the "Confessional box" every week, notionally protected by absolute confidentiality. Will he
be tempted from such frank revelations to abandon his faith in an
omnipotent, omniscient and all merciful God who is the most perfect
idealisation of unconditional love and mercy? This seems to be the issue
explored by director John Michael McDonagh in Calvary (2014)
which opens most dramatically in the confessional, when a priest heard a
confession that a man first tasted semen at age seven from another priest,
something which marked him for life because that lasted some 5 years. He
told the voice on the other side to report it but was told that that
priest had long died. Then he was told by that voice that to seek
compensation, he must kill another priest, not a bad one but a good
priest. He asked whether the intended murderer had anyone in mind. He
was told to go to the local beach on the following Sunday and in the meantime to make
all necessary preparations. Who might that killer be? We are kept
guessing until the end of the film. The priest, Father James is played by Brendan Gleeson.
In these days of globalization, sometimes one can be struck by the most unbelievable combination. When the film Viva (2015) opened last night, I saw Mediterranean style low buildings amidst an occasional palm tree or two; I heard songs with lively Latin rhythms sung in Spanish; the facial features of the characters appearing on the screen definitely betray their Latin origin; when they speak, they talk in Spanish, not in English and most certainly not in Gaelic. Yet it's Ireland's entry for this year's Oscar! It's a film written by Mark O'Halloran and directed by Paddy Breathnach, starring Héctor Medina as the 18 year-old hairdresser Jesus, Jorge Perugorría as Angel, Jesus' father, Luis Alberto García as Mama, the singer-proprietor of a drag club in Havana, Cuba, Renata Maikel Machin Blanco as Pamela, a hot teenage whore and Paula Andrea Ali Rivera as Nita, wrinkle faced grandma of Jesus and the script writer Mark O'Hallaran as Ray, a gay who was Jesus' first client for sexual services. It's a very powerful movie about growing up and finding one's identity amidst some rather unusual conditions. Jesus lives alone in his father's old house. Angel is an ex boxer, just released from a Cuban jail, where he had been locked up for 15 years for a murder, since when Jesus was 3. Jesus earns just barely enough to keep body and soul together as a hair dresser for some old ladies but mainly for a Havana drag club owned and run by Mama, where Mama sang his heart out every night with some 6 or 7 other other drags. Jesus has no recollection of his father. The only things which connect him to his father and his deceased mother was a pile of old vinyl records and an old fashioned record player left behind by Angel when he was sent to jail, records from which Jesus learned to sing.
Academia is not usually a place where one finds challenging ideas nowadays although for a long time, the contrary image has been indefatigably promoted by those engaged in what's going on behind the walls of those venerable institutions for more than merely academic reasons. But from time to time, there can be exceptions. That's what happened last night, not in an institution of higher learning, but in a film actually shot inside one of the lecture rooms of the University of Barcelona. This occurs in José Luis Guerin's film The Academy of the Muses, which this talented Spanish director produced, wrote, filmed, directed and edited.
In many ways, Volume III of Arabian Nights: Encantado (2015) by Portuguese director Miguel Gomes is film belonging to a genre all by itself. It's supposed to be based on the from and structure of the stories of Sheherazade, the tales told by a beautiful girl who must keep on telling stories to delight and titilate the imagination and the hunger of the Persian Grand Vizier for "amusement", someone who already has everything that he could possibly want and perhaps for that reason, harbours an insatiable need to hear stories that keeps his attention
from falling into the kind of boredom or ennui which awaits him, someone who has given an order that the moment she ceases to tell a story in which his interest flags, that's the moment when her head would be removed from her beautiful body. What kind of stories would she tell? And how can the kinds of stories she narrates somehow be exploited to tell some of the stories of contemporary Portuguese society?
Because of events at the HK Arts Festival and the HKIFF, I haven't heard the HKPO for a while now. So it's a most congenial experience to be listening to that fine orchestra again at the Cultural Centre last night. What's more. I got a bonus: the world premiere of a new piece commissioned by the HKPO by what to me is a new Chinese composer, Du Wei's Seven Nights under the baton of Yu Long. Since I never previously heard any of her works. So after the concert I did some checking through the internet. It appears that she is a well-established composer having had already a number of works under her name like Nora (opera), Niao Qing Si-The Interrupted Dream, The Last Gold of Expired Star (orchestral works), Nightmare in the Red Chamber, Exotic Perfume, Tinge (chamber music), And I am dumb to Tell (quintet) and The Color of Love and The Golden Lotus (ballets) and has also composed screen music for such films as Tian Zhuangzhuang's The Warrior and the Wolf (2009) , Li Shaohong's A Dream in Red Mansions (2010) and the Heart Sutra sung by Faye Wong.
Since the sound track was first added to black and white films in 1929, dialogue has become synonymous with cinematic films. We've become so used to it that it really comes as a great shock if ever we were to see a film without any dialogue at all, as if the film were a mime. When watching such a film, we just keep hoping, without really having to think about it, that soon, the main characters in the film would somehow start to talk to each other. At least, that's my state of mind when I watched the film late yesterday afternoon. But I was disappointed again, again and again. By the middle of the film, I had given up and just concentrated on the mostly static and obviously carefully composed images on the cinematic screen. But though there was no dialogue, that doesn't mean that that was no sound at all. After all, it was not a silent black and white film with written dialogues or brief narratives or titles projected on to a little screen on the left or right of the main screen, the kind of thing which was habitually done in the cinemas in Hong Kong in the early 1950s. The sound consisted of merely background sounds: heavy rock and roll or and rap music in which the singers keep incessantly firing a random string of phrases which rhyme with each other but which are otherwise totally disconnected and almost as if they were just meaningless sonic components forming part of the all important dynamic rhythm of the music, sound for the sake of sound, sound for the sake of that paramount rhythm and that rhythm as the sonic embodiment of the movement of life itself. There are of course other sounds:the sound of insects, birds, the gurgle of running stream water, the sound of hands grating the metal sheets in dark urban slum dwellings and the sound of gun fire, of loud banging of rifle butts against the side of a coach etc. What am I talking about? It's a most unusual film called Oscuro Animal (2016) written and directed by the Colombian script-writer-cum-director Filipe Guerrero, a film nominated for the Tiger Award at this year's Rotterdam International Film Festival. "Oscuro" is a Spanish word meaning variously hidden, dim, shadowy, indistinct, dark, murky and gloomy. In the Spanish language, one usually places the adjective after the noun but one can also put it in front of the noun. When one does that, that means the author wishes to give special emphasis to that adjective. In a film without dialogue the way the director creates the title of such a film the placement of that all important adjective takes on a special meaning.