Sunday 17 January 2021

I had a look at the prices for a Taipei-Paris return ticket and I could only gasp. The prices have more than trippled. Coming back to take care of my parents is now luxury. 

Saturday 19 December 2020

The past weeks went by standing still.
Looking back, the only impression I have is of a stagnant black void.

Some of the time was occupied with Jay's quarantine hotel documentary. I would look forward to going to his office and work with him on the editing, or to having a day of additional shooting here and there. He kept me busy with a commercial for the Tourism bureau in Japan, my flat was used for the shooting of some of the scenes, I provided some of the clothes, wrote the music. All this went by, as if taking place in another life. The passing days were illuminated by the films I would watch in the evening - amusing image when one thinks of it. I explored more of Kurosawa x 2, Suzuki, Tarkovsky, Welles, Truffaut... It's exciting to think of all there is to discover. 
I ended things with Mike - whatever was left to be ended. Our relationship was just empty spaces between us, albeit affectionate empty spaces. I wrote a long letter to him, after weeks of overthinking - a letter (well, email) as his command of spoken English wasn't sufficient for him to grasp all I wanted to say. But then, when it's about ending things, mayeb the short way is the best... His response was short and succint, as usual. He agreed it was time to part. Good luck and au revoir. Voilà.

I do miss the presence of friends. Communicate, share, talk, exchange, listen to, someone who listens, who understands...

Cinema really did save my sanity.

Saturday 28 November 2020


November is Noirvember! 

My CinéSalon home festival goes on. A few noir and neo-noir classics for the month. That genre has always been a favourite of mine. I could watch Orson Welles' Touch of Evil again and again!

Delon in Le Samourai is iconic, as is Lee Byung-hun in A Bittersweet Life.

In Drive, Out of Past and Angel Heart, Ryan Gosling, Robert Mitchum, Mickey Rourke respectively, are perfect as the existential, enigmatic heroes who seem to have no history, who do not look like the effusive type, but who are haunted by their past. 

And what about those lethal women, namely Lana Turner in The Postman always rings twice, Jane Greer in Out of the Past, doe-eyed but coldly calculating Angie Dickinson in The Killer? Marilyn Monroe who opens her wounds and her disturbed psyche in Don't bother to knock or Peggy Cummins who is as viciously demented as she is alluring in Gun Crazy?

And Steve McQueen is the epitome of cool in Bullit! To think I had never seen that film until now... Lalo Shriffin's score is a delight.  

November is Noirvember!

Sunday 1 November 2020

To see and not to see

Second and last screening of Ròm yesterday at the Golden Horse Festival. I still kept the hope alive that, by some divine intervention, it would be the original version of the film that would be screened this time, although I knew I was deluding myself.
Big void. Friends came to see the film, many of them were genuinely impressed. Of course they had no clue what the film went through, that what they saw was the authorised [truncated, watered-down - censored] version of a film.  
It was a shock to me, as Huy had told me that all copies sent to festivals were of the original version. So I discovered it this week and my heart just stopped beating for a while, then began to race furiously until the end of the film. 
I had never seen that amputated version of Ròm. I knew Huy had made some changes, that 'only' 20% of the film had been cut off and reworked to fit the Censorship Committee's requirements. Maybe we should consider ourselves fortunate, as originally, they wanted 70% of the film's content to be changed. "No mention of gambling or poverty in Vietnam. Why promote such a negative image of the country? Give it a happy ending" Huy was told. "Then we will definitely support your NEXT film.
Trần Anh Hùng saw his film banned in Vietnam when he did Cyclo. But at least, the film was released as it was internationally. Ash's The Third Wife also attracted lots of scandals and controversy - supposed defensors of morality and children's rights who actually who turned out to be ennemies of her family in an act of sheer envy and vengeance and cried out words of pretense shock at seeing an under-age actress having to endure the shooting of sex scenes... before they had actually seen anything. Fortunately, the film enjoyed a surprisingly long life at festivals around the world and even be released theatrically in any countries. And Ash is a no-nonsense, strong-willed girl. There isn't such a consolation for Ròm. The film may have won an award last year in Busan, and even if I understand how Huy is gingerly walking on a tight rope between the Vietnamese government, his ambitions and his artistic aspirations, I find it unfair to still wave the Busan-winner flag, without making it clear to distributors that the version of the film is vastly different.
Perhaps is it easy for me to talk about integrity, as I am just the composer. I have less to lose than Huy or his producers. But I'm also wondering what path you allow yourself to walk if you accept to yield. What will become of the next film? Indeed, Huy is now enjoying a huge popularity. Wowy has become insanely famous this year. What's next for them? What path will they choose to take from now?
Best for me is to let this bitter pill go down and see what's in store.  

Monday 19 October 2020

The dream last night involved - again, as so often these days, my parents. I was in Paris and my mother was to fly back. Back to where I can't recall, since Paris is supposed to be where they live. My mother didn't realise it would be a long journey. The flight was in the evening. I spent time with them, yet managed to hop to the city for some appointments, whilst being there with them at the same time... That's only possible in dreams, I guess...
"I will be a long journey". I don't remember who said that. But I also felt that it might be the ultimate journey...

Perhaps I saw all of this in my dream because I watched Tarkovsky's Solaris yesterday, and also because I had a phone conversation with my father after the passing of his elder sister a few days ago.

It's not life meets imagination. They're both contained in one.   

Sunday 18 October 2020

Music makes the people come together - in my dream

Dream in music last night. 

It started with a scene in Dennis' living room. His Pinoy friends were there and he wanted me to play the new arrangement I did of a Filippino song with his singing. I opened my computer and played the music, when I realised the singing was no longer his, but some very weird-sounding voice...

I returned to my room, and found myself in another building, from which I could see the interior of neighbouring flats. In one of them, my friend Thibault was proudly telling me that he had started taking cello lessons. He wanted to demonstrate, seized an instrument that only vaguely resembled a cello, and began to play a piece with just one hand! I beamed myself in his room, which was actually an office. The room suddenly turned into a big conference hall and there was a group of people dressed in white. They played a baroque piece, among them some musician friends like Benoît who plays the double bass. Suddenly I saw my mother among them and my father who played on two wooden recorders that looked more like toys. I knew he wasn't really playing, because I knew he couldn't play the flute! But he kept on joyfully with a twinkle in hie eyes. 

That was it. I woke up, but felt happy to have seen beloved people in this dream, making music together - in my dream.

The first time - and only time I met aunt Phi Lê was thirty years ago, when I went to Vietnam for the very first time. It was my birthday gift from my father and my uncle for my 20 years. 

Aunt Phi Lê lived in Saigon. She was one of my father's elder sister. I immediately felt comfortable with her. She was gentle, sensitive and very easy to talk, for the young Parisian born Vietnamese boy that I was. 

I would often find her in the kitchen and she was surprised to see that I was a natural in a kitchen - her sons weren't really the domestic type, to put it mildly. 

Her husband would sit all day long on a wicker chair near the house entrance, talk to everyone, comment on everything, and barely move from his spot, whilst drinking beer and smoking cigarette after cigarette.

I really admired her for her resilience. She came with me and my uncle when we all went to Huế to celebrate my grandmother's ninetieth birthday. It coincided with my being in Vietnam, so it was even more meaningful. I met hundreds of cousins, aunts and uncles, twice, thrice removed, friends of my father's, friend's of my uncles', friends of friends of the family...

But it was with aunt Phi Lê that I felt the most comfortable. I shall always remember her amused expression as I would share about my life in France, about how I lived it, what I thought... Even if it didn't make much sense to her, she would always be open and understanding. Perhaps it was a special treatment for the nephew from the foreign land. I don't know...

Then she more or less reluctantly went to the US, as the family had an opportunity for a 'better life' there, although I thought she would have been better off staying in Vietnam, with all her friends, relatives, all her life... 

I never saw her since. Only heard from her and got short greetings from her through my cousins. Then, Alzheimer struck a few years ago. Needless to describe how life was for her and her family, especially the two daughters who had to tirelessly take care of her. So much for the 'better life' in America...

The very last time I saw her was through a Facetime conversation between her and my father, when my parents came to Vietnam last year. It wasn't much of a conversation, but I thought saw a (not a pussycat).. a glimmer of joy in her eyes when my father talked to her. I took a picture of the moment, but I don't think I want to post it here.

My cousin just told me that aunt Phi Lê has left us. I can only feel relief for her, for everyone. I can't help thinking about my own mother. It's sad. But it's also a deliverance. 

She is now at peace and freed from earthly troubles. 

Sad and relieved.