Sunday, 24 September 2006

When the Devil Wears Prada, What Should We Do?

Just watched The Devil Wears Prada with Shirley in an attempt to escape at least for two hours from the non-stop string of media calls and lingering mental stress at work. While it was not a really good laugh as I expected, the whole line-up did a wonderful job to play their roles remarkably well and in an appropriate manner.

The most impressive of all, not surprisingly, was Meryl Streep.

She didn't just play the role, but Anne Hathaway did. She appeared exactly as Miranda Priestly, the character she played. She convinced the audience subtly but thoroughly with her voice, her eye contacts, her facial expression, and the way she behaved. Her soft and gentle voice, which I found irresistible, created an amusing contrast to Miranda's cool-headedness at work and ruthlessness in giving the people around her a truly horrible time. I can't really tell how much I admired the light but sarcastic tilt of her sexy thin lips when she sneered at someone. Her eyes of unbeatable self-confidence at the luncheon address in Paris and of outrage comparable to a silently erupting volcano were simply GORGEOUS.

I can't understand why I could possibly forget her appearance in Kramer vs Kramer, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sophie's Choice, Out of Africa and The Bridges of Madison County, all classic blockbusters when I was young. It seems that I didn't take her seriously enough until The Hours.

What have I been doing all these years? How could I possibly miss or forget any of these?

The rest of the line-up did a great job too. I would like to give Emily Blunt (Emily) and Stanley Tucci (Nigel) a special credit. Their performance was really funny and amusing. Anne Hathaway was good, but not as much as she did in Brokeback Mountain, which was absolutely impressive and groundbreaking.

Having said that, I couldn't help having serious doubts over the moral of the movie, which, in my opinion, has become something worse than a cliche. The most obvious was that Andrea made the right choice at the last moment before she lost herself in the labyrinth of luxury brands and extravaganza. Fair enough. But what it really implied was the outdated doctrine that a woman who succeeds in her career has to pay the price of giving up her family and love. (By the way, how is success defined here? Wearing Prada and Versace on a daily basis?) Miranda, the editor-in-chief of the world's leading fashion magazine and one of the most influential fashion commentators that nobody in the fashion and publishing businesses can ever afford to ignore, was portrayed as a desperate and career-obsessed woman who had no personal and family life. She made not only herself but the people around her miserable. She had nothing to look up to except her career, and that marked the beginning of the vicious cycle of a devil becoming a worse devil with time because she simply had no other alternative to keep her job.

My point is, however, why should we keep emphasising the fallacy that women who succeed in career are all devils with family and love blunders? There is absolutely no correlation between career success and family life whatsoever. Notwithstanding the fact that many successful working ladies are married with happy children and husbands, why should marriage remain a primary measurement for personal success or fulfilment rather than a matter of personal choice that is no one else's business but something that deserves others' respect and understanding? Is giving up one's job for the sake of love and family when there is an obvious economic problem a wise choice? People in Hong Kong who have been struggling to make their ends meet in a city without a strong social security system that respect the dignity of recipients should share some of my scepticism.

Another thing that I don't really understand is that why people around Andrea overreacted in such a negative manner to Andrea's endurance and determination to "conquer" the devil? Apparently she knew what she was doing, and she didn't compromise her integrity as she moved forward. It was unfair for Miranda to imply that Andrea had betrayed Emily as she did the same to shatter Nigel's dream. This was nothing comparable in any sense. Andrea made it clear to her boss that it should be Emily who joined Miranda to the business trip to Paris, but Miranda intimidated Andrea to make a reluctant decision with obvious implications. Imagine what would happen you don't listen to your boss who has a notorious name of being the unpredictable and uncompromised? You shall risk your job and perhaps your future in the same industry. Come on, let's be a bit more honest and less hypocritical. Do you really have the guts to say no when your bills remain unpaid and you have a family to support?

Don't take me wrong though. I have no intention to defend Miranda's devil deeds. On the contrary, it was Andrea's strategy of managing Miranda, based on Nigel's advice, which again made me a bit uneasy. Nigel said Andrea was actually whining instead of trying, and said that Miranda was trying to do a good job. I found this unacceptable as it sounded like defence and tolerance of tyranny. A person as capable and powerful as Miranda should be able to work out a way to treat people around her in a more respectful manner. Asking for an unpublished copy of Harry Potter for her spoilt twin daughters was simply not the right thing to do. While it was understandable why she did it to comfort and remind herself as a mother, it was undoubtedly a poor parental strategy that, unfortunately, many wealthy working fathers and mothers adopt nowadays.

Well, unfortunately there is some sort of dilemma here on how to keep one's job without compromising too much of one's integrity in terms of defending or tolerating tyranny unconditionally. Perhaps Nate was referring to the unreasonable orders from Miranda rather than her non-stop calls to Andrea beyond office hours. But he didn't make it clear and to someone from the workaholic city of Hong Kong, taking business calls beyond office hours (do these still exist anyway?) just doesn't deserve any mention - let alone making a fuss of it.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

懺情記之何晴篇

不知道是有緣無分還是命中註定,所認識的美女都是從天而降、猝不及防的。不由分說碰個滿懷,撞得滿天星斗;想要定神細看的時候,佳人卻總是翩然而去,留下只有思念。

這些年來,內地演藝界人材輩出,憑演技實力站穩腳跟的大有人在,叫人由衷佩服的也著實不少,不知怎的,卻好像沒有幾位天仙化人一般的人物,讓人看一眼便忘記不了。

幸而,還有何晴。

余生也晚,來到2003年內地版《射鵰英雄傳》才知道晴姐──請容我厚著臉皮叫一聲「姐」,因為總覺得連名帶姓的稱呼,不太禮貌。儘管《射鵰》拍得不錯,選角平均而言也比最近播完的《神鵰》要好,但真正能夠呈現原著神髓的人物,只有晴姐的包惜弱。記得晴姐的包惜弱出場的時候,眼前為之一亮,跳起來對著電視機直叫:「天啊!怎麼到了這年代居然還有一個和包惜弱一模一樣的女生啊?」

別問我為甚麼如此激動,這份感覺連自己也說不明白。也許是因為自小愛看的金庸小說,終於有了一個比較接近原著神髓的電視劇版;也許是因為晴姐的溫柔嫵媚、清麗絕俗,是近年所見庸脂俗粉之中唯一的清泉。看她一張秀美無倫的臉,裹在一身雪白的毛裘裡,纖瘦的身影佇立在小舟中,隨著幽怨的歌聲飄然遠去,怎不叫人心裡發疼?儘管包惜弱的軟弱、妥協和不問是非間接造成了郭、楊兩家的悲劇,然而此情此景,任誰也無法板起臉孔嚴詞詰難。看,楊鐵心十八年來流落江湖,也沒想過追問半句根由;一旦與愛妻重逢,隨即從容而死,不見絲毫遺憾,咱們這些旁觀者急得直跺腳,又有甚麼法子?

可惜,自從《射鵰》之後,一直沒打聽到晴姐的消息。偶然看到一兩段新聞,說她有份演出一些政治正確的時裝劇,別說在香港沒機會看到,即使有,我也不想看。須知道晴姐本來就是屬於古代的,她小時候學的不是別的,而是「百戲之祖」崑劇,所以時裝戲永遠不是她那杯茶。這當然與演技無關,但氣質不對就是不對,看晴姐拿起手槍、蹙著秀眉演甚麼硬橋硬馬的革命者,我比誰都難過,簡直有「虎落平陽遭犬辱」之嘆。最近還打聽到她和曾志偉在某劇集裡合演夫妻,天哪,這是誰的安排?簡直比扈三娘被逼下嫁矮腳虎還要噁心,曾志偉哪裡配得起晴姐?怎麼可能配得起?難道製作人員就不能讓晴迷們過兩天安穩的日子嗎?

古語有云:「紅顏薄命」,秉承著天地間清明靈秀之氣、長得脫俗出塵的女子,彷彿盡是神話故事裡下凡歷劫的仙女,總要叫人握腕長嘆才甘心。童話故事裡美滿幸福的公主,往往都沒有中國人的份兒。我本慶幸晴姐是唯一的例外,誰知道她還是逃不過宿命。

也許,不吃人間煙火的美女,命中註定就是寂寞的,因為沒有俗世的男人會明白仙子的心事。就像那些認為晴姐近年疲態已露,不復少年時清麗無愁的傢伙,只看到外表上無可避免的變化,卻對閃爍著智慧和歲月光芒的淡雅氣質視若無睹。

那麼,仙子的心事是甚麼呢?我既是凡夫俗子,也沒有本事洞悉仙機,只能憑著半點蛛絲馬跡,聊作臆測而已。

晴姐是唯一演遍四大古典名著改編本的女演員,分別在《西遊記》裡飾演一個作弄豬八戒的小精靈、在《三國演義》演小喬、在《水滸傳》演李師師、在《紅樓夢》電影版演秦可卿。看,除了那個頑皮的小精靈,小喬、李師師和秦可卿,哪位不是書中艷壓群芳而又命薄如紙的女子?日前又得知晴姐在張紀中監製的《碧血劍》中飾演溫儀,無論是少年或中年的造型,也和書中人非常吻合,再一次令人讚嘆不已。以晴姐的美貌和氣質,固然是擔演這些角色的不二人選,但同時也不能不讓人敏感地猜想,到底這些角色和晴姐有哪些共通之處?

還有晴姐的芳名,本來是一個陽光燦爛、活潑開朗的名字,就像她多年前曾經演過俏麗天真的小公主天鳳,笑得兩靨如花,從不識人間愁苦。但她的姓氏,把整個名字換了意思,變成了一個悵惘萬分的疑問句。

憶起何晴,我彷彿看到愁眉不展的仙子,迎著風,低著頭,思量著她那些不為人知的心事。偶然抬起臉來,仰視那清朗無雲的長空,只聽到她幽幽的問道:「為甚麼今天天氣那麼好?」

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

《西江月》

急雨飛亂銀漢,濃雲鎖斷高樓。浮華半世夢魂收,幾許情懷如舊? 腐鼠難成滋味,甘泉早涸東流。臨行莫問再淹留,餞我三杯淡酒。