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Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Writer's Life 6/25 - Collaborators

Ask film buffs to name the greatest living directors and two names would probably dominate discussion: Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Many would cite Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, the Coen brothers. Kathryn Bigelow and others. I know this will sound pretentious, but China's Zhang Yimou is as talented as any of them. His action trilogy Hero (1992), House of Flying Daggers (2004) and The Curse of the Golden Flower (2006) are all wonderfully staged, thrillingly executed and beautifully shot. Raise the Red Lantern (1991) is a powerful, fascinating drama on the intrigue among concubines. It starred the great Gong Li, pictured above and below, one of eight collaborations between star and director. Last night I watched Coming Home (2014), courtesy of Netflix. Li portrays a middle age woman whose husband, a professor, has been imprisoned for 20 years. Her daughter was three at the time of the arrest. A ballerina, she is a proud Maoist. When the husband returns, "rehabilitated," his wife is suffering blocked memory. She mistakes him for a brutal interrogator. He tries to break through the mental block, first with a photo, then music and finally the letters he wrote her while in prison. It is gut-wrenching. The final scene in the snow at a train station, sans dialogue, is as good as cinema gets. Li's excellence is matched by Zhang Huiwen as the daughter, only her second film; and Daomin Chen as her father. Although the narrative does not completely avoid politics, it concentrates mostly on the humanity of the characters. There are surprises along the way, secrets revealed. Anyone who prefers fast-paced fare should pass. The film is for lovers of drama. The running time is a perfect 1:45. 2600+ users at IMDb have rated Coming Home, forging to a consensus of 7.3 of ten, way too low. On a scale of five, I rate it 4.5. I just looked at a list of the top 50 living directors. Zimou is not on it. I'd bet that in 50 years his name will be near the top. Here are a couple of quotes attributed to him: "The Cultural Revolution was a very special period of Chinese history, unique in the world. It was part of my youth. It happened between when I was 16 and when I was 26. During those 10 years, I witnessed so many terrible and tragic things. For many years, I have wanted to make movies about that period - to discuss the suffering and to talk about fate and human relationships in a world which people couldn't control and which was very hostile. I would like to make not just one but many movies, both autobiographical and drawing on other people's stories. I'll just have to wait." "Many things, feelings especially, are common to all human beings. As long as the film appeals to universal human feelings, all audiences will enjoy it." Here's how Li, now 50, appeared in the film:

My thanks to the young woman who bought novels by Stephen King and John Grisham, and author Bill Brown (Words and Guitar, A History of Lou Reed's Music), who purchased Michael Crichton's The Terminal Man. The floating book shop hosted a heated political discussion between Conspiracy Guy and B.S. Bob. If either had absolute power, the carnage would likely be broad.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

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