Thursday, 29 August 2019

Documentary or fiction

Working on the Bruce Lee documentary... To compose for a documentary is of course totally different from writing for fiction films. And then, there are so many kinds of documentaries. I particularly like those that are based on facts but allow the audience to think, hope and imagine. Lee Yong Chao's Blood Amber, Wang Jiu-Liang's Plastic China or Hendrick Dussolier's Last Days in Shibati are some fine examples. The characters are real life characters, however, the audience cannot help but enpathise and identify with them, and somehow, reality becomes fiction - despite the film being a documentary, isn't it fiction, when facts and events are filmed a certain way, when framing, light and cinematography have to be taken into account? It is my belief that once something has been lived and is being told, whether in words or images, then processed and edited, it can no longer be called 'reality'. But when the documentary tackles on a topic of a legend such as Bruce Lee, there's little room for interpretation. One has to be as truthful as possible. One has to give facts and organise them in such a manner that they feel like a faithful account of what has happened. Perhaps that's why I never really liked the biopic genre. To see an actor trying to channel somebody else may be interesting for drama students, but the film is seldom arousing as a piece of cinema. There are exceptions, Leto, being one. Serebrennikov transcended the material and gave us a stark and beautifully lensed black and white film. But then, Viktor Tsoi is not a world famous rock legend, so it was easier for me as an audience to just let myself go with the flow of image, story and music. The case of Bruce Lee will be a challenge. What can Bao say about it that hasn't already been said one million times? Bao told me that he wanted to focus on the Asian perspective, and Lee's struggles as an Asian in 60's America. From what I heard, Bao has filmed lots of interviews of people who had worked with or been involved in Bruce Lee's life, co-stars, colleagues, martial arts students and... lovers. "Bruce Lee was a womaniser... But the most interesting details won't make it in the final cut, because they may shed a negative light on Bruce Lee" Bao said at some point. "Those things were said, but after the camera stopped rolling." I argued that this would indeed be more interesting than hearing the usual facts that other documentaries had already given. "His legacy is very well guarded by his daughter Shannon" Bao replied. "There are lines beyond which we cannot go". A respectful (and authorised) documentary it will be then - even more of a challenge to me.

I have tons of ideas even if they may be more suitable for my own interpretation of Bruce Lee. So I'm moving forward very tentatively, step by step.
There's this crazy piece I nearly finished, that describe the craziness of Hong Kong of the 70's, a mixture of erhu, big beats, a jazz combo and taigu drums - without sounding like a period piece.

I wonder what Goh Nakamura will be composing on his side of the planet - he lives in Los Angeles. I only heard a few notes from a tearful mini-documentary Bao directed about his life and condition as an Asian American. But that wasn't enough for me to have any idea of his musical style. 

For now, I am reuniting with my partners in crime, Emily, Edric and the two Allen. 

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