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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • April 07, 2006

     

    July Rhapsody (2002)

    I mentioned this film in passing yesterday. Then it dawns on me that I should do it justice and talk about Jacky Cheung and Anita Mui, who were both singers to begin with in the 1980s.

    The Chinese movie title of July Rhapsody is "Man at the Age of Forty". The man is Lam Yiu-kwok (played by Jacky Cheung), a secondary school Chinese literature teacher in Hong Kong. The film somehow evokes American Beauty starring Kevin Spacey, except Lam did not go as far as smoking weed and neither his wife Man-ching (played by Anita Mui) hate him nor his sons regard him with contempt. Lam is fed up with life-the perfunctory school politics and de-emphasis of Chinese language study, the plummeting zeal for justice of '89 Tienanmen massacre, the increasing charivari that shows disapproval of the SAR government, a torpid marriage and the bittersweet reminiscence of his mentor Mr. Seng. He desires a change in the beat of his life, an ecstasy to which he can escape and from which he finds solace.

    Lam's student Choi-nam (Karena Lam) seems to provide that solace, if not a guilty pleasure. She has a crush on Lam whose marriage turns cold as his wife suggests taking a month off to take care of Mr. Seng, whom suffered from a terminal stage of cancer. Mr. Seng had an affair with Lam's wife (who was 20 and not yet married to Lam) and the betrayal had always pricked Lam. Man-ching feels the scruple.

    The film unravels slowly, with jump cuts of different plots over different intervals of time, in a stream-of-consciousness technique. The story is told in the perspective of Lam's older son, a university student who reveres his father and seeks to break the ice in his parents' marriage. While the son pieces together vestige of his parents' troubled past, Lam draws closer into Choi-nam's forbidden fruit. Lam might be using Choi-nam as an escape from dealing with Mr. Seng and his wife. The relationship between Lam and Choi-nam, while somehow unusual, is far from risqué. The catch is that Lam is on the verge of repeating Mr. Seng's wrong some 30 years ago.

    July Rhapsody deftly exposes the qualms underneath a perfect middle-classed family. For Lam, the age-old unresolved relationship between Mr. Seng and Man-ching renders them bitter, distrustful and guilty. Combining with the political uncertainty after the handover, the stagnant economy, uprising unemployment and plummeting real estate values, Lam's qualms and the desire to escape from cruelty of life really hit home for many Hong Kongers. Anita Mui (deceased) delivers a solid, convincing performance of a midlife housewife that is never known but refreshing to especially the Hong Kong audience. July Rhapsody is Ann Hui's best since Eighteen Springs; a movie adopted from Eileen Chang's timeless classics.

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