Sunday, March 15, 2009

Third Sunday of Lent

Catechism class yesterday was great. To freshen up their memory of everything done so far there was a quiz (not in the American sense, but an actual quiz, with teams conferring and competing). Both sides did brilliantly, ending with a 33-all draw. As a sudden-death tie-breaker each team had to come up with a Gospel passage (a story about or told by Jesus), and the first team to get stuck would lose. So the 11-year-olds shouted back and forth: Prodigal Son! Nativity! Resurrection! Stilling the storm! Baptism in the Jordan! Forty days in the desert! Two loaves and five fishes - no, I mean the other way around! The Crucifixion! The parable of the two brothers! The Finding in the Temple! When Jesus was on the mountain and suddenly Moses and that other one were there too - was it Elijah? That woman who went with a man and they wanted to kill her and Jesus wouldn't let them! And on and on. In total they came up with 36 Gospel passages between them, before a draw had to be called for lack of time.

Tuesday I'll be lecturing about the Thatcher Revolution; or: how wealth accumulates and men decay.

Lenten renewal hasn't been going too well. Giving stuff up (meat, coffee, sugar, alcohol, blogging, TV, Facebook, reading novels - I think that about covers it) has been surprisingly easy, but any more positive undertakings have been impeded by illness, sloth, and the continuation of time-consuming and dependent habits in other forms (reading blogs, commenting on blogs, watching Youtube: what's the point of giving up Facebook, blogging and TV if this is how I spend my evenings?). Well, at least I suppose I'm clearer about where the problems are.

Speaking of Youtube, Friday night I was up till almost 2.30 in the morning watching clips of Hong Kong films. It's amazing how much is on there. Ching Siu-Tung, Wong Kar Wai, John Woo and half a dozen other directors basically got me through my doctorate, by providing the only entertainment that actually enabled me to stop thinking about it before going to bed. For two or three years I was watching two or three East Asian films a week - first on video and then on VCD. Not that I was buying or borrowing them at such a rate (even with VCDs so cheap at the Chinese supermarket, and Brussels public library not badly stocked with Asian cinema) - there are twenty or so films I've seen half a dozen times apiece, and another twenty or so I've seen at least twice. Films from the People's Republic, Taiwan, Japan and Korea got added to the mix in time, but Hong Kong was always at the heart of it. It began from happening to catch A Chinese Ghost Story on late-night television at my parents' house. It ended with five years of Chinese classes in evening school. With two or three children there still seemed to be time for that; with four, somehow, not. Of course, the seeds were planted in childhood, with Monkey and The Water Margin.

So here is the opening to A Chinese Ghost Story, establishing Leslie Cheung's "wandering scholar" character (reduced to working as a tax inspector or debt collector):

The director, Ching Siu-Tung, is a cinematic genius. Readers might know him as the action choreographer on House of Flying Daggers. The plot of Ghost Story is inspired by a 17th-century collection of "Strange Tales", and (not untypically) involves a lonely scholar seduced by a ghost (it also involves a mysterious painting, a sword-wielding Taoist monk, a cruel and ancient tree spirit, a Buddhist sutra, and the legions of hell, as well as pratfalls and exploding incantations: it really is a film that has everything). Here, in full, is the one and only (and relatively discreet) sex scene, the highpoint of the film not because of the impassioned embraces, but because of Sally Yeh singing "Dawn do not come" (黎明不要來 - "Li Ming Bu Yao Lai" is how I was taught to read these characters; but this being Cantonese she's singing "Lai Ming But Yiu Loi"):


berenike said...

Oh thank goodness, another adult with intellectual pretensions and brain-dead teenage-level addictions!

I feel much better. I shouldn't, should I?

Paul said...

Well, it's always good to know you're not alone ...