31 May 2012

Film review: The Wedding Banquet, (1993), by Ang Lee, ****

Dig in! This "funny and poignant comedy of manners" (The New York Times), directed and co-written by Oscar(r) nominee* Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility), is an absolutely delicious feast! Winner of the Berlin Film Festival's prestigious Golden Bear, The Wedding Banquet is "top-notch comedy" (Leonard Maltin)! Successful New Yorker Wai Tung and his partner Simon are blissfully happy, except for one thing: Wai Tung's conservative Taiwanese parents are determined he find a nice girl to marry! To please them and get a tax break he arranges a sham marriage to Wei Wei, a sexy go-getter in need of a green card. But when his family swoops down for the extravaganza, Wai Tung would do well to remember that at a traditional Chinese wedding banquet, sexual repression takes the night off!

30 May 2012

Film Review: M.A.S.H. (1970), by Robert Altman, *****


While set in the Korean War of 1950-1953, the movie clearly addresses the question of the Vietnam war, which at the time of production was an open wound in American society. A Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) is the stage for a number of witty draftees to rebel and ridicule their strict superiors. Some are young docs just out of medical school, some are city girls who have to elbow their way in a clearly male dominated Army. Altman's black humor may seem a little dated forty years later, but it is still sharp. An iconic film of American countercolture that gave birth to an immensely successful TV series. Only one actor however, Gary Burghoff interpreting Radar, made it to the TV cast.

24 May 2012

American Cemetery and Memorial in the Ardennes

Today I visited the American Cemetery and Memorial in the Ardennes. A quiet place where several thousand Americans who died during WW II are buried. K. and I are welcomed by the deputy director (or was it commander?), a retired American military himself. A few gardeners are meticulously clipping the grass around each cross. Stars of David mark the graves of Jewish soldiers. A sobering sight.

The Summer heat does not convey the idea of what these guys experienced during their last days on this earth, while fighting in the dead of Winter in the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's last, futile and bloody offensive in December 1944. A small room displays a few paraphernalia from the war.

Definitely a recommended stop for anyone driving in the area, and absolutely worth a detour if you are not.

16 May 2012

Film Review: Samsara (2001), by Pan Nalin, ****


The film was released in 2001 and remains a classic in its genre. A spiritual love-story set in the majestic landscape of Ladakh, Himalayas. Samsara is a quest; one man's struggle to find spiritual Enlightenment by renouncing the world. And one woman's struggle to keep her enlightened love and life in the world. But their destiny turns, twists and comes to a surprise ending... Written by Monsoon Films. Tashi has been raised as a Buddhist monk since age five. When he gets erotic phantasms as an adolescent, his spiritual master decides it's time to taste profane life, sending him on a journey in the real Himalayan world. Once he is told his hottest dream was real, Tashi decides to leave the monastery and marries Pema, the daughter of a rich farmer, who was actually engaged with local stone-mason Jamayang. The ex-lama soon becomes a rich land-owner himself, and makes a killing from his harvest by bringing it to the city instead of selling at half price to the local merchant Dewa, but half of his next harvest perishes in a fire, yet he comes trough and raises a bright son, Karma. After committing infidelity, contemplated for years, and as he later hears from the promiscuous Indian labourer girl, Tashi reconsiders his life... Written by KGF Vissers

10 May 2012

Book Review: Russia in Original Photographs (1860-1920), edited by Marvin Lyons, ***

An interesting collections of photographs from pre-Communist Russia. Common people, ethnic minorities, military officers and the imperial family are all depicted here in the decades preceding the October Revolution. One can almost sense the blatant inequalities and an atmosphere of pending tragedy. All pictures are in black and white.

Some great color photos from Tsarist Russia online are visible here.

08 May 2012

Book review: The Romanov Family Album (1982), edited by Robert Massie, ****


A great book which will make you feel you are living in the imperial family of pre-revolutionary Russia. The photos are B&W, and come from the collection of a family friend of the Romanovs who took them to the United States.

Not all are good quality, the book was printed in 1982 and perhaps a better job could be done with new technology  thirty years on in digitalizing the old originals. However the grain of the pics contributes to recreate the atmosphere of the time.

The text accompanying the pictures presents a benevolent image of the imperial family. Too benevolent perhaps. But this is not the purpose of this book, which is about the photographs, and not about political interpretation of the Tsar's rule.

Buy your book here