Posted in book review, 미분류, Film Review, Miscellany

Not impossible

It is supposed to be about being a woman that binds all women regardless of race and ethnicity across a great divide of time. Forget all others and let us focus on the parallel circumstances and kindred experiences as women. But alas, that seems only a tale told by a romantic fool such as I am. If you think this is hyperbole, then I suggest you read the tweets and comments on the recent news that a black actress plays the role of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry the Eighth and the mother of Elizabeth the First, in the upcoming British periodical drama, which went viral among the learned and the general.  In addition to the vehemently acrid narratives on the racial authenticity of Anne Boleyn – especially from fellow women-, the juxtaposition of the two women’s images, the actress Jodie Turner-Smith and the queen Anne Boleyn itself, belies the popular sentiment as though to mock the actress’s appearance in the fashion of the Tudor period by making parallels with the classical portraiture of the Anne of 1000 days.  It has produced vociferous tweets full of fury from people who regard the role as audacious cultural appropriation faithful to the PC ethos of the time. 

Actress Turner-Smith’s playing the Tudor woman Anne Boleyn is indeed an innovational idea of breaking the typecasting based on the physical distinction for the roles thinkable and conventionally conceivable for the specific attributable characteristics of certain characters. Thus, non-whites playing the roles conceived for whites are seen as usurping the equilibrium of cultural heritage, upending the very foundation of national identity translated into racial identification, a sentiment prevalent even among the professed liberals anti-everything related to Trump, Republicans, and racism. The rejection of the race crossover representation on screen is supposedly due to the difficulty of following the story’s fluid narrative, unable to be absorbed in the story, not least because performers’ distinctive physical attributes mar the harmony of racial fluidity. But do we really?

I have watched a few good dramas (British) in which the races of performers do not pin down them to the racially charged roles. To illustrate, in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein, the wife of Victor Frankenstein was played by a black actress. Besides, his father, M. Frankenstein, is a black actor, a fine ensemble of excellent thespians whose energetic performance brought Mary Shelly’s original Gothic story to a theatrical feast to the eyes and the mind. While watching the drama, I was not distracted by the black performers’ appearances being the father and Genevan Victor Frankenstein’s wife. Instead, the powerfully emotional and assiduously methodological performances resurrected the textual characters to real humans, full of pathos with vigor and wonder. Also, British Asian actress Gemma Chan, who played the role of Elizabeth Hardwick in ‘Mary Queen of Scot’s,’ is known for her versatile roles transcending her racial background. Her recent performance as a cyborg with a touch of humanity named Anita in ‘Humans’ is as naturally harmonious as streams of a river flowing into a great ocean, not highlighting her physical differences.

L-R Laura (Katherine Parkinson), and Mia (Gemma Chan) from ‘Humans’

So why the fuss full of sound and fury of the people who cannot accept the black queen in the Tudor drama when they are boastful of the most advanced mind since the age of Enlightenment? In the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movements, people have become afraid of the wind of changes as a frightful tsunami to subvert social foundations, upending the social orders adverse to their belief systems. Although I don’t eschew their concerns for the wind of changes as I am also conservative, not conventional in belief, the current vehemently acrid opinions about the black woman becoming Anne Boleyn are tokens of latent racialized hostility surfaced by the deluged dissents pouring forth from the socially suppressed sentiments. Indeed, you can’t ignore the differences between the two Anne Boleyns. Still, there are more commonalities than the images seen through your optical sensory input: that they are both women of elegance and confidence who are not afraid of expressing what they can. The actress shows she can pull off the character with what she has, and the queen her the courage to confront the criticism for being the cause of subsequent religious turmoil that changed the face of Christendom in spades. Let not prejudice darken entertainment. 

Posted in book review

‘The Boy’ (2016) – film essay

Invitation, Manifestation, and Escape are typical acts in horror movies from ‘The Exorcist’ to ‘The Changeling’ and to ‘The Others’, all of which are supreme ones of the genre, demonstrating the genuine scare is without a masked slasher on a killing spree that seems to revive forever like a Phoenix. But what about ‘The Boy’ (2016)? The movie is a lackluster flick, a smart apprentice of the masters mentioned above but without depth and breadth of knowledge of the essence of things, natural and supernatural.

It follows a young American woman with a past named Greta (very German or Grimm maybe?) hired by the overtly strange elderly couple as a nanny to their little son Brahms (possibly Bram Stoker?), a porcelain doll. As in Kubler-Ross’s Stages of Death, she shocks and denies, then accepts that she is a nanny to the doll. Of course, pretty Greta is not lonely because a young, good-looking grocer named Malcolm courts her as politely suavely as an English can be. Then Greta’s ex-lover Cole, who is the epitome of big, rough, and domineering man, suddenly manifesting from America in the English mansion, demanding she should leave for the states in the morning with him. And that’s not the end, for we are rudely introduced by a third character (or the same?), and the stupendousness of the story swivels in the flashes of screams, blood, tears, etc.


Watching this movie last night on Netflix made me think that the classic horrors of the 70s and 80s were indeed long gone and would not revive – at least for now. What begins as a classic supernatural story ends as a tepid escapade from one big mess. Greta’s coming to England is loosely explained, not to mention Cole’s sudden appearance in the English countryside manor is abruptly shoehorned into the story, breaking the thread of subplots, changing the atmosphere of the movie into a thriller that is not supernatural at all. Nevertheless, Lauren Cohan’s performance as Greta is commendable for her naturalness and arduousness in portraying her role that is the only gem of the movie that makes it watchable without turning it off.

Maybe I am either anachronistic or fastidious in selecting horror movies because of my propensity for subtle but incredible supernatural thematic elements without monsters, deformed humans, or amorous lovers. So be it. It’s all about how a story is intelligently and entertainingly told on the screen with minimum special effects, gore scenes, love scenes staging in either big swanky English country houses or big deserted mansions that are conveniently used as thematic elements. Reading the background information on this movie, I have noticed that there are quite a few production companies involved in making it. Would it be the reason for turning this otherwise excellent thematic element into a dull child’s play? Did all the companies know a thing about a movie not in monetary terms but art for art’s sake? I wonder.

Posted in Film Review

‘This Sporting Life’ (1963) – film essay

We all have our natural registers and best leitmotifs to talk about our lives, however trite or banal they may seem. The subjectivity of individual experience is more compellingly tactile than the objectivity of the essence. The sporting life of one Frank Machin, a young rugged Yorkshire miner turned rough professional Rugby player, is a fugue of restlessness, passion, love, longing, and sorrow played by his instinctual drive in allegretto from beginning to end in the binary world of black and white. This Sporting Life (1963), directed by Lindsay Anderson, is gloriously innovative in its genre and triumphantly influential in its narrative in the fashion of La Nouvelle Vague, ‘French New Wave,’ despite the unanimous consensus of labeling this film as an epitome of the kitchen-sink film. Shot in blank and white without a glamorous, star-studded cast, nor memorable intelligent lines of the script. The film creates a tactile perception of realism seen through a lens of a celestial telescope as though by guardian angels who are with us but cannot interfere with our lives without divine permissions. We can see not only Frank playing the act but also why he does it the way he does, which makes him less of a hateful jerk but more of a pitiful man unfamiliar with the civil code of behaviors and the gentility of emotional intimacy. This Sporting Life is a powerfully moving narrative of a man confined in a field of his limited vision of the world and disoriented in the sense of purpose in life. The story begins with the segmented flashbacks when Fran) becomes unconscious under the anesthesia in a dentist’s office. However, the numbed pain receptors bring back the painful memories of his widowed landlady and object of love Margaret (played by Rachel Roberts). She outwardly resists against his amorous advances but inwardly fights her temptation to love him in tandem. Frank tries to find a meaning of his existence in life by holding onto Rugby as a vehicle to achieve self-worth and love by sporting his masculinity to the fullest extent possible. Still, he’s not tough enough to endure all of the pain and erase it all as if nothing happened. Frank often stumbles into moments of existential vertigo and even chooses to love his landlady Margaret, but it only plunges him to existential frustration. Franks loves her, in the same manner, he plays Rugby in the field because it is the only best way of showing his virtue of being excellently rough and tough. Rugby is a combatively aggressive sport, tackling and attacking whoever gets in the way for the goal. Still, Frank continues to play the game even outside the field with the attitude and mindset of the sporting Rugby player. The sport becomes his identity, selfhood that dominates his mode of thinking and acting, which Margaret feels too formidable to embrace. So, she also sports her love-and-hate tug of war with her dauntingly masculine lodger equally roughly.

Frank is in a way like Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire in terms of masculine physique and their similar fierce personalities. Yet, Frank, whose love for Margaret is uncompromising and loyal in his outcry in the darkness of aloneness, seems more vulnerable and sorrowful, hence deserving of our sympathy and understanding. His lack of regard for civil manners and the refined cultural taste is forgivable by his churlish naivete and artlessness manifested in his primordial way of dealing with emotions and feelings. This Sporting Life is not a movie about those Young Angry Men whose selfishly cosseted dissatisfaction with the world sounds no more than spoiled children’s whining. It’s about a man who wants to live a meaningful life but knows not where to find it. The film dramatizes one ordinary man’s existential dilemma in search of the purpose in life in defiance of resorting to being a provisional being as a wandering sportsman. This film will imprint the outcry of Frank in your mind’s wall and resonate with echoes of his pain for a long time.

Posted in Film Review

‘The Wicker Man’ (1973) – film essay

The Wicker Man (1973) directed by Robin Hardy and starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento and Britt Ekland. Mesmerizing British horror with a screenplay by Anthony Shaffer and soundtrack by Paul Giovanni.

The mentalese of Horror refers to an intense feeling of fear or shock that generates a feeling of repulsion, which is akin to ravaging terror to the sense. Consequently, horror films of our time, ranging from the 80s to the present, are filled with gory details of anatomical dissection with teeth and blood conjured up by the inflated creatures of scariest nightmares. That is why I have a soft spot for the 70s films of the supernatural phenomena with an intelligent storyline focused on the mysterious force of the beyond that subtly agitates our most primitive fear of the unknown, the uncertain, the unresolved entities lurking in between a thin line of reality.

The Wicker Man (1973), directed by Robin Hardly, is a unique supernatural film that merits its name engraved on the obelisk of memorable films with the elements of folklore, belief system, music, and history unfolded in a vibrant kaleidoscope of scenes and scenery. It records fear in the ordinariness of landscape and people with the subtly suspected evil power lurking in the hidden alley of defenseless equilibrium. Such fear is not, therefore, forced upon the audience but tantalizing the anticipation of the sensation culminating in the extraordinary frisson of epileptic suspense blocked in a mental airlock.

The story begins when policeman Neil Howie from Mainland Scotland journeys to the remote island called Summerisle in search of a missing girl. A young devout Christian and virgin into the bargain, Howie soon discovers that the whole island is a pagan territory of old gods to whom the pleasant-looking islanders with names of flora practice a human sacrifice when crops fail for harvest. Besides, eroticism abounds with lovers in the field and the cemetery. Sensuality is ubiquitous and free because the instinctual desire is a ritual practice of appreciation of natural beauty, which elevates the licentiousness into sacredness by the innocently joyful acts of the actors. Howe sees himself in a cultural and religious twilight zone and thinks himself as a lone Christian hero, a sort of Nathaniel Hawthorn’s Young Goodman Brown figure stranded in the deep forest where Satanic Sabbath is taking place. Both characters distance themselves from the diabolical influence. They belong to the tribe of Wicker Man in the reality of supernatural power translated from their most deep-seated terror sealed in dreamscapes.

The efficacy of music used for the insularity of the proudly pagan island away from the Christian mainland shines through the film against the idyllically pastoral scenery and its happy-looking islanders joyfully practicing everything contrary to contemporary norms and mores. They are all beautiful and peaceful in their ways and see Jesus as a loser flopping in changing the world. It is this habiliment of pleasant appearance that insidiously pervades a sense of fear without blatantly exploiting it. Perhaps, that is why some people find this film monotonous or unsatisfactory in their touchstone for the ecstatic sensation. For this reason, it is not a statement film pontificating about the significance of endangered paganism but a visual story that tells a legend of the Wicker Man. If you are a fan of the supernatural tale clear of buckets of blood and chops of mutilated bodies, you will find this film worth watching.