Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Yesterday was supposed to be the premiere of Ròm in Saigon. Tomorrow was supposed to be the day of its release nationwide as well as the release of the soundtrack CD. Due to that damn Covid-19, everything had to be postponed to some indetermined time. Two weeks at least of lockdown, if not one month... 
It is unfortunate for all the team, and all the people who prepared to celebrate the result and the new birth of nearly a decade of hard work.
And I think of all the young film directors whose first feature films were to be presented at festivals this year, and now have to live in this state of limbo...

Friday, 24 July 2020

with the musicians

The CD release is set to coincide with the day of the film premiere. Late nights working feverishly to finalise everything in time... Due to some misunderstanding, I thought that Wowy didn't agree to let the song Chạy be featured in the soundtrack. That's what can happen with the online chatting, answers and replies cross each other. Huy and I were discussing the shooting of another video that this time would feature a new version of the end credit music, with Wowy saying the text of Chạy in a totally manner - I asked him to leave out the rap style and be the most intimate possible. The result was astonishing. What a beautiful text! At some point, I said it was a pity the song Chạy wasn't to be on the soundtrack, to Huy's great surprise. "But... I thought Wowy AGREED to that" he exclaimed. A few words with Wowy clarified the situation. Yes, Wowy had agreed, but since I was asking him about getting writing credits for Chạy, after which he said "Yes sure", I thought he was replying to that. Anyhow, I spent half of the night checking the mix and doing the mastering, adding all the names and credits to the booklet, and send the song in time in the hope that the printing company had not already started the printing and pressing process. 
The next morning, Quang, the executive producer of the soundtrack told me to everyone's relief, that the company had not yet done anything. 
Ah, the wonder of the internet... to be able to collaborate with musicians around the world, even if I still prefer to be in the same room with them, just because the vibe and the connection are different.

Keith Lee lives in Hong Kong. I found it interesting to have his guzheng playing for a scene where the two boys fight on the railway (they fight a lot in the film!) and turn it into an almost balletic fight with the music. Keith told me that he had to do many takes because his little dog would bark during the recording - aaahhh pet animals and musicians...
I shall always remember the sessions with Vanessa for the prepared piano. I let her place all the little objects, from little screws of various sizes to various metallic objects, even a mini Christmas tree, erasers or pencils... After some time recording what she played, she and I both in a trance, as if drunk or on a high... The magic (witchcraft) of sound!

The erhu barely plays any melody in the film. Allen, was actually tuning his instrument and trying some screeching harmonic sounds in the higher register when I stopped him and asked him to do it again. He looked at me. "What?... That???" I gave him some instruction about what to play and he just did it without asking any other question. True, if someone had listened to what we were doing, he would have left the room within seconds!

The same kind of experience happened with Heng Han Hou. No melody for the violin, only some weird sounds going up and down, like a swarm of insects. To me, accidents open to new possibilities!

The other Allen (Wu ) proudly showed his hand drum one day after a concert. He really does magic with his percussion and brings soul to the rythms he plays, and he plays on just anything: a music stand, bowls, with two small pieces of paper...

I have lots of fun working with those musicians, but they also inspire me so much! 

Gilles Deleuze

"Nous vivons dans un monde plutôt désagréable, où non seulement les gens, mais les pouvoirs établis ont intérêt à nous communiquer des affects tristes. La tristesse, les affects tristes sont tous ceux qui diminuent notre puissance d’agir. Les pouvoirs établis ont besoin de nos tristesses pour faire de nous des esclaves. Le tyran, le prêtre, les preneurs d’âmes, ont besoin de nous persuader que la vie est dure et lourde. Les pouvoirs ont moins besoin de nous réprimer que de nous angoisser, ou, comme dit Virilio, d’administrer et d’organiser nos petites terreurs intimes. La longue plainte universelle qu’est la vie … On a beau dire « dansons », on n'est pas bien gai. On a beau dire « quel malheur la mort », il aurait fallu vivre pour avoir quelque chose à perdre. Les malades, de l’âme autant que du corps, ne nous lâcheront pas, vampires, tant qu’ils ne nous auront pas communiqué leur névrose et leur angoisse, leur castration bien-aimée, le ressentiment contre la vie, l’immonde contagion. Tout est affaire de sang. Ce n’est pas facile d’être un homme libre : fuir la peste, organiser les rencontres, augmenter la puissance d’agir, s’affecter de joie, multiplier les affects qui expriment un maximum d’affirmation. Faire du corps une puissance qui ne se réduit pas à l’organisme, faire de la pensée une puissance qui ne se réduit pas à la conscience. "

Gilles Deleuze & Claire Parnet - Dialogues, 1996

I went to see Akira, Otomo Katsuhiro's masterpiece at the cinema, as theatres now re-release restored old classics in those times of pandemic. The experience was fantastic as it was the 4K IMAX version. The rich and experimental score by the Geinoh Yamashirogumi collective sounds glorious - so ahead of their time, and the film has lost none of its strength 32 years afterwards. It's even ironic that it is set in 2019, a year before the Tokyo Olympics (and even more ironic that the Olympics have been postponed - cancelled?, due to the pandemic), and the society it depicts couldn't be closer to the dog-eat-dog world we live in now, with our imcompetent and corrupt politicians, the gap between the well-off ones and the poors, students' riots, the lack of ideal and real human connection in a fast-paced 'modern' world...
I never get tired of the film, and I'm certainly NOT looking forward to the US live action remake!

Wednesday, 22 July 2020


Ròm features a gallery of characters, among them a gangster played by Vietnamese actor/rapper Wowy.  He also wrote a song which is the backbone of the story: Chạy (Run). I had the great pleasure to arrange that song. Huy told me about it and said it was very meaningful for him and to the film. I didn't tell him, but when Huy played me the original version, I thought it sounded like a track by N'Sync...
Initially, the idea of me arranging a hip-hop song was met with some reserve. I remember a first call by Wowy who voiced his concerns that I may not be able to understand the spirit of the genre...
I just let him talk, told him not to worry and let me do the music. We said goodbye on an un certain note.  
The following days, I let out what was coming to my mind: taigu drums, experimental hip-hop, a brit-pop twist for the chorus for which Jan played gleefully the guitars parts...
I wasn't sure how this U.M.O. (unidentifed musical object) would be welcomed, but Huy immediately loved it when I played it to him in Paris. Then I was relieved to see how relieved Wowy also was.
Huy and Wowy just shot the music video for the song last week. I wonder what they came up with...

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Ròm on CD!!!!

Happy news!!! The original soundtrack of Ròm will have its release on CD! Limited release of 300, exclusive to Vietnam, in partnership with LP CLUB, a favourite spot for music lovers in Hà Nội. Quang, the owner came to me a few weeks with the idea to publish the CD. At first, I was reluctant. Nobody buys CD anymore, even less in Vietnam. But Quang insisted that many people were every much interested in the film and were willing to buy the soundtrack. He added that he wanted to support the film and finance its pressing.
After a couple of weeks of hesitation, I decided that we had nothing to lose. There were a couple of things to get done: the booklet, and most importantly, the mastering! There was no fund for a proper mastering. I was advised to try one particular plug-in which I could use on a ten-day trial period. It took me a full day to figure out how to use it, then I just plunged into the water, only trusting my ears. After I sent the mastered files, Quang told me that they sounded fine on his stereo. 
I still couldn't believe it was to happen. Mind you, since my first album Circlesong, none of my work had been properly published, and Circlesong was a self-published affair. Too bad there was no follow up with Milan Music...        
Long nights doing the mastering, long nights working on the booklet, and making sure no name has been left out. 

I can't wait to actually hold the CD in my hands!

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Creature off the dark

Damn.... a flying cockroach in the house....
It flew right onto my face. In the dark. 

Friday, 17 July 2020

Mother, damals

My cousin Bảo Châu sent me an old photo of my mother, her and myself, a photo taken at her place sometime around 1987 or 1988... (I would say 1987...) This comes at a perfect time since today is my mother's birthday. I guess she doesn't remember that evening, but I can only wish her to have a peaceful and blessed new year, here, and out of time. Peaceful and tranquil.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Home quarantine is over.
Taipei, dans la rue... again at last! 

Saturday, 11 July 2020

An An

I'm learning the art of disguise so that I don't recognise myself.

Friday, 10 July 2020


I must say that I quite enjoy those two weeks of quarantine. Work, but no deadline, nowhere to go, nobody to see or care for, nothing (much) to worry about - temporarily maybe, but I haven't had that in a long time. 
Tentative piano playing - it took me a few days before I could bring myself to open the lid and start playing, healthy home made cooking (mostly soup - I have been eating  much too much during my time with Dennis and François!, reading, watching films - oh the joy of cinema with the projector, I think people call that 'holiday'... 

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Ở ngoài thì chỉ nhìn được mây bay qua, ở nhà thì đọc sách bay xa.

Outside, I see the clouds, inside I travel far away with the books!


I just came back from five months in Paris and it was very hard to say goodbye, to my friends, to my family, to the city and particularly to my parents. And exactly ten years ago, I was leaving Paris to start anew in Asia, to begin a new chapter in my life with a big question mark as title. I was about to turn forty, an age in life when most people are normally already well settled. I came to Taiwan with no working nor resident permit, I didn't speak Mandarin - still can't, my finances were far from glorious, I had no real job prospect, nor did I know where I would be living. The only thing I had was the faith that I would be fine somehow. 
Now ten years later, well... I am happy to see that I have managed it, more or less. Life is crazier and more surprising than ever, I still have no clue what is going to happen - or shall I say that whatever happens, I'm fine with handling it. But I'm surrounded by fantastic people and that is what really matters!

Merci la vie!

Tôi vừa trở về sau năm tháng ở Paris. Nói lời tạm biệt với bạn bè gia đình, thành phố của mình và đặc biệt với bố mẹ mình là một điều rất khó. 
Mười năm trước, tôi rời Paris đến châu Á để bắt đầu một chương mới trong cuộc đời mình với một dấu hỏi lớn. Khi đó tôi sắp bốn mươi tuổi - là  một độ tuổi mọi người phần đông đã ổn định cuộc sống và sự nghiệp của họ rồi. Tôi bay qua Đài Loan nhưng không có visa hay là giấy phép làm việc, không nói được tiếng Hoa, không có, chưa có việc làm, tài chính của tôi cũng không được vẻ vang. Điều duy nhất tôi có là niềm tin rằng tôi sẽ ổn bằng cách nào đó.
Bây giờ mười năm sau... tôi rất mừng với sự trong đời mình. Cuộc sống còn điên rồ và đáng ngạc nhiên hơn hồi trước, mình vẫn không biết chuyện gì sẽ xảy ra, nhưng tôi được bao quanh bởi những người tuyệt vời và đó là điều quan trọng nhất!