Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Time becomes an express locomotive once you turned 21. Time accelerates further into a bullet train once you're married and have children. Lo and behold you're right smack in your mid life. Can you imagine to be 38? Another 12 years to go, you will be half a century old. Have you achieved what you have set out to conquer? And what are you conquering? Happy? Melancholic? Regrets? Money? Success?

Am I in control of my own life? My destiny? Or am I a slave and servant to time, destiny and fate? People say that I think a lot. Some would also say that a lot of my thoughts are not productive, in a sense I am not making money out of my thoughts. Does everything have to revolve around money? To most Chinese, yes. What do we really achieve after we accumulate all that wealth? We die and leave the inheritance to our children. What then? The legacy will be a cliche amongst the Chinese where usually the wealth will diminish by the 3rd generation. Is that what I really want? I'll be lying if I say that I don't have to have money to live but do I have to toil my life away in search of that wealth?

I consider myself wealthy now not in a financial sense but in my journey of life and thoughts. As I get older, I tend to appreciate life more. By appreciating life, I reflect upon my life experience and weigh on what I have done, be it good, bad, right, wrong, I have that chance to improve on what I am and who I am.

Thank you to all the people around me(My parents, my wife(Jennifer Liew), my children (Ryan Lim and Aidan Lim), my films, my mentors (Jedediah Horner, Patrick Tam, Ronnie Chan, Dr. Anuar Nor Arai and Hassan Muthalib) and my friends (Brando Lee, Sidney Tan, Ravina, Johan, Indra, Deanna Yusuf and a host of others)) that have defined the person that I am of today and tomorrow.

I appreciate everyday that I am living and my hope is to be able to share it with all the people that I know and the people that I have yet to meet and the films that I have also yet to make.

Last but not least, I am older, wiser(hopefully) and also a student always. Always a student of knowledge, philosophy and the teacher of all, TIME.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Feast For the Eyes

How does one view a film? For the pure enjoyment or is there a deeper felt that one can get from watching a film. Postponed I did on a few occasions to pull myself together to watch "The Banquet". Why? Easiest excuse was that I had been quite busy with a few things that I was juggling to put together.(One of it was that I was approached to act in an English TV pilot drama. Hence the ugly goatee that I had to grow) The other lame excuse is that I've been influenced by a few negative reviews of the film.

There was that one weekend that I wanted to go and watch it but instead I let my wife to go and watch it. Apparently, she enjoyed it.

After receiving a few requests from students whether I have seen the film, I told myself that I should give the film a chance. Incidentally, I bought the soundtrack first before I ventured into the film and I thoroughly enjoyed the music by Tan Dun which I thought was different from his previous works on CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and HERO as it was more playful and daring in its usage of piano, some jazzy elements, some Western classical rendition and the heartfelt songs.

Trepidation-filled when I entered the cinema... The prologue slowly seeps me into the film... The title sequence was quite interesting with the scorpion CGI(I was praying that it would not ended up like the miserably botched up Chen Kaige's"The Promise".)... Once it opened on the Bamboo set with the specially coordinated performance dance and the first male interpretation of the theme song, I was sold.

At awe I was at the beauty of the the entire production design of the film.(That includes costume, sets, colors and props). Relieved I was that director Feng Xiaogang restrained himself from the over usage of CGIs. The fights in the film serve as a function to punctuate the violent biddings of the powers that be. The use of slow motions seem to work for me as it creates a certain hypnotic visual poetry to the fights.

The problem that I have with the film is the way that it is structured as I thought that there should have been a little more visual development from the beginning about the relationships between the characters. That would have made the climactic moments more heartfelt. As it is, more than 3/4 of the film, the characters glide (thinly without knowing them) through the narrative with their desire for each other, their betrayal to each other without much audience involvement with the characters. Director Feng could have restrained himself in a few scenes as they created unnecessary laughters amongst audience or those scenes should have been taken out. For example, the sword dance between Zhang Zi Yi and Daniel Wu and the slow motion ripping of Zhou Xun's cloth by Daniel Wu.

So, let's get back to the initial question, how does one view a film? My viewpoint is one looks at a film through the filmmaker's intention. If the intention is met and there is a genuine feeling of artistic merit, be it storytelling or atmospheric-telling, then the director has made a successful film. A film will always be flawed to an extent that it reflects the director who in the end is a human being after all.
A filmmaker should first of all satisfy one's own self first, then only proceed to the audience. If one tries the other way around, generally the filmmaker will falter. Case in point, Chen Kaige's "The Promise" which tried too hard to cater to the global audience that the film turned out to be a hodgepodge of nothing in the end.
I like the philosophical question that is posed in "The Banquet" in the song that Daniel Wu's character and Zhou Xun's character sang. The colours, the sets, the music, which I thought all these elements came together quite well. In the end, "The Banquet" is a feast for the eyes.