Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Berlin Journal #3

The next day I went to the Panorama lunch. I was seated next to a British guy named Wash West, and the name didn't register with me until he mentioned that he had previously made The Fluffer. "Wait a minute, you're the Wash West who made all those prom films?" I'd never seen any of his films, porn or otherwise, but I've read enough about him to know that he was a legend in the industry for making stylized gay porn that had great lighting, camera work and even a decent storyline. This is a self-made man with no formal film school training, who taught himself how to make films by making adult films! I was all the more surprised that he was not at all what I expected of a porn director. By that I mean the man sitting next to me was not in the least sleazy or even jaded. Wash radiated positive energy; he was cheerful, and nice in the best sense of the word.

Staying true to my resolution to see films by directors I'd personally met and liked, I went to see Pedro, whose director was at the same lunch (Wash West was the producer). Another great choice. I loved the lead actor, he was so cute! My friends at m-appeal, however, disliked Pedro for being too much like TV.

Berlin Journal #2

The next day I had three interviews scheduled. One was for a gay TV channel. They made me stand in the cold to answer questions about the China gay scene. Go figure. The next was for the Teddy awards, and the third with some magazine. The reporter looked like she was about 15. I went on and on about the virtue of drugs.

Then we were off to the Panorama reception. Norman introduced me to Jackie Pang of Jettone Films. I hope she remembers me when we get back to Hong Kong. Then I met Cheng Yu-chieh, a director from Taiwan. I liked him immediately, and decided to go see his film, Yang Yang. It was one of my better decisions. The film started out as a typical Taiwanese school romance, two girls in love with the same boy and all that jazz, but it became something a lot more towards the middle. The heroine is a French-Chinese girl, played by Cheng Yung Yung, and her performance was superb, and perfectly captures the feeling of being an outsider in Taiwan. I decided to make it a policy to go and watch films by directors I have met and liked.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Berlin journal #1

I told people that I had no expectations coming to Berlin, but I must have been lying, for as I sat in the lobby of the International cinema looking out the window to the gathering dusk outside, a sense of depression came over me. Perhaps it was the austere Soviet era decor of the cinema, or the wide boulevard filled with concrete blocks outside, but the overwhelming feeling I had was: 'Is this it?' This is what I had been waiting for my entire life, the chance to show my work at one of the Big Three international film festivals, and here I was, at the world premiere of my latest film, and it hit me that it was just a festival.

Was I expecting fans? Photographers? I don't know. Soon the film ended and I went back into the cinema. The presenter called the director of the short that preceded mine on stage. After a couple of questions he called me to go on. Nobody asked any questions except the presenter's friend, who "praised" the film by saying that it is melodramatic, which is somethings Germans don't usually see on film. I was taken aback, and mumbled that my film is probably closer to Fasbinder than Ozu on the melodrama scale (whatever that means). With that inane exchange the Q&A was over and I went to have dinner with my German distributors.

Distributors act fast!

Back from Berlin. Exhausted from a week of parties and screenings. A little disappointed that I did not get as much media exposure as I had hoped. But here's something from the respectable Financial Times. I'm especially pleased because this is clearly a tough journalist.

Wackiness that’s serious
By Nigel Andrews
Published: February 15 2009 19:49 Last updated: February 15 2009 19:49

Given time or eternity, it had to happen. As surely as monkeys at typewriters will end up tapping out the works of Shakespeare, a Peruvian film about a woman with a potato in her vagina will – at some point – win the Golden Bear.

This was the year. Not that The Milk of Sorrow, the first Peruvian film entered in competition at Berlin, is artless, let alone primitive. Claudia Llosa’s film sprang into view on the penultimate day, highly wrought in its weirdness, deeply serious in its wackiness, and probably needing only a jury headed by Tilda Swinton, the brightest maverick in the screen-arts establishment, to confer the gilded grizzly.

The film’s Spanish title is La Teta Asustada (The Poisoned Teat), denoting a Peruvian superstition that raped or abused women in strife-ridden times pass the sickness of fear to their suckling babes. The heroine (Magaly Solier), thus infected, keeps a tuber in her pudenda to ward off violation. “Magic realism” doesn’t quite catch Llosa’s style. It is more nutty-as-a-fruitcake naturalism, sometimes deliberately funny, as when a doctor tries to persuade Solier that there are right and wrong places to store root vegetables, sometimes rich with a droll, wise, deadpan all-seeingness. The photographic style is in the best sense faux naïf. The acting, as the story marches towards apocalypse, is neither faux nor naïf but intense, bold, level-gazing.
For most of this Berlinale, anxious bookies had walked the Potsdamerstrasse trying to coax bets on Iran’s About Elly (drowned woman’s death catalyses insights into despotic society), Germany’s Everyone Else (sex-war study) or the Anglo-French London River (races find amity in the terrorist aftermath of July 7 2005), all noted in my last dispatch. No careful person would have put a punt on any for Golden Bear. At the same time, we all knew that each film would win something.

Iran’s Asghar Farhadi was duly named Best Director. London River put Best Actor prize in the hands of Mali-born star Sotigui Kouyate, his quiet grace preferred to the full-steam emoting of co-star Brenda Blethyn. Everyone Else was a double success for the host country, earning Best Actress prize for Birgit Minichmayr and sharing the runner-up Grand Jury Prize with Spain’s Gigante (Giant)), a tender whimsy about a super-sized security guard finding love in a supermarket.

These films at least looked comfortable in a festival competition: more than could be said for Peter Strickland’s bafflingly lauded (by some) Katalin Varga, a sort of Cold Comfort Tundra working up rape-and-revenge shenanigans in Romania; or the trite comedy, The One and Only, dramatising the boyhood memoirs of actor George Hamilton, with Renee Zellweger doing her best as eccentric, toujours gai mum.

Even Theo Angelopoulos and Chen Kaige, those godfathers of modern art cinema, made us offers too easy to refuse. The Greek director’s The Dust of Time has a poly-accented cast – Bruno Ganz, Irène Jacob, Willem Dafoe – slogging through a symbol-laden seminar on human migration in a xenophobic world. The Chinese director’s Forever Enthralled is a lacklustre clone of Farewell, My Concubine, its spectacle and drama resembling yesterday’s stage sets.

No, the festival fringe, as often at Berlin, was the place to be. Distributors, please act fast to acquire Simon Chung’s End of Love, a bold, compelling tale of drugs and bisexual love, proving that little has changed for filmmaking in Hong Kong thankfully since the handover. The place clearly is a “special administrative region”. Now will the Chinese government let the rest of China catch up?

And I saw again, because my admiration for Henrik Hellström and Fredrik Wenzel’s 75-minute gem grew through invidious comparison with other films, Sweden’s extraordinary Burrowing. In a tale of the suburban versus the sylvan, prologued by a Thoreau quote, a new kind of cinema grows before our eyes. There is barely a plot, merely the movements and voice-overs of three or four vari-aged characters, choreographed near-abstractly as “children of life” midway between nature and nurture. It is lyrical, mysterious, dazzlingly photographed and, in every sense that cinema can bear, poetic.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


93年的KCR 鬧鬼廣告,大家講到似層層,有說被鬼"疊住"的小孩死左,有說全部都活不過X歲,當年全城起哄,街頭巷尾都有人談論,結果KCR要抽起廣告唔播。關鍵在於第27秒肥仔後面有個低著頭的女仔壘住佢,但到左end shot 肥仔是最後面嗰個,咁壘住佢嘅係...好驚呀!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009