Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Second day of filming this time around and on the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial then in the YongKang area. I try to combine the video shooting with some sightseeing so that his discovery of the city’s landmarks isn’t purely from a touristic angle. The weather dramatically changed from yesterday’s grey and cloudy to a resolute and warm sun all day long. Zed seemed much happier about what we did today. Although he hinted that we could easily forget yesterday’s work, I know that what doesn’t look right technically is usually an open door to creative exploration.
At 8pm, Jan was ready for another long night sleep. I will also try to keep a healthier sleeping rhythm. No more going to bed at Hindu hours like 2 or 3 in the morning!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Thin Ice - Shooting: Day One

Twelfth night of January. First day of shooting with Jan completed. Zed of course was my faithful director of photography, he and Jan got along handsomely. The selected song was Thin Ice, a more introspective track which is a big step away from his usual musical and vocal firework. Maybe Jan was getting tired of running away – or around from himself artistically and wanted to make clearer statement creatively.
I used two simple visual leitmotives for his video: one of him walking backward in various spots of the city and the other is a succession of shots where the camera is literally flying toward his chest to pierce through him and find him standing at another spot and repeat the same movement. The images will be desaturated then tinted in postproduction. We shot the scenes in a tunnel under a highway bridge not far from my flat, in small backstreet alleys and corridors in MRT stations. I showed Jan the first footages and he seemed very excited about what’s to come. At 11pm, we were both ripe for a good sleep.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


Going back home. These words sound awkward to me, as the day of my departure to Taipei is coming near. I can’t find any other turn of phrase. Maybe “I’m returning to my flat in Taipei”. Taipei has been my home for the past four years now, even if I hold no official paper or resident permit – just a tourist, that getting paid for any projects means I have to find a helpful and trustworthy friend who would be willing to receive the money for me, even if the lease of my flat isn’t under my own name. Whenever I travel, home becomes a concept I find difficult to connect to. I only know I have a flat with my belongings there. Having lived my whole life in Paris, I always come back with great joy, and find this sense of strong(er) familiarity with my home city. However the longer I live abroad, the more now it feels like visiting a familiar film set, saying hello the former colleagues, film crew, the secretary… and with the next scene, the setting changes. My limit is three weeks. Beyond that, old roots begin to strengthen and leaving Paris becomes more painful, although all sense of yearning just vanishes as soon as I’m on the plane to a new destination. Survival instinct, one may call it…

My working session with Karen during the Jolly Season will result in my coming back to Paris sooner than I expected. She does know that my presence is highly needed, especially by my parents who do not see many people anymore, save for a handful of my father’s friends.
“Let’s say that coming back next month would be on a professional basis and I would pay for the flight” Karen said.
I welcomed the idea. I have no definite plan. My father originally wanted me to come back to Paris for Chinese New Year then fly to Vietnam with my parents for what may be their last trip to their homeland - March being the best season to go to Hue. My mother’s constant mood swing makes my presence more and more crucial. I seem to be the only person in the family who can handle her without much drama.
But that will not happen. A commission for an orchestral piece that my father was expecting to be validated last December got postponed. The people involved were caught in other projects and ‘forgot’ my father, probably unaware they were of the consequences if they didn’t act in time. No money, no trip.
Maybe this autumn, in November, when my chamber music festival takes place?
“I want to go to Hue to take care of your grandfather’s house, but November is the rainy season.” My father told me. My mother talks more of visiting Taipei. “Vietnam doesn’t really interest me anymore. I no longer feel connected” she recently told me. “I would like to go another time to China! Or Taipei!” And there she would start talking about those novels by Quynh Dao, how she can picture the life in Taipei from all the books she has read, even though she is aware those took were written decades ago and life in Taiwan must have changed a lot since then. Did she replace the longing for her childhood with another imaginary place? Would she really be able to enjoy traveling?
No Vietnam but I will still come back to Paris and celebrate Chinese New Year with them, to my parents’ greatest joy. Karen of course is happy to (largely) contribute to the homecoming as well as having me near to help and guide her in her work.
The thought of going back again in just six weeks is pleasant however, despite the fact that that any time spent in Paris is a time when I cannot work. I had foolishly believed I could make some time to work on this new chamber piece. Time in my hand I had indeed, but the spirit wasn’t there. Ulysses had kindly given me access to his flat while he was in Taipei for year end festivities, but I could barely scribble down more than a few bars. And I fear that I won’t be working much more once I’m back in Taipei, as Jan will arrive on the same day and stay for a week. The plan? Much less about sightseeing than shooting a music video for him, a request he made a few weeks ago in one of his emails.

Nothing seems well prepared, but my intuition tells me that the only way is to let myself be carried by the flow and all will be fine eventually.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Maurice Blanchot

“You didn’t know Mr. Blanchot passed away?” Vanessa asked me. Who could have told me? I am no longer in touch with anyone from the Music Conservatory. And all that is so far away now.
Maurice Blanchot was my piano teacher. “Just imagine what would have happened if you didn’t listen to your friend (fellow composer) Antoine Tisné and instead chose Catherine Collard as my teacher!!!” I once told my father.
“Yes, your whole life would have turned out quite differently…” he mused with a mysterious smile.
I’m not sure I whether would have turned out a concert pianist, though. In all probability, I wouldn’t have. I was already entertaining other dreams since my childhood, and I wasn’t cut to become a concert soloist, although being on stage is something I absolutely love. 
Maurice Blanchot was a big rock against which I would crash every week, a red-faced and red-haired, short-tempered man who had me pray for any accident to fall upon me before each lesson. Not at all a bad man, even if Vanessa’s abhorrence for the man seems stronger. But he wasn’t her teacher. And that didn’t happen to her.
I had to move on and leave the dark memories of these secondary school days far behind. I was such a troubled child that it would hardly add up to the other problems I had to lock them silently inside. From short-tempered teacher whose fits of anger left colourful Jackson Pollock-like marks on my music scores he became more attentive – more respectful with the years? Perhaps because I became more interesting as a pianist – teaching younger children can be tedious indeed. Perhaps I became in his eyes more interesting myself, from young boy to adolescent. Perhaps he feared that I may make a scandal and and run to the school director as the other students did, although they would never explicitly explain the reasons, (savoir vivre, peut être?) the issue was tacitly understood. But Mr. Blanchot had good connections then and was very well surrounded. Nothing bad would or could happen to him. I wonder... The thought didn’t cross my mind, then. I just had learned to deal with my issues in silence.   
In his later years at the music conservatorium, he was caught at it again, despite warnings that came from other parents and students. This time, his connections could not shield him and he was compelled to resign from his position. The irony was, had he restrained himself from yielding to his impulses for a couple of more months, he would have saved himself and his reputation: He was two months away from retirement. That time though, no one could save him. The former mayor had long gone, his position wasn't so secure anymore.
I don’t know what happened to him afterward except that he became the mayor of a small town in the center of
France. I can only wish his last years were more peaceful. And no, I felt no hatred for the man. We all have our demons, don’t we?