Sunday, 31 May 2009

情欲兩難?

終於等到周末,一口氣看了兩部一直想看的電影--《天使與魔鬼》和《霜花店》。也許因為沒甚麼期望,所以覺得比想像中好看。這麼平靜愉快的周末快要結束了,真有點不捨得。

一直不明白片名「霜花店」所指為何,即使看完了戲,只是知道這是一首類似民歌的名字;至於其中有甚麼含意,還是不甚了了。在官方網站看到主題曲的部分韓語歌詞,跟中文字幕好像很不一樣,更令人摸不著頭腦。

《霜花店》的情節,令我想起多年前的荷里活電影《Indecent Proposal》,不過自以為可以操縱一切的高麗王為的不是錢財,而是子嗣。借種生子,也許這是某些三流色情片的慣用橋段;但《霜花店》看來,充滿悲劇意味,格調自是不可同日而語。可以說,這是韓國主流電影中近年難得的佳作。

這部電影的悲劇意味極富層次,就連主題曲的旋律和曲風也充分體現了這一點,甚是難得。在故事的時代背景中,高麗臣服於元朝,仰蒙古人鼻息的無能為力。在人物方面,對女性沒興趣的高麗王,偏偏需要嫡親子嗣來鞏固王位;王后被逼與侍衛長同床共枕的屈辱和難堪;高麗王失去國家、私情主導權之後的失落、妒恨和怨憤;還有侍衛長從被動變成主動,最後還是敵不過奴才宿命的無奈。電影對高麗王和侍衛長的心理描寫十分細膩,可惜趙寅成沒能充分表達侍衛長的曲折心理,很多充滿暗湧的骨節眼上,欠缺層次的表情淪為耍酷或茫然的表象。論演技,他實在遠遠比不上飾演高麗王的朱鎮模。至於飾演王后的宋智孝,可能礙於劇本所限,總覺得她的表現更遜一籌。

電影的中文宣傳語是「情欲兩難」,在我看來卻是風馬牛不相及。誰的情?誰的欲?高麗王沒錯是喜歡侍衛長,但在他爭取更高權力的過程中,恐怕來到最後關頭,也只是一隻可以忍痛捨棄的棋子。侍衛長只是主子從小培養的禁臠,對主子無情無欲,只有愚忠,何來兩難?王后更是可憐,遠嫁之餘,還要被丈夫拱手讓人,情何以堪?

所以《霜花店》裡,我最同情的就是王后。她原是尊貴的蒙古公主,在政治婚姻的安排下遠嫁高麗,多年來膝下猶虛。無論她是否知道箇中內情,至少她還能一心一意侍奉丈夫,沒有被折磨到性格扭曲的地步。為求子嗣而被逼與侍衛長同床,原是難以啟齒的屈辱,甚至連反抗的機會也沒有,應該說是政治婚姻的必然結果,還是女性在父權社會中無法擺脫的悲劇宿命?但她逐漸從屈辱中感受到幸福和尊嚴,甚至從被動變成主動,盡量延續這種幸福的感覺。這應該說是女性對身體反應的自覺和自主,還是以身體定義感情的糖衣毒藥?最後侍衛長誤中計謀,入宮復仇之際,不忘感謝主子讓他嚐到愛情的滋味,正是「身體定義感情」理論的最佳註腳。

我不知道這個理論的真確程度,只看到王后和待衛長肌膚相接的時候,好像喚醒了心底裡一份潛藏的生命力,讓他們明白,原來做人的感覺可以這麼真實、這麼自然,不必考慮周遭所有人的喜惡。大概因為同病相憐,沒有其他人明白他們的心路歷程,所以才會兩情相悅。有趣的是,兩人對自我的啟蒙,是從別人指使的屈辱開始的。也許,這也算是一種可悲的諷刺?

電影裡當然沒有描寫得那麼仔細,因為全片是以男性的視野來發展,總是對王后的心事不屑一顧。至少,三位主角心理描寫的篇幅很不平均,與其說王后是女主角,不如說她是高麗王和侍衛長之間的玩偶算了。

Conditions of Reconciliation

Finally I watched Angels and Demons on Saturday.

Though belated, the wait was worthwhile.

Little else can be asked for in the 139-minute thriller based upon Dan Brown's novel. Duel, mystery, violence and power struggle, all interwoven and wrapped with the mesmerising decipherment of Christian and Illuminati secret codes. In terms of the level of excitement and suspense, Angel and Demons is far better than Da Vinci Code, with which Dan Brown seems to have first made his name known around the world.

However, despite the breath-taking suspense built up to about three quarters of the film, the last twist of the plot does seem a bit too deliberate in terms of keeping the audience in their seats for another half an hour or so. Certainly the turn is unexpected, as it was designed to be, and offers the audience with a positive ending towards the reconciliation of religion and science. Unfortunately the attempt is so feeble that, I suspect, few spectators would be convinced of the goodwill.

Notwithstanding the film being banned from screening at all Catholic churches around the world, which indicates a regrettable gesture of unfriendliness from the Vatican, the divergence and common grounds of religion and science are not discussed in great depth, if any at all. Leveraging the old duel between the Catholic Church and the Illuminati does not seem enough to convince a highly sceptical audience like me.

History students should remember how the Renaissance and the subsequent Industrial Revolution emerged against a background of neglect or deprivation of human needs and values. Human beings were reduced to little more than slaves of the Church and a privileged and powerful clergy. Even kings and emperors needed their support to stay secure on their thrones. It is not surprising to see religion and science as foes, but what is essential to facilitate their reconciliation? What would be the catalyst? Having a liberal leader of the Church is by all means welcome, but only God knows when such a man would be able to take the papal throne. Scientists who value empirical research do not seem to be the men on the streets looking forward to a more empathic rival. What about scientists then? Is there any limit or boundary to scientific research which we, as human beings, should not transcend as a gesture of respect for the Nature?

Perhaps I am asking too much from a film made for nothing but entertainment. But I can't help thinking about this important question the film attempts to answer.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

수고하셨습니다, 여운계 씨

今早上網讀報,得悉在《大長今》飾演鄭尚宮的資深演員呂運計(여운계)因肺癌病逝,心中一陣惆悵。

除了洪莉娜,《大長今》中我最喜愛的演員,就是呂運計。她飾演的鄭尚宮,本來是醬庫的主管,雖然練就一身本領,性格卻是恬退沉著,與世無爭,只求做好本分。她對後輩和藹可親,毫無架子;但面對強權欺壓,絕不畏縮,頗有《笑傲江湖》恆山派定閒掌門的況味。一句「絕不容忍利用飲食謀取暴利和權勢的人」,更是教人擊節讚賞。呂運計演來入木三分,彷彿信手拈來,便成妙筆,令人讚嘆不已。

《大長今》裡最教人回味的師徒不是長今與韓尚宮,更不是今英和崔尚宮,而是連生和鄭尚宮。連生向來膽小怕事,吃一丁點苦頭就會哭起來,但只要看到長今被人欺負,總是第一個硬著頭皮站出來維護她,應是鄭尚宮教誨的成果。看鄭尚宮和連生之間相濡以沫,親厚無比,像婆孫多於像師徒,不禁在想,如果有一位像鄭尚宮那樣隨和可親、正義凜然的師長或上司,該有多好。

因為《大長今》鄭尚宮一角,讓我對呂運計留上了心。她是韓國公認的元老演員,作品極多,繼《大長今》之後,在《我叫金三順》、《王與我》等劇集也有演出,每次在螢幕上看到她,總是感到很親切。可惜在電影《麻婆島》裡戲份不多,角色也比不上金乙東的爛口蓮和金秀美的神婆那麼搶鏡。

記得在網上看過一個片段,就是她和甄美里在一個綜藝節目中穿起校服扮高中女生,做起雙眼反白、手舞足蹈等古靈精怪的動作,端的令人眼前一亮,笑破肚皮。呂運計如此敬業樂業,還以為她能多演幾年,沒想到積勞成疾,遽然辭世。人生無常,能不信乎?無論如何,還是感謝她以不慍不火的演技,把鄭尚宮演得那麼出色。《大長今》的空前成功,她實在功不可沒。

當日鄭尚宮黯然離世,她的教誨、她的慈愛,依然長留在連生和長今的心裡。呂運計也是一樣,即使離開了,她的演技和敬業,也將成為觀眾美好的回憶。四年前她到香港宣傳《大長今》時,已經親筆改正了名牌上的漢字姓名,只希望中文傳媒多一點尊重,多覆檢資料,不要再寫錯了。

안녕히 가십시오, 여운계 씨. 수고하셨습니다.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Cure for Shameless Egocentric?

Can someone tell me how to tame those who are shamelessly egocentric and irresponsible, expecting people around him/her to clear up the mess they leave behind?

Over the last four years I have been clearing the same shit and apologising to clients for late submissions not because of my fault, but someone else's poor scheduling, disorganisation and irresponsibility.

Why should I bear the consequences for someone else's fault? I really hate it. But there seems nothing I can do to get those people out of my way.

I can't tell you how much I hate those who blurb but do little, if anything at all, dumping the dirty work to someone else. I really hate it and I mean it.

Monday, 18 May 2009

讀史偶拾--《點評武則天》

這部《點評武則天》,其實只是另一部武則天的評傳,但評議的地方不多,臆測倒有不少,行文語氣更比不上蒙曼的實事求是,把個人意見與史實分得清楚明白,讀來有點失望。書腰寫著「一部完全敢與《百家講壇》PK的作品」,想必又是出版社促銷的伎倆,貽笑大方。

作者雖然極力想用比較客觀的角度評價武則天,又不斷說「中國傳統父系家長制社會」怎樣怎樣對女性不公平,可是他其實也未能擺脫這種觀念,行文之際往往以「父系家長制社會」的邏輯為基礎,結果往往矛盾百出。例如他認為武則天豢養男寵是為了「報復」當年委身太宗、高宗父子,又否定年逾古稀的武則天與年輕男寵張氏兄弟有肉體關係,認為那是傳統史學家的「戲說」、「漫畫」筆法。其實,武則天為甚麼要報復?為甚麼不是為她自己追求身體的滿足?忽視女性對自己身體的主導權,不是父系家長制社會的思維是甚麼?武則天出生時,母親楊氏已逾不惑之年,又活到九十多歲才壽終,難道不能是遺傳了母親的異稟?女性追求性欲的滿足,尤其是在開放的唐代,有甚稀奇?

最好笑的是,作者不斷強調「在那個一切向最高權力靠攏的年代」,似乎是揶揄那些趨炎附勢之徒。不過,現在的中國又好得了多少?除了向權力靠攏,更多人是向金錢靠攏,透過權力謀取暴利。那代表了甚麼?資本主義法則的至高體現?還是不擇手段、見利忘義?

看罷全書,有一個很強烈的感覺--傳頌千古的大唐盛世,可能是中國歷史上商業意識最強的年代。很多事情都以利益為主導,做人、做官都只是為了「搵食」,沒甚麼原則可言。嚐到一丁點兒甜頭,就足以沖昏頭腦,即使連所謂「明君」唐太宗也不能倖免。至於最後一章談論自唐太宗至武則天執政期間處理邊疆外族的態度,唐朝作為「國際憲兵」的解說十分有趣,對比今天的國際形勢,更令人心有戚戚然。因此,更堅信中國傳統所謂「大唐盛世」,可能只是一顆用情意結包裹的糖衣毒藥,未必是值得追求的終極地位。如今憤青當道,就明白全國上下對於「振興中華」至「盛世標準」有多狂熱,應該好好警惕才是。

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

情何以堪

連日來,有關四川地震一周年的報道鋪天蓋地。說實在的,我真是有點反感。

少給我來那些關心災後重建進度、捐款是否用到災民身上、為災民申冤等冠冕堂皇的理由,說了也沒幾個會相信。說穿了,還不是傳媒之間唯恐落後於人的心態作祟?

最看不得某些追訪報道,把災民身心的創口重新撕開。不是問他們的心情,就是追問一年前撕心裂肺的痛楚、死生契闊的悲慟。年復一年,把災民好不容易才料理妥當的傷口,粗暴地展現人前,博取大家一瞬間的嘆息和憐憫,這是哪門子的關懷?借善之名,行惡之實的所為,誰受得了?災民要到甚麼時候才可以抖擻精神重新做人?只要惻隱仍在,情何以堪?

既然是為了關懷,更應該從災民的角度出發,體諒他們的心情,支持他們重新出發的信心。新聞角度可以很多,不必事事往災民身後跑,只為那一剎那的煽情。以己之好惡行善,往往淪為好心做壞事,效果適得其反。

遠在千里之外,謹為災民送上一點祝福:往者安息,生者保重。

Monday, 11 May 2009

Getting Old, Feeling Old

I think I am getting old, really old. Old enough to be offended when being pushed, squeezed or asked to change in order to follow the rule of the game.

Perhaps this means my ego is expanding too. I know too well what is on the other side of the table. I know too well what I want and simply don't want to be involved in anything that goes against my philosophy. Unfortunately the reality is not going to be changed in anyway by individual will.

I feel getting old because I have become more health conscious than ever. Now I pay great attention to my diet and insist to do exercise at least two times a week, hopefully not just on the weekends. Last week it made me sick when I didn't have time to go to the gym during lunch break. The more eager I want to chill out for my own good, the less likely it seems to be a reality.

I feel getting old because I have become more restless than ever. There is so much I want to achieve on personal fronts and I can't help thinking of early retirement to focus on those personal missions. The sense of urgency is rising steadily as if a clock is ticking aloud to remind me that the days are numbered.

I also feel getting old because I have become more cynical than ever. Now I question almost everything, including the capitalistic system that many believe is the soul of Hong Kong. I can visualise how the consumption-based, profit-driven model of business is going to takes its toll on the city that has always been its die-hard disciple.

This is why restlessness and resentment is boiling. Less and less I feel confident and comfortable in what I do to make my ends meet. More and more I question what good I am doing. At least on personal fronts, it feels like I am split into two foes fighting against each other for dominance of my mind. Nothing is more desperate and helpless than being plunged into a civil war of the mind.

Perhaps I have taken over too much of a philosopher's job. But I don't know what I can do to seek a settlement for peace without asking any more questions. Ain't it sad?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Another Compromise on Individuality

Another friend and colleague is leaving Hong Kong soon, simply because her husband's employer is relocating him to another country. She has no choice other than following him to wherever he goes.

When told about this earlier today, I felt very sad. I felt sad because a very good friend and colleague will be leaving. I felt sad also because she is forced to give up her life and career for the sake of her husband.

She is not the first friend of mine who has to make this extremely difficult decision, choosing to be a dignified and respected individual with her own thoughts, and a wife fettered by the obstinate social norm.

Perhaps I am too obsessed with my weird thoughts, but I do find it incomprehensible for me why women, rather than men, who are often put into such a difficult position and forced to make such an unreasonable decision for anything but their own good. Even more intriguing is the fact that most people, men and women, do expect women to subordinate themselves to their significant other. Or they should be prepared to give up their marriage and family as a punishment for violating their expectant role.

Why men are seldom put to a test like this? Why is it always the wife who has to give up her career, family and friends to follow her husband to start an adventure on foreign land? Why there are so few cases when the husband makes the decision to follow his wife wherever she goes? Does it mean men's existence is justified by nothing but their work? Is subordination an unbreakable curse imposed on women?

It also reminds me of the cover headline of a gossipy magazine I saw at the news stall the other day. A young local starlet is accused of causing the suicide of a middle-aged woman married to a rich man.

I can't tell you how much I hate the headline. Of course I don't know the facts, and I don't give a damn, but why blame the girl rather than the rich man who has every reason, both economic and physical, to have an affair? If the editor is bold enough to give a verdict notwithstanding the absence of evidence, why can't he/she be more sympathetic to the girl? Why jump to the conclusion?

When most of us in Hong Kong take pride in the rising influence of women on various fronts, especially when compared to the rest of the world, there seems little reason for us to be complacent. We are still far from shirking the influence of stereotypes to uphold the respect for individuality.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Mission Unaccomplished

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the 4 May Movement. Fewer in Hong Kong remember this than 4 June, which has become the collective memory of political participation of a generation.

Like many other turning points or important milestones in history, 4 May Movement is not remembered in Hong Kong not just because it is getting more remote from our daily lives. It is also, even more importantly, because few people here recognise the significance of the 4 May Movement.

For students, it is little more than one of the event tags to be memorised in the history curriculum that is no different from a laundry list. For others, it has nothing to do with their daily activities.

But this is not true. The demonstrations on 4 May 1919 actually represented a new chapter in Chinese culture and history that helps define our way of life and thoughts today.

Politically, the demonstrations against the Treaty of Versailles, under which Germany's interest in Shandong province were transferred to Japanese hands, meant much more than an anti-imperialism expression. It paved the way to the rise of communism in China. Movement leaders like Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao later became the founding fathers of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921.

Culturally, the classical text that has been used for more than two millennia began to be replaced by "plain text" - the simple and colloquial text that is little different from day-to-day speech. This vigorous promotion of plain text was actually one of the manifestos of a strong temptation to cut China's cultural roots. Chinese characters and the classical text were blamed for low literacy of the Chinese population. Western thoughts were believed to be more superior to Confucianism (whether Confucianism perceived at that time truly reflects the original preaching of Confucius is another matter). Some radicals even called for total Westernisation and romanisation of Chinese language.

It was under these circumstances that the slogans of Science and Democracy were touted as a means to strengthen China, with the ultimate goal of transforming this ancient civilisation into a modern and independent power that can defend itself from imperialistic advances.

Compared with 90 years ago, China has now developed into a much stronger state than it was in terms of political influence and economic impact. However, Democracy and Science remains an unaccomplished mission. Forget the political implications. What I am more concerned is a fundamental shift of paradigm in terms of people's attitude, approach and mentality. If Democracy can be defined as the respect for individuals, their lives and rights to be human beings; Science as the respect for fact and impartiality, I hope it would not take another 90 years or more to make more noticeable progress towards these goals.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

A Nightmare Striking Back

A Mexican visitor confirmed to be infected by the H1N1 Influenza A has sparked off a fresh round of anxiety in Hong Kong.

Not surprisingly, everyone is thinking of the deadly SARS six years ago. This is especially true when you see people on the streets and public transport wearing masks voluntarily to prevent infection. Despite the authorities' efforts to avoid panic, we can't help the dreadful memories of SARS flashing back from time to time.

Most of us are not medical doctors, and so it is understandable if we over-react a bit. As the old Chinese saying goes, "Caution enables 10,000 years of safe sailing." Being cautious and a bit paranoid, especially in highly densely populated areas like Hong Kong and Mainland China, is nothing but a form of the highest respect to their people's well-being. Yes, there may be some sort of discrimination at play here, as the Mexican foreign minister complained, but the potential impact of any community outbreak in Hong Kong and Mainland China should never be underestimated.

When Dr Lo Wing-lok reportedly criticised the government of staging a "political show" in its over-reaction to close Metropark Hotel in Wan Chai and put some 300 visitors to quarantine for seven days, I couldn't help asking this question - Why would the political opportunists stop their senses from working properly but find ways to criticise for the sake of criticising? Couldn't they find a nicer way to educate and pacify the public? Perhaps once again I have overestimated the wisdom of those alien creatures at a time when their behaviour and mentality abnormal by my old-school standards are spreading faster like the H1N1 Flu A virus.

Perhaps the authorities are nervous too. Information from the authorities worldwide as reported on newspapers and television news is little more than a mess. The local hunt for one of the two taxi drivers who have reportedly given a ride to the Mexican visitor is even more dramatic than soap operas. Obviously the Hong Kong Government is under great pressure from previous lessons to be responsive and transparent as soon as possible, but the officers in charge seem to have forgotten a rule of thumb in crisis management - only tell the facts when you are 120 percent sure.

The current fuzzy flow of information only worries me more than being infected by the flu. Let's pray against the nightmare from striking back.

讀史偶拾--《邊疆史研究集--宋金時期》

陶晉生教授精研宋、遼、金史,這部《邊疆史研究集--宋金時期》收集了九篇曾於雜誌上發表的簡短論文,深入淺出,適合一般讀者。其中《金代女真統治中原對於中國政治制度的影響》一文,見解精闢,值得細讀。

陶教授在文中提出,女真人入主華北地區後,採用部分漢人的政治制度,有其形而無其神;又肆意向文武大臣施以暴力,目的只在鞏固皇權,剷除權燄囂張的貴族和將帥。其流毒遠播於元、明、清諸朝,令唐、宋以來三省互相制約、講究商議協調、大都「動口不動手」的政治模式成為明日黃花。

這一點相當重要,也可以看出金代女真統治在中國歷史上的重要地位,但似乎在陶教授之前的中國學者尚未提出過。陶教授說金代歷史往往被人忽略,想必是指國內學者而言。他所徵引的書目、文章往往也是日本或歐美學者所撰,信焉。