Saturday, 30 December 2017

Tristesse contemporaine

After a storm. Family.
We were sitting at the table, a piece of pizza on our each of our plate. My father wasn't hungry. He was tired of being the constant caretaker for my mother. Conversation with her is still fine, but she remembers less and less. Same questions every few minutes. Sometime she does remembers, when it strikes an stronger emotional chord in her.
The TV was playing 'Murder in the West Indies'. Last week, it was 'Murder at the Lac Léman', a tepid murder mystery that was as exciting as Switzerland is cutting-edge, and later in the evening, the TV viewers were spoiled with another offering of the 'Murder' series: 'Murder in Carcassone'. Why not 'Murder in Pau'... I half joked.
"There is a very good one, 'Murder in Saint-Maur', my father replied.
My twisted mind froze. What did my father mean by that? Was he that desperate that... No, it couldn't be that. Keep your stupid pulp novel imagination to yourself, I thought.
"Murder in Saint-Maur... Don't you remember? Our neighbour, monsieur Engel killed his wife before shooting himself" my father went on, as he was slicing a kiwi.
And I thought of another neighbour who lived in house opposite ours, who hanged himself after long years of depression.
My mind was still confused. What was father trying to say, or wasn't there anything else... I felt ill at ease.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Going monochrome

Working on The Third Wife is an ongoing advendure. Now that the colour version is completed and finalised, now that we are waiting to see at which festival it is going to premiere, not thinking too much, not hoping for too much, yet wildly daydreaming, we are working on the B&W AND silent version.
Just a few weeks ago, Ash showed the first B&W draft she did with Yov - the film still had dialogues. I told her that if the music worked wonderfully with colours, I felt something was strongly missing.
"Oh don't worry, it's going to be a matter of reworking the mixing, just some readjustments... I wasn't convinced.
A few days later, she announced to me that she had decided to make it a silent film as well. 
I was... speechless.

Now I have to rethink the whole musical score. It struck how the monochrome reworking spoke a totally different visual language, even if it was the same film. We can no longer 'escape' in the lushness of the setting, we are compelled to face and embrace harshness of the human drama which becomes timeless. I was reminded of the films by Kurosawa or Mizoguchi.  

Some ideas already. I have started to record some of them with my friend and muse Isabelle Thomas who will be singing the soprano part. 

January and February will be totally devoted to that new music.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

NINA - materialize sacrifice: A very good read and an interesting article by Thai performing arts critic Pawit Mahasarinand, who attended the recent City Contemporary Dance Festival in Hong Kong last month, and questions notions regarding Asian contemporary dance, cultural differences with their European counterparts - and their prejudices. 

At last someone who offers another perspective.

I remember how NINA was totally snubbed by the French journalists when it was performed druing a week to a full house at the Maison de la Culture du Japon, or how the New York Time completely missed the point when they reviewed it. But in both cases, the audience genuinely loved it. 

"In the second-to-last morning of the six-day inaugural “City Contemporary Dance Festival” (CCDF), organized by the 38-year-old City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), a major issue was raised at the “ChatBox: Re-Imagine Dance in Asia”, co-organized by the International Association of Theatre Critics (Hong Kong) [IATC-HK].

Having already watched, by that morning, 19 contemporary dance works of various lengths, scales and subject matters by independent choreographers and well-established dance companies from Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Macau and China, a European producer questioned the contemporaneity of East Asian dance and how it differs—or whether it should—from the European counterpart.

An evening before at the main entrance of Kwai Tsing Theatre, a Hong Kong dance teacher asked a question I personally have not heard addressed to me: “Is this your first time to Hong Kong?” My answer—the fact that I visit Hong Kong at least twice a year for the past 10 years—surprised her. Once inside the proscenium theatre before the start of NINA—materialize sacrifice by Japan’s Noism1, another European producer seated one row behind me was heard complaining to her compatriot, “Why don't we get to watch TAO Dance Theatre?” To that my answer was a silent whisper to myself and thus would not have surprised her, “Because they're busy touring Europe, perhaps.”

It is evident here that many dance festivals in Europe have been performing the role of gatekeepers—rather than gateways—in such a way that when it comes to contemporary Asian dance, many European audiences are expecting certain amount of interaction between modernity and tradition. And without the latter they may deem the work insignificant or old-fashioned. This is despite the fact that most contemporary Asian choreographers, given their training background, are neither trained nor interested in traditional arts—and most contemporary dance works that Asian audiences are watching have little, or nothing, to do with tradition as well. But the bottom line is: We cannot simply assume that all Asian choreographers think and work like Lin Hwai-min, Pichet Klunchun and Eko Supriyanto, can’t we?

It is widely known, and generally agreed, that, as the amount of artistic possibility rises, the scope of contemporary dance, like that of contemporary arts in general, is ever expanding. With this in mind, one has to wonder whether the aforementioned point of view towards contemporary Asian dance, in this day and age when many Asian countries’ technological advance far exceeds that of European counterparts, can be regarded as a kind of neo-colonialism. And so let our debate continue.

Every performing arts festival has a curatorial scheme, and so did CCDF. A month has already passed and yet the image of the opening scene of NINA—materialize sacrifice is still fresh in my mind. The discipline instilled in Noism1’s female dancers’ bodies was so high that it took me many seconds before I realized that they were humans, not mannequins, and I do not need to see my optometrist anytime soon. As obvious as it might sound—and of course contemporary dance does not need to be abstract—the contrast between the manipulating male dancers’ movements and the manipulated female counterparts’ throughout this full-length work was proof of strong dramaturgy which also reflected the technologically advanced and highly patriarchal society.

Works that premiered more than a decade ago like Cold Arrow—Game of Go (Weiqi) by China’s BeijingDance/LDTX’s and Moon-Looking Dog by Korea’s Daegu Contemporary Dance Company did not look dated either. With their firm places in the history of contemporary dance in both countries, if not East Asia in general, the two works, respectively by choreographers Li Han-zhong and Ma Bo, and Hong Seung-yup, serve as links, or references, to what and how the younger generations of artists are working today. As the former was presented at the multi-purpose auditorium of Yuen Long Theatre where the audience in the stalls could not see the stage floor though, most of us could not see the squares of the game board and missed some important Chinese images and how they were connected to the dancers’ movement.

Apart from the dancers’ technical prowess and the choreographers’ insight, music and production design play important roles in contemporary dance. Some choreographers take as their inspiration existing music scores, either famous or lesser-known ones, and, accompanied by one complete number after another, their works may sound and look familiar for some audiences, especially those with European gaze. Meanwhile, others, with more resources, have composers or sound designers create the soundscapes that are more specific to their works—and three noteworthy examples are France-born Vietnamese composer Tôn Thât An's for NINA, his Korean counterpart Kim Te-kn’s for Moon-Looking Dog and Japanese colleague Chikako Ezawa’s for Co. Un Yamada’s one◆piece.

At our ChatBox, my IATC Swedish colleague Cecilia Djurberg made another poignant note on the lack of conceptual dance works in this festival. This also reflects the current situation in East and Southeast Asia in general. In these regions, the number of dance students far exceeds that of professional dancers and that of dance schools and studios and that of dance companies. Besides in many dance curriculums, like their counterparts in other performing arts genres, the focus is on the perfection of the movement skills, and rarely on choreography. There is also little to no connection to other performing arts genres even though they are in the same institution. This is clearly the opposite to the situation in Europe where many choreography programs put forth the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary arts and are now even admitting students without dance background.

It should also be noted that CCDF’s evening programs, with large-scale works by renowned companies and post-show discussions, attracted a considerable number of local audiences. However, the early-to-mid-afternoon counterparts, with Hotpot and Hong Kong Focus programs, featuring shorter and smaller-scaled works by smaller companies and independent artists, were attended mostly by the festival’s international guest artists, presenters, producers and programmers. Venue location and weekday schedule might be reasons but many local audiences missed this rare opportunity to expand their view on contemporary dance having missed these works.

Another area CCDF, and other performing arts festivals in East and Southeast Asia, should consider paying more attention to is the audience development. Contemporary dance deals with a vast range of subject matters and as a result should relate to a much wider group than the typical dance audience, which in these regions comprises a number of former and current dance students. Hence, it should never be discussed as an art form, but also, in accordance with each audience’s interest, socially, culturally and politically as well. This can begin simply by providing more information on each work and related artists—such as excerpts from their interviews and previous works—in the festival’s program book and website. List of, or links to, related materials and pre- or post-show discussions with scholars in other fields can also be added to make sure that the impact of each contemporary dance work last longer in the audience’s everyday life, as it should be.

In the end, my experience of CCDF is similar to that of Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater’s annual “International Exposure”, plus the bus rides when I had time to discuss with international colleagues and make more professional connection. It also makes me look back at myself having attended Hong Kong Arts Festival on an annual basis since 2008 and yet scarcely watched contemporary dance and theatre works from Hong Kong and East Asia here. I can also think back to when I visited Hong Kong for the first time—also the first time I was in a foreign country—in the late 1970s when my enthusiasm was in Japanese toys and McDonald’s Fillet-o-Fish, which was not yet available in my home country. Recently, that has changed to made-in-Hong Kong clothes and some new dim sum creations which are not available elsewhere. That is to say: The Asia’s World City still has plenty more of the local contemporaneity for me, and any foreign visitor, to discover.

That said, CCDF, for its first edition, is already highly commendable for presenting exclusively contemporary dance works from East Asia, and nowhere else—notwithstanding our different notions on what contemporary dance is, and can be."


"These next two paragraphs were added after my EVA Air flight, from Taipei to Paris a month after CCDF, the new safety demonstration video of which is a dance film, a collaboration between Golden Horse-winning film director Robin Lee and indigenous Paiwan choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava. Owing in part to the subject matter which needs to be understood by international audiences, or passengers, and the accompaniment of 3D projection onto the studio set, the work does not contain any folkloric quality. In the immigration queue at Charles de Gaulle airport, I had a discussion with a fellow passenger, a Taipei-based French businessman, who did not enjoy the video as much as I did. We both agreed though that unlike the safety video by another Asian airline which puts in elements of traditional culture here and there in an attempt to attract the audiences to stop over, instead of transiting, this exemplary work projects the image of contemporary Taiwan as it is, without yelling “Welcome to Taiwan!” And more importantly, it had the full attention of us, frequent travelers, who know the content of this video by heart.

That is also to say: the artistic freedom in contemporary dance has also blurred the line among national identities and asked the audience to shift their attention to the individual artist’s unique style and dramaturgy. And if we have an agreement on this, then it is about time we stop the debate on whether or not Tsai Ming-liang’s, Wong Kar-wai’s, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s works are more like European arthouse than Asian films."

Pawit Maharinand

Monday, 25 December 2017

Douce nuit....

I can't believe I took my parents to church tonight for the midnight Christmas mass... but then, they seemed delighted we went, especially my mother, even if we're not Christians. If one has to celebrate Xmas, might as well celebrate it the right way... But there should be firing squad for the people who wrote those tuneless hymns. Well, that's not very Christian a thought... 

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Three dreams

Dreams... I was in Taipei - a place identified as Taipei, although the flat looked both familiar and totally foreign to me, with my friend Jan. Mine? His? The storm was raging outside. Rain and an extremely violent wind. I was looking by the window and to my greatest terror, the buildings opposite started to yield to the wind, tilt on the side and eventually collapse.
Our house remained unharmed.


Hard to remember dreams months afterward...

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Eqrly morning: private test screening of the finished version The Third Wife at the mythical Parisian movie theatre Le Grand Action. I spent so much time there during my teenage and university years watching classics and attending retrospectives. 

It was a great moment to be there with the team and see the film in a real theatre. Even though I must have seen it hundreds of time already, I was taken far, far away... so happy!
Unfortunately and to his greatest dismay, my father didn't manage to come. I was ready to go and looking forward to the event. We had ordered a taxi... But the time came, my mother dragged and refused to leave the house. 
"What for? What film? What son?" she exclaimed.
My father called me on the phone right before the screening. His tone was desperate and exasperated. "I can't stand it anymore..." I let him talk to Ash. 
"There will be other opportunities. You will see the film" She reassured him. 
I was indeed very saddened my parents weren't there, especially my father, as my mother would have forgotten anything just a couple of hours afterwards. 
"It will be a great success! I'm sure of that! The film deserves it!!!" Isabelle was enchanted. She was sitting next to me. There wasn't much left of her singing in the music, but I wanted her to come anyway. Thomas was there as well. The first person who from outside who saw the film! The fact that he likes it means a lot to me, as I do trust his judgment. 

What will happen to the film? That we shall find out next year... Now we have to correct a few details, and it will be done... for good!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

My mother unearthed that photo of me, taken shortly after I finished my military service - or shall I say, after I managed to shorten it.
Where had she hidden it, I know not.... 

Oh dear... 

The joy of meeting up again with my friend Ulysses, playing the harpsichord and singing Bach. Whether it is Paris or Taipei, we always find time to meet up and make music together. His enthusiasm in making music is so communicative. I always feel refilled and energetic, even after hours of sight-reading and singing.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Maestro Gilbert Varga conducting the Taipei Symphony orchestra - photo taken from backstage. It was quite amazing to see what he could get out of the orchestra. Good sound and phrasing, lots of verve and response. Lots of life! 

Aurélien Pascal was the soloist for Haydn Cello concerto in C. (a favourite of mine since I was 12), and I was quite pleased to hear this spirited and fluid reading, the lively dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra,  particularly during the last movement which was like a fiery dance. Aurélien  was very pleased to find somebody to talk French to. Unfortunately his time in Taipei is very short so I won't have the opportunity to take him around.
"I have seen a bit of Taipei, but it was around Taipei in 80 minutes under the spell of jetlag" he joked.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

In less than two months, LeLe has changed so much. I had a little gift for her from Thailand - a teddybear, or bear-ette (she has a dress and a little ribbon on one ear... but then well you know what can happen in Thailand...)
We had dinner together and then a stroll in the fresh evening. Lots of laugh with the bear...ette (I have some gender confusion. When I packed it in my suitcase, I took off the dress in order not to wrinkle it. Then, when I saw the 'naked' bear...ette, I realised "But... you're a BOY!!!"
Zed laughed a lot when I told him the story. )

So what was I saying already? Oh yes, lots of laugh playing with... erm the bear. Running, racing, hiding, tagging...

I love to see Lele laugh.

Monday, 27 November 2017

I still laugh when I recall that story my friend Florian told me about that rich Hanoi lady who named her two sons Louis and Vuitton...
No need to try understand why she did that...

Monday, 20 November 2017


New friend... it started with a GrabBike ride to one of my favourite spots in Saigon, Marou. The chocolate, you know...

The young driver was very friendly and talkative. He had left his hometown near Hanoi for the craziness of Saigon half a year ago. Working for a real estate agency and making ends meet by giving people rides across the city after work or during his off-time. Even if I am not to meet them again I enjoy those brief moments. Sometime we laugh a lot, sometime they give me a good scare so their reckless and wild is their driving, sometime they move me and sometime, well, it's just plain silence. 

As I got off the bike, I asked him whether he liked chocolate. Yes being the answer, I told him to wait for me and dashed into the shop to get him a tablet. He was very surprised and took a photo of both of us. Then came the exchange of contact. Facebook, naturally. 

Later on, he told me he was listening to my music and said he had eaten all the chocolate whilst talking to his girlfriend. 

We promised to meet again and we did. Yesterday evening, we had a bowl of phở. His treat, he insisted. I took him to another favourite place of mine, Cộng cafe. The first time he had the opportunity to go out and have a drink since he arrived in Saigon, he said. Conversation was lively and fun. He could be my son. I am his bigger brother, he said. Yes, and his mother is the same age as I. We're all doggies.
He told me the actually trained to be a sportsman. But 'reality' caught up and he decided to come to Saigon, where he stays with an uncle. "A very small flat, but I have my room" he added.
But obviously he was not very happy. "Far from my girlfriend... we call each other every day, of course"
I encouraged him to do what felt right for him. If it is sports, it'd be better to put his energy into what he likes instead of working like a slave and be a faceless presence in a big city...
"Nobody talked to me like that" he said, seemingly moved. 
"We all run after money. But my thought is that it is better to make a little less, and be with your girlfriend, and have a job that you truly like. Here, you have no life, and you're far away from home and your girlfriend"
He agreed. But to him it seemed undoable.
"And you know", I added, "you could open sportscenter in your town, and offer something different than usual clubs. You never know... I trust it can happen..."  

But this unexpected encounter realy lit up my day. I have a new friend! Bách, his name is. I'm glad for this and wish Bách all the best in life.

When time came to go back home, Bách offered to give me a ride. "This time NOT as a Grab driver!" 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Arrival in Bangkok!!! It has been seven years. Seven years that seem to have flashed by and het left a deep trail behind.
The joy of the arrival quickly led to a big question mark: where was I to go? The plane had been delayed, a driver was supposed to pick me up but went back when he found out there was no Mr. Ton That at the airport. Ash faced an emergency and had to fly back to Vietnam for two days that weekend. I sat down on a bench, whilst exchanging messages with Ash to sort out a a way to go to the hotel where I was to stay. She was furious with her assistant who didn't seem to care about anything. "And on top of that, she is so rude! When I ask her to do certain tasks, she replies to me that so and so could do them as well. She's new and only does things according to her whim!" I found the situation a bit comical. Anyway, I was in Bangkok, so everything was fine!
Initially, I thought that it could be nice to stay in town and go to the studio every morning. Gob had even offered me to stay at his place as he was away. However, his flat was at the other end of the city, and Ash hinted that it would take me hours to come and go back. I had vaguely seen on a map that the metro line was being extended and serving new stations in the studio's area, but failed to notice that  highly crucial detail that those new stations were not yet finished! I quickly abandonned the idea and made it known - to the assistant, that I would stay at the same hotel as Ash and Roman. Instead, I asked to extend my stay by one week to enjoy Bangkok after our week doing the sound mixing. 
After some time, a driver eventually came to pick me up at the airport. Early flight in the morning, sleepy An in the afternoon! I dozed on and off, barely recognising the sights of a fast-changing city I had not seen for several years.

Roman came to meet me after I had made myself comfortable at the hotel. It was past lunch time, but the cook had left some food aside for us. I had never met Roman before. I only knew from Ash that he was a terrific sound recordist/mixer. "Award-winning soundman!" Ash wrote to me months earlier. Out of curiosity, I did some research and found out that he had done the sound for a few Naomi Kawase films, as well as Timbuktu. Among the Kawase collaboration, there was one in particular that I really liked, Still the Water. Unsurprisingly, but to illustrate how everything is connected, I was very sensitive to the sound in the film. I have no recollection of the music, but the sound had this sensuality and... musicality that I find rare in film. And as I was composing the score for The Third Wife, there was, somewhere in the back of my mind, the sound of Still the Water.
I saw a tall and blue-eyed man coming to meet me at the end of the alley. There was a communicative quietness and calmness about him which I instantly appreciated.
We discussed a little during lunch and decided to load and roughly edit all the music before Ash came back from Saigon. Roman showed me the studio where we were to spend the next week. It was as large as a movie theatre! The sight of the sound board was already impressive in itself. "It may look like a spaceship, but we will only use the middle part of it!" Roman said when he saw me looking from one end of the board to the other.
The music preparation took less time than we expected and we had the afternoon of the next day - a Sunday, free. It was a perfect opportunity to have a little walk in the centre of the city!
Now we are ready for the big work!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Early rise after just two hours of sleep to go to Amandine's place for the pre-editing session of my short film 'Yet Untitled'. 

Very exciting to see the film slowly take shape. 

But I hope tonight won't be a sleepless night again...

Uống cà phê sữa đá trua này mắt mở cả đêm...

And this heat....

Filming 'Yet Untitled'

Yet Untitled... It isn't too soon that four days before the deadline of the short-film submission, I finally have the full cast! 

A little boy, a young woman, a man, a dancer.

The dancer's scenes were the first to be shot, in Saigon, in that old French building near the river, apparently the French soldiers' sleeping quarters. Wonderful Sùng A Lùng's dancing... 

The scenes with the young woman were shot yesterday, with Hsu Paulina. I found her through a friend's friend. A quiet and very talented photographer in her own right.
The young man is a young waiter who works at ight in the 101 Tower area. He has a tough look but a deep expression. I was having a drink after the shooting with Amandine and Paulina and saw him. Amandine approached him for me and asked whether he would be interested to feature in a short film. I was so glad when he accepted! I no longer knew what to do!
Today I finally found the little boy: Lex, the young son of Lisa's. I had an older boy in mind, the son of a friend of Aurélien's who appeared in a short film and had this rare mix of intensity and innoncence. But his school schedule and his difficult mother made it impossible to find a day for the shooting.
I recently had dinner with Lisa wo warned me that I would have to cope with her three monsters offsprings. I actually found them very fun and lively. "Because it;s your first time", Lisa said. "It's a different story on a daily basis!". Of course, a mother knows best. Lex was sitting next to me during dinner and commenting on his sibbling's antics. He later told his mother that he was very happy to know me. I had not thought of Lex until now. But it totally made sense. And we had a good connection. It's a wild bet, but I feel Lex willbe perfect playing the artist as a child...

70% of the film is already shot, fortunately. 

Pre-editing tomorrow. The two tracks by Sakamoto are also selected. How many times have I listened to his album async...

Things one thinks about when reaching a certain stage in life...
As a child, all I could do was to dream and grow my inner world in order to survive a real world I had to abide every day.

I had always known that artistic creation was my calling. But everything was blurry in my head. The connection between the two world was invisible and intangible. Only when I was on stage playing music or at home making those little theatre plays with my brother and my cousins, did I truly feel alive and aligned with myself. The rest of the time, I was in limbo.

Now, as I'm shooting the remaining scenes for this first short film as a director, I can't help but rejoicing at the notion that it is no longer an distant, unreachable dream. If there is one thing I have always protected and cherished, it is that belief, however unreasonable to so many people, that those dreams were to eventually materialise. The big part of it is hard work and perseverance, and the part is pure magic - or alignment of the stars, whatever else that one cannot command.

That's what I am tring to express in Yet Untitled

The final title could be [Life] Yet Untitled.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

So I'm still trying to finish Yet Untitled for the deadline of September 30th. If I don't manage, it is fine all the same. Le principal est de participer!

A sequence of images for an idea of the mood and the feel of the film - or what it will / can be. I tried to play some Sakamoto tracks on the footage and it works beautifully...

More shooting in the coming days. Gắng sức, gắng sức!!! Go go go!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

I think... I have finished the music for the end credits of The Third Wife. It may be a little long. Six minutes twenty seconds... I had to let it out the way it came to me...  Then it will always be possible to edit it. But I think I have it....

I think...

... and the keenest ear will perhaps catch a cello line in the by me in the midst of sounds and layers. He he!

Friday, 22 September 2017

I cycled to the gallery in Tienmu that held my dear friend Chien Wei's new exhibition. A dancer, choreographer and photographer à ses heures.  
Tonight was the closing night so I had to make time for it And... Time was the title of the exhibition! Beautiful photos and joyful time with everyone present. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The end titles music for The Third Wife is now finished. The piece begins with Lisa singing - we briefly met this morning for a lightning speed recording, then followed by cello by Ho Lin leading up to a crescendo with timpani and strings, and sakuhachi by Hong Lee Chuang - our single session for Silk x 21 last year has certainly served many other projects! Suspension, before the strings resume. The piece ends with the piano reprising the theme of the 'funeral montage' as Ash calls it - I call it Mountains... 
I envivioned the music as one final journey that calls back themes and motives heard during the film. A much needed time for the audience to let everything sink in before leaving the theatre.

I will let the music sit for a night fine-tuning it tomorrow and showing it to Ash tomorrow.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

NINA - toujours!

Jo just informed me that our first collaboration NINA materialise sacrifice will have its Asian tour this autumn: South Korea, Hong Kong, China and Japan! 
This really took me by surprise. It's a refreshing and heartwarming thought to see that a piece which was created twelve years ago is still having a life now!
I hope I will be able to catch it somewhere, whether in South Korea or China...

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The joy and elation I felt when I was in Saigon have alas quickly waned. 

Although I am glad to be back in my flat, the down mood have seized me again. Slowly but surely. No motivation to do anything. Solitary seclusion. The only 'positive' thing I did was to revisit my work of the past 18 years or so and organise my new Bancamp page. Organising, renaming, filing things has always had a therapeutic and soothing effect on me ever since I was a young boy. 

I don't know whether this down mood is connected to Taipei, whether it is my chronic depression - according to Jason K., or whether it is just because I have barely eaten for the past week or so - not out of whim or fancy, simply because I am still waiting for some big payment to reach my bank account, but the money seems to be lost somewhere in limbo between the two banks, so for now it's plain rice, air and water... 

Maybe... I should eat some of the Marou chocolate bars I brought back from Saigon that I have been saving for a potential tea time with friends. I like to save those delicacies for my time with them. But friends are busy being busy. But don't they say chocolate is a good antidepressant?

Let noone tell me to 'cheer up'!!!

Anyway, my Bandcamp is more or less ready. I have been spending days collecting songs that I have written and recorded since... 1998! Between all the demos, the first, second, third or -nth version of each of the songs, revised, alternative versions, newly mixed versions... I'm quite organised a person, but mayhem it still was.

Listening to those songs (some I had not heard for more than a decade!) was like fling back and forth in time, looking at old pictures in the attic - well, that's a received idea of how one looks back, as we never had any attic in the house. 

So far my three albums, Circlesong, Hyperbody and We were (t)Here are ready for my Bandcamp page. Add to that all the music I have written for the stage, mostly for Jo Kanamori (NINA - materialize sacrifice, PLAY 2 PLAY, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Dream of the Swan) and Huang Yi, as well as some other short pieces done for various projects. If one blames me for something, it won't be of idleness!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The big question now is whether I should keep on with this short film. The people involved are whether busy or away, away or busy, and the deadline is in a little more than two weeks. This is pure madness - or delusion. How could I do all of it by myself...?

But this project means so much to me that I will continue with it and forget the Sakamoto competition. 

The present situation does reflect what the film is about: we never know, and we should let things unfold by themselves. I will keep on shooting the film, since I have already shot a lot in Vietnam and before. It is just that I may not be able to finish it in time for the competition. I perhaps will ask them if I can still use Sakamoto's music, even if the film is completed after the deadline, since I really got inspired by his music.

Steve advised me to "prioritise what's important, add value to your resume and the compensation. Sometimes taking more than you can chew isn't worth it."
But Steve isn't an artist - he does photography for a hobby, but as creative as he is - his photos are very beautiful, he doesn't live off it and has a stable job.

Such comments actually motivate me to follow my path. The question here isn't of priority or to take "more than I can chew". I have never done any project to list it on a resume, even though in this case, I decided to do it for the short film competition. Often in my work, I have to face the question of whether I should do it, whether I am skilled enough to do it. When Nicolas Liautard asked me to write the music for a play, when until then I had only written songs, when Régine Chopinot called that morning for a dance project with her and Jean-Paul Gaultier, when Jo Kanamori asked me to compose full scale dance piece, when the Berlin Symphony commissioned me a piece for orchestra when I had never written anything for more than 5 instruments... If I had listened to the voice of reason, I wouldn't have done on tenth of what I have done until now.
As Gavin said to me later in the day: "The voice of reason only keeps us safe and unexciting most of the time anyway, but the inner voice brings you to a miraculous place that your mind can't even dream of!!!"

Merci Gavin. And merci Steve too. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

L'appel du vide

I'm very impatient to release this second music video I have done this year! I had not shown it to anyone except a few friends on my birthday, because Norm Yip asked to feature it on the website of his new mag, Moxie to go along an interview we did together. But the project kept dragging on...

L'appel du vide was originally intended to be done in black & white, however I had been convinced by Aurélien Jégou to keep it in colour after he saw the chiarascura tones of the footage, and said that it really deserved to be seen in colour. L'appel du vide became an experimental music video after I went through what I had shot last year as part of my Memory of dance (in the city) project. About absence, solitude and inner/outer movements... I shot additional scenes with Trevor and filmed myself with Aurélien's camera.
Now I am very glad I followed Aurélien's advice!

The song was an isolated one-shot thing I wrote last year on lyrics by Bibbe. Creature of the night...

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Saigon. In the deep silence of the night, as I would gradually fall into slumber, the tick tock of the clock in the room sounded to me like a rabbit munching on a carrot ve  -  ry....    slow   -   ly...

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Impromptu photoshoot with young and super talented photographer Nguyễn Bão. He was part of last year's [FEEL] in/out. I instantly loved his work. A great sense of shape, depth, details and colours, and also a genuine connection with what he photographs. On top of that, he's such an adorable boy. I bought one of his photos at the gallery last year.

It's fun to be in front of the camera for a change. I suggested the old building where I filmed scenes from Yet Untitled. We chose an old terrace on the sixth floor, that the older lodgers had turned into a garden.


Sunday, 27 August 2017

As I was filming Sùng A Lùng dancing, I noticed this old man standing by his doorway on the right at the end of the corridor. He had been discreetly watching us the whole time. In between takes, my friend Nam later went to him to apologise for the inconvenience.

"There is no inconvenience at all!!!" he replied. "I really love to watch you. It's so beautiful!"

I was so moved when Nam told me what the old man said. Perhaps this man never had the chance to go to the theatre and see that kind of performance. Perhaps it was the first time he saw anything like this from so close. Sùng was dancing in silence, to no music at all, but the power and ingensitty of his movements were striking. 

Whatever it was, I was happy we could even if unintentionally offer him that moment to the man. That gives me even more hope and determination to keep on doing developing art projects in Vietnam.

Then I realised that the man would be visible in the footage. After I checked what we had filmed I decided that it was fine. It's just a distant and blurry figure in the back.  

I filmed Sùng dancing in various places of the building: the big hallway, the staircases, the small meandering corridors leading from one tiny room to the other. The place had soul. I didn't have to think what I was going to film. It was as if a voice was directing me and guiding my movement. I had rented the camera for a couple of days. "Why didn't you ask me??? We do lots of shooting at my work, I could have got you one!" Nam said.
It was Nam who thought of the building when I told him what I was looking for. Nam has a curious and inquisitive mind and whether in Hanoi or Saigon, he is always happy to bring to his favourite places. I hope he will have the opporutnity to come to Taipei! He took me to the building a few days before to make sure it matched my ideas. It was just perfect! Some friends of his had a little cafe on the seventh floor. That was where I decided to film the scenes.
When we were finished and about to leave, we saw the old ladies who were sitting and chatting together at the entrance.
"So you young folks are done?" 
We nodded with a smile.
"We you shooting a ghost film? Many people come here to film ghost films. There are many ghosts in this building!" one of the ladies said.
So that must have been what I felt during the shooting. I had made sure to pray and ask permission to the spirit of the place to allow me to film. I had learned my lesson well after all these years living in Asia!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

First day in Saigon and plenty of things to do. I finally had a person to person meeting with Ash - the director of The Third Wife

I could finally watch the final edit of the film with the most of the music. I was so enchanted, elated, happy to see how far we had gone since the month of April. The film is truly beautiful - and what a relief to see how wonderfully the music worked! 

Next step will be the colour correction in New York next month. In October I will be in the sound studio in Bangkok to attend the music & sound mixing. Then the film is be finished! 

Ash, the producer and I couldn't contain our excitement and enthusiasm.

This first film experience is really taking me from one moment of joy to the next. I'm blessed!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Of course, I didn’t manage to close my eyes, morning flight oblige. Although I didn’t have much to prepare, I still ran here and there, managed to see Lisa and Thomas perform at the Riverside, go to the gym and see Van to hand him the keys of the flat.

Packing shouldn’t have taken long, but I was updating my biography for a project at the same time.

At 3:30 a.m. I considered it silly to sleep, so I started to clean and tidy the house - CD in action, prepare the rooms for two friends who were to stay at my place while I’m away.

Early morning, waiting for the bus, listening to the silence, waiting for the bus and contemplating the beautiful sunrise over the mountains.

I couldn’t believe I was going to be in Saigon in just a few hours.


So I will be in Saigon tomorrow at noon. Ten days in this violently exciting city. It's hard for me to process how fast everything moves in my life at the moment. At least I won't be caught ranting about my life being dull... Hopefully the stay will be a smooth and peaceful one.
I already know I will be seeing Ash and watch the latest cut of The Third Wife, that I will be filming scenes for my very first short film Yet Untitled.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

With Yoshino

A whole afternoon with my Japanese sister Yoshino in her neighborhood Nishi-Ogikubo. We had been talking about it for quite some time and it only happened today. I had been to Koenji last year with Yuichi and was quite enchanted by the area. Yoshino was certain I would love Nishi-Ogikubo even more.

“I have a present for you, Yoshino said after lunch, but we have to go to this tea shop. I hope they’re there…”   

A jovial, bespectacled man with long grey hair attached in a bun was sitting on a bench in front of the shop.  
”He’s an artist”, Yoshino told me.

The man stood up to greet me with a luminous smile.

”He does cut out portraits. He will do yours. That’s my present” Yoshino added.

I was invited to sit on the bench. The man took out his scissors and a square shaped piece of paper. He was humming and talking to himself as he was looking at me and cutting the paper in quick, precise movements. The result came just a few minutes afterward. Not quite looking like me. 

“It looks more like Chan!”  Yoshino remarked. 
”Not the hair! The hair here is definitely mine!” We both laughed. 
I was nonetheless very grateful for this gift.
Before I left, I was given a fortune cookie. It said “Be carefree in your life”. Exactly what the gods at the BaoAn temple said to me. There is no coincidence. I have to trust it more and more. 

Yoshino took me to a gallery shop displaying local artists’ work, photographs, music instruments, ceramic, CDs… I allowed myself a photozine about Tokyo – maybe I could submit some of my own photos for its next publication…?, antique shops – no, no, no and no! I shall not yield, bookstores – one of them a children bookstore where I discovered the wonderful work of Tada Jun an illustrator friend of Yoshino’s. Strange, but not surprising now to me, when I find myself in a shop and an invisible force pushes me toward a particular item that is to become part of my life. There was no question whether I liked Tada’s work. It not only spoke to me, I felt I had reacquainted myself again with a long forgotten memory. 

We walked up to a park with two large ponds, surrounded by woods. The peaceful atmosphere, the beautiful residential houses, the meandering streets and alleys eased my mind. I was enjoying myself. “Just as the fortune cookie told you” Yoshino said with a smile. 
I was happy to spend this time with her.
A long time ago, her father Masato was having hope Yoshino would marry whether my brother or me. Even if it did not happen, I could feel Masato’s beaming presence with us as we were walking silently on the street of Nishi-Ogikubo.

Le bal des actrices

I just watched Le Bal des Actrices. A French film directed by Maiwenn which catches candid moments of the life of 15 actresses. Looking like a part documentary fiction in a fiction film, part musical, the film is meant to be an ode to female actresses in France with their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, contradictions… and neuroses. Some of the scenes couldn’t help but recall my latest film casting experience for ‘The Translators’. Whether I got the part is still a mystery, but I guess that silence from their side means that they have found somebody else. But who knows? After I did the first test, I was convinced I was so bad that I wouldn’t hear from them and I got a message a couple of weeks later...
‘Le Bal des Actrices’ however touched the main core of all the questions that have been deeply troubling me in recent months, to which the gods of the BaoAn temple gave me the simple answer: to learn to truly enjoy myself because that is simply what I have to do. Watching those actresses in the film, I also had a look at my own neuroses, self doubts, longing for love and recognition, fear of not being good enough – never good enough, the acute awareness of time going by inexorably… I found some consolation in the fact that I am not an actor, so didn’t expect much. But still, the excitement to be cast in a film at this stage of my life was starting to rise to the surface. The one consolation is that experience has hardened me a little more and that I don’t let myself be defeated by disappointment, be it love, work or friendship.
There are always some new music to discover, some new sights to photograph, so new faces to contemplate, even briefly.
I just replied to a message by Jan who is throwing himself in escapism, going out at night and getting drunk, feeling down and guilty the next day, going out again, repeating the same cycle… To learn to enjoy oneself freely, without guilt seems like the hardest thing to do in a world where entertainment and fun consumerism have been turned into the only reward – or salvation, for an otherwise dull and distressing life. But enjoying oneself just for the sake of it isn’t something we are usually being taught, or told to do.  

But I am my best enemy and my mind knows exactly what to do to ambush me and the past year has showed how tricky and skilled I was at creating impossible situations.
I am dropping my old skins. My mind doesn’t want to be naked and desperately tries to cling on them. The process is exhausting.

My stay in Tokyo is a good training. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017



Spring has come again in my life. Meeting new people. Opening up to new adventures or new discoveries…
Ryo contacted me on one of those many dating apps. Something about him intrigued me more. I liked his look: he really seemed genuine. And decent. We decided to meet up for a drink. His English was very basic – he admitted to be using a translator to write to me. Would I mind?
There was a café on Shinjuku-dori that I wanted to try, a small elevated wooden house sandwiched between two large and much taller buildings. I decided to take Ryo there.
Ryo punctually showed up at the given time. His broad smile immediately won me over. Yes, he was more than decent. There was something pure and almost innocent about him. He was only twenty seven. His look still bore the features of the high school student he was not so long ago and of the man he was becoming.
After the little drink, I suggested we explored the streets and alleys of Yotsuya. The evening promenade lasted for more than a couple of hours, a walk out of time during which the streets unveiled a story from olden time just for us.

The second date was in his office in Jimbocho. It had to be late because, like so many other salary men in Japan, he was working extra hours. We had ramen, then another long walk from Jimbocho to the Imperial Palace, then the Tokyo Station. The streets were practically deserted, except for some occasional joggers. I could glimpse at some people having a late dinner in some luxurious hotel restaurant. The air was delicately scented as we passed the gardens near the Imperial Palace. Ryo was quite talkative despite his limited English.
“I like quiet places” he said. “I don’t go to Shibuya or Shinjuku. I hate Shibuya and Shinjuku. Too many people everywhere…”

I was to spend the night at Ryo’s place. Quite surprising as Japanese prefer to meet up outside and seem to be reluctant to invite someone to their place so spontanously. Ryo’s flat was four stations away from Jimbocho. A little duplex in a recently built condo made of this industrial style concrete I find so elegant, and which is quite popular in Japan.
The boy has taste. Every object in the flat had been carefully selected. Though a little narrow, it was perfect for one person. He seemed delighted that I was there.  
It didn’t take long before we fell asleep, or shall I say before we seemed to be falling asleep. I was lacking hours and hours of sleep at Bong’s, between the drilling and construction work early every morning and the Korean TV program he watches online until his mind collapses and his eyes cann no longer keep open.
Another sleepless night… I was no longer used to be held in my sleep. The concrete wall I love to contemplate so much was cold to the touch, the bed was just fit for one person… After an hour, I sat up to take a deep breath. In my mind, thoughts that I obviously was no longer fit for all this dating game and staying over, the wish to just get out of that flat, and yet, the pleasure to be there. Ryo raised his head and started to kiss my chest and touch my nipples. Maybe he had been waiting for a sign all this time… The thoughts vanished and we made love. Ryo isn’t the sensual type, but he has a very strong sex drive that contrasts with his proper boy appearance.
We were exhausted and relaxed after sex and could finally find some sleep. When I woke up the next morning, his "hand was on my dick – and it felt amazing", as Iggy Pop would has sung in ‘In the Death Car’. Yes, I was glad I slept over. Glad to let down my defenses and yield to a bit of genuine affection. Ryo showed me his neighborhood in daytime. “There are many coffee shops around here. They’re famous!” he said. We found one with a very minimalist decors and those concrete walls I like so much. Young and hip crowd – a ‘bobo’ area, as we would say in France.  The sun was shining, a warm weather, dry and a little windy. Who could ask for anything more?