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Monday, May 31, 2010

Cannes Day 6: Lee Chang Dong's Poetry

Been busy writing my masters thesis (due end of June), giving my mid-term thesis presentation in Wednesday (just two days after I got back from Cannes) and being repeatedly pestered to give advice for someone else's graduate film project that I had no time to update my blog.

19th of May. Went to the gala screening of Lee Chang Dong's Poetry. That was probably the highlight of that day, I can't remember anything else from that day.

Lee Chang Dong's Poetry

Early in the morning we went to Cannes on a train again.

Fooi Mun in a train

We had 45 invitations for THE TIGER FACTORY screening. So it was up to us to start giving out the invitations to people we know.

(And that was also why we needed actress Fooi Mun to dress up prettily.)

At the Cannes Market, we bumped into our old friend Paolo.

Ming Jin, Tomoko, Fooi Mun and Paolo

Ming Jin, Paolo, Fooi Mun and me

And so Paolo got an invitation to the screening.

44 to go.

We walked around the market, looking at the booths. How funny it was, most directors who got into Cannes would most probably be chillin' in their hotel rooms, or being bombarded by interview requests, appearing at important functions, going around for some nice city tours in a limo (at least, that's what I assume directors who got selected by Cannes would be doing then), and we were wandering aimlessly in the market.

"There comes a day when we will NOT have to do the aimless wandering in the market again!" I declared haughtily. "And a sales representative of ours will do the aimless wandering instead!"

Night came. Ming Jin, Tomoko and I headed to the gala screening of Lee Chang Dong's POETRY. Poor Fooi Mun couldn't get a ticket, so I asked assistant producer Yuiko to come over and accompany her instead.

I've always liked Lee Chang Dong's films because I thought they are very emotionally intense, and have some sort of a novelistic quality (which comes from his roots as a novelist, I guess).

I remember how I first saw PEPPERMINT CANDY on SBS in Perth during my university days, it could be 2005, or 2006. Was so taken away by its scope and intensity that the film haunted me for quite a while.

His subsequent works, OASIS and SECRET SUNSHINE, are pretty heartrending. I liked Jeon Do-Yeon's performance in the latter film so much that prior to shooting my short film LOVE SUICIDES, I gave my lead actress Kimmy a copy of the film (she a Korean film buff too, and had spent half a year living in Korea) for reference. But then, to single out Jeon Do-Yeon would be unfair since most lead performances in Lee Chang Dong's films are masterful, like Moon So-Ri's in OASIS.

POETRY was no exception, when the film ended I was not only left a little teary-eyed by the film's (sorry) poetic ending, but also mesmerized by Yoon Jeong-Hee's lead performance as the tragic granny. The film would eventually win a BEST SCREENPLAY award in Cannes. However, I think the film could have been a little quicker paced, and I personally still prefer SECRET SUNSHINE.


My initial interpretation of the ending was that, even though Granny had secured the money to pay off the victim's mother, she remained stricken with guilt. So in the end she decided to report her grandson's crime to the cops. The badminton match she had with grandson was really just to set him up for the cops. She brought grandson to eat pizza, and clipped grandson's toenails, not really to prepare him for meeting his mother, but really to prep him for jail. That's what I thought. I think I'm probably the only one though.


At night I had raw beef for dinner.

Raw beef

It was interesting, but I think I prefer its cooked counterpart.

With Jeremy.

Having dinner with Jeremy at night

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cannes Day 5: Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy

After meeting Abbas Kiarostami at MK2's Jia Zhangke party, I knew I had to catch his film.

Fooi Mun, me with Abbas Kiarostami

This is a press kit of Abbas Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY, starring Juliette Binoche. I picked it up from the same party.

Press kit of Abbas Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY

On morning of the 18th of May. Professor Ando and Kobayashi-sensei had rushed off to the Japanese embassy to deal with Kobayashi-sensei's missing passport.

As for me, I went to see Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY.

It was ten in the morning, but crowded.

People lining up for Abbas Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY

I went with Fooi Mun.

Fooi Mun before the screening of Abbas Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY

Fooi Mun, being an actress, was able to score a maximum of two tickets for morning shows at the orchestre area (which means that I got to sit at pretty good seats). In contrast, the rest of us (including Ming Jin) can only get at most a balcony seat.

Ticket for Abbas Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY

The perks of being an actress!

(Should have registered myself as an 'actor' of THE TIGER FACTORY because of my split-second cameo in the film.)

At the risk of sounding like a philistine, I confess that I've never actually seen a feature-length film from Abbas Kiarostami. Only his contributions to omnibuses like TICKETS (2005) or CHACUN SON CINEMA (2007). During my days in Perth, I remember borrowing a DVD of TASTE OF CHERRY (1997) from the university library, but I can't remember why I never got to watch it. Hmm.

I enjoyed CERTIFIED COPY a lot, many people I talked to have divided opinions about the first half of the film, and the second half. I myself preferred the second half, but mostly due to my own interpretation of my film... (skip the following paragraph if you don't want me to ruin your viewing experience with a spoiler)


The two protagonists of the film seemed like strangers at first, going out for a walk and a chat, then the (possible?) "twist" is that they are actually a married couple celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary.

It's open-ended, so some interpreted them as strangers PRETENDING to be a married couple, but for me, it's really without any doubt that they were indeed married and the film was really a bittersweet examination on their fading relationship.


Juliette Binoche was the poster girl of this year's Cannes Film Festival, it's almost odd to see her winning the Best Actress for this film too, although her performance is indeed great.

In the evening, Ming Jin and Tomoko were preparing to go for the gala screening of the same film. Prof Ando and Kobayashi-sensei have managed to settle the problems with her missing passport and will head to Paris the next day as planned.

Prof Ando lent Ming Jin his bowtie because you have to wear one to go for the gala screening.

Prof Ando teaching Ming Jin how to wear his (Prof Ando's) bow tie

We had some (unexpectedly) decent Chinese food.

Chinese restaurant in Cannes

Food from the Chinese restaurant in Cannes

Kobayashi-sensei, Ando-sensei and Fooi Mun

Kobayashi-sensei, me and Fooi Mun

Ming Jin and Tomoko had already left for the screening. Prof. Ando and Kobayashi-sensei didn't go in the end, choosing to wait for the rest of the team members to arrive at the hotel.

Fooi Mun and Kobayashi-sensei looked at some nice shoes... or a bag, I had no idea where was she pointing at.

Kobayashi-sensei and Fooi Mun doing late night window shopping

Some clips from CERTIFIED COPY.


And some quotes from Kiarostami that I find intriguing. For some unexplainable reason, I can relate to some of them.

"In this type of cinema, whether working with actors or non-actors, as much as you do direct them, if you allow yourself to be directed by them, then the end result will be much more pleasing. The real and individual strengths of the actors is allowed to be expressed and is something that does affect the audience very deeply."

"I don't have very complete scripts for my films. I have a general outline and a character in my mind, and I make no notes until I find the character who's in my mind in reality. When I find the character, I try to spend time with them and get to know them very well. Therefore my notes are not from the character that I had in my mind before, but are instead based on the people I've met in real life. It's a long process, it may take six months. I only make notes, I don't write dialogs in full. And the notes are very much based on my knowledge of that person. Therefore when we start shooting I don't have rehearsals with them at all. So, rather than pulling them towards myself, I travel closer to them; it's very much closer to the real person than anything I try to create. So I give them something but I also take from them."

"Good cinema is what we can believe and bad cinema is what we can't believe. What you see and believe in is very much what I'm interested in. And it's not so much a question of whether we've shot it through 35mm or digital video; what is important is whether the audience accepts it as real. It's very true that non-actors feel more comfortable in front of a digital camera, without the lights and the large crowd around them, and we arrive at much more intimate moments with them."

"If we're not going to take full advantage of digital, then 35mm is a better medium. Especially for shooting dramas - I have no problem with 35mm. It seems that film-makers are being divided between those working in digital and those who are not. I think it's not something predetermined - it all depends on what project we have in mind, and on that basis we choose the medium."

"Children are very strong and independent characters and can come up with more interesting things than Marlon Brando, and it's sometimes very difficult to direct or order them to do something. When I met Akira Kurosawa in Japan, one question he asked me was, 'How did you actually make the children act the way they do? I do have children in my films but I find that I reduce and reduce their presence until I have to get rid of them because there's no way that I can direct them.' My own thought is that one is very grand, like an emperor on a horse, and it's very hard for a child to relate to that. In order to be able to cooperate with a child, you have to come down to below their level in order to communicate with them. Actors are also like children."

"The Iranian government as a whole has no relationship with my films. They're not particularly interested, perhaps this kind of cinema is not very interesting to them. And I'm not sure that my films show the reality of life in Iran; we show different aspects of life. Iran is a very extensive and expansive place, and sometimes, even for us who live there, some of the realities are very hard to comprehend. But on the whole, the government grapples with more important issues and we can maybe say that these films don't really exist for them. It's not about whether they like it or don't; it's just not very important to them."

Nespresso in Cannes Film Fest

At the main Palais building of the Cannes Film Festival, where the Market is held, and just between the theaters showing the competition films and the Un Certain Regarde films, there's a Nespresso Cafe that provides free coffee to people with festival accreditations.

The Nespresso girls

It's a good meeting place, or a hangout place, for many.

The Nespresso girls 2

The service from the Nespresso girls is good, the coffee's really good.

The Nespresso girls 3

I had a lot of joy drinking the coffee they served. And often I noted how the blonde reminded me of a younger (and French) version of Cameron Diaz, mixed with a bit of Scarlett Johansson. But that's really irrelevant to the enjoyment I had for the delicious coffee.

The pretty Nespresso girls

It is rewarding, after a tiring day, or after watching an unfortunately unsatisfying movie, to be served coffee with a smile. As I will try to illustrate with these photos of Ming Jin, who was here for a rest, and some coffee.

Nespresso girls working hard

This is an artistic shot of Ming Jin's ear, but he's actually drinking coffee.

Nespresso girls hard at work

I'm sure he enjoyed the coffee too.

The Nespresso girl takes away the focus

Ah, the coffee of Nespresso, one of the many things I miss about Cannes Film Fest!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cannes Day 4: Prof Ando brings us to nice restaurant

I've returned to Tokyo this morning. It's been an enjoyable trip in Cannes. The reception for THE TIGER FACTORY was very warm, there was a nice standing ovation, but I'll get to that later.

Each night I was left so tired that I didn't have time to upload photos.

17th of May.

Miffy was around again.

Fooi Mun with Miffy

Executive Producer of THE TIGER FACTORY, Professor Ando had also arrived in Cannes. He's a Cannes regular, having been to Cannes more than 20 times during his days as a TBS producer before he went to Waseda University to teach. But now, he's back again!

Ando-sensei at the Salon

Ming Jin, Tomoko, Fooi Mun. Salon

We were at the Salon. Nice view, but not much else.

So we headed to the UniJapan party.

Group photo in Japan Party

Japan party 1

Japan party 2

THE TIGER FACTORY is a Malaysian-Japanese co-production, so the kind folks of UniJapan placed a poster of our film on their booths. I love them!

THE TIGER FACTORY in Uni Japan booth

I love the poster of this documentary about a legendary porn film director too.

Me and a poster of a documentary about a pornographer

Then we made our way to dinner.

Looking at the street of Cannes

Ming Jin and Tomoko walking down the street of Cannes

Kobayashi-sensei and Fooi Mun

Kobayashi-sensei and Fooi Mun bathed in sunlight

Kobayashi-sensei and Fooi Mun bathed in sunlight 2

Fooi Mun and Kobayashi-sensei walkin up a slope

We reached the top of a hill and viewed the scenery.

Looking at Cannes

Enjoying the Cannes scenery

Cannes seaside from above

The clock tower struck eight. Yes, it was 8 in the evening, yet the sky remained bright.

Clock tower

We continued our way to the restaurant, with Prof Ando leading the way.

Walking down the streets of Cannes bathed in heavenly light

Ended up at the Le Manoir restaurant.

Le Manoir

Fooi Mun, Ming Jin and Tomoko

With Prof Ando and Kobayashi-sensei.

With Kobayashi-sensei and Ando-sensei

We dined merrily.

Nice French Food

Nice French Food

Nice French Food

Nice French Food

Nice French Food

Twilight crept into Cannes without us noticing.

Twilight in Cannes

Musicians played.

Click here if you can't see embedded video

It was a joyous day, we had gotten tickets for Abbas Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY the following day too. (me and Fooi Mun for the morning show, Ming Jin, his wife Tomoko, Prof. Ando and Kobayashi-sensei got tickets for the evening gala screening).

Then as we left, Kobayashi-sensei realized that her bag was stolen. A bag that contained her passport and many other stuff. Suddenly the day was less merry.
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