Cultural revolution in the films of Zhang Yimou

At a time in my life when I had a lot of time and a physical DVD Netflix account I started watching the films of Zhang Yimou.

These movies are great.  The plots are crazy, but compelling.  There are other ways to tell stories besides the save the cat way.

(save the cat lol there’s a famine killing forty million people!)

A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband’s nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband’s heir without revealing his parentage in this circular tragedy.

for example

Plus just trying to discern the basic premises the characters assume or the worldview of the movie assumes adds a whole other level

Been thinking about these movies in the context of a much, much, much more minor cultural revolution I perceive in the USA and especially Hollywood/the media, where people are like examining themselves and confessing to their political crimes.

Zhang was born in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province. Zhang’s father, a dermatologist, had been an officer in the National Revolutionary Army under Chiang Kai-shek during the Chinese Civil War; an uncle, and an elder brother had followed the Nationalist forces to Taiwan after their 1949 defeat. As a result, Zhang faced difficulties in his early life.

During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, Zhang left his school studies and went to work, first as a farm labourer for 3 years, and later at a cotton textile mill for 7 years in the city of Xianyang.  During this time he took up painting and amateur still photography, selling his own blood to buy his first camera.[10]


Nice Try Hall Of Fame

when Harvey Weinstein’s then-lawyer Lisa Bloom said he’s “an old dinosaur learning new ways”


Is it interesting?

source

that William F. Buckley and Ayn Rand kind of look alike?


Hemingway Writing Advice

one of the descendants of Hemingway’s messed-up, inbred, extra-toe cats in Key West

In a 1935 Esquire piece, Hemingway, already playing the preening dickhead, gives some writing advice that I think is clear-eyed and well-expressed.

Writing room in Hem house in Key West

The setup is a young man has come to visit him in Key West, and Hemingway has given him the nickname Maestro because he played the violin.

MICE: How can a writer train himself?

Y.C.: Watch what happens today. If we get into a fish see exact it is that everyone does. If you get a kick out of it while he is jumping remember back until you see exactly what the action was that gave you that emotion. Whether it was the rising of the line from the water and the way it tightened like a fiddle string until drops started from it, or the way he smashed and threw water when he jumped. Remember what the noises were and what was said. Find what gave you the emotion, what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling you had. Thatʼs a five finger exercise. Mice: All right.

Y.C.: Then get in somebody elseʼs head for a change If I bawl you out try to figure out what Iʼm thinking about as well as how you feel about it. If Carlos curses Juan think what both their sides of it are. Donʼt just think who is right. As a man things are as they should or shouldnʼt be. As a man you know who is right and who is wrong. You have to make decisions and enforce them. As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.

Mice: All right.

Y.C.: Listen now. When people talk listen completely. Donʼt be thinking what youʼre going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice. When youʼre in town stand outside the theatre and see how people differ in the way they get out of taxis or motor cars. There are a thousand ways to practice. And always think of other people.

Mice: Do you think I will be a writer?

Y.C.: How the hell should I know? Maybe youʼve got no talent. Maybe you canʼt feel for other people. Youʼve got some good stories if you can write them. Mice: How can I tell?

Y.C.: Write. If you work at it five years and you find youʼre no good you can just as well shoot yourself then as now.

Mice: I wouldnʼt shoot myself.

Y.C.: Come around then and Iʼll shoot you.

Mice: Thanks.

This article is behind a paywall at Esquire but I found it reprinted on the website of Diana Drake, who has story by credit on the film What Women Want.


The story of Profumo

In the early 1960s Michael Profumo was the British minister of defense.  He was also banging a party girl who was also banging a Russian spy.
at like big swinging sex parties.
He had to resign, disgraced.  But he handled it well.  Wife stuck by him.  Spent the next forty years cleaning toilets and working in East End soup kitchens.

Shortly after his resignation Profumo began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London, and continued to work there for the rest of his life. Peter Hitchens has written that Profumo “vanished into London’s East End for 40 years, doing quiet good works”. Profumo “had to be persuaded to lay down his mop and lend a hand running the place”, eventually becoming Toynbee Hall’s chief fundraiser, and used his political skills and contacts to raise large sums of money. All this work was done as a volunteer, since Profumo was able to live on his inherited wealth. His wife, the actress Valerie Hobson, also devoted herself to charity until her death in 1998. In the eyes of most commentators, Profumo’s charity work redeemed his reputation. His friend, social reform campaigner Lord Longford said he “felt more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I’ve known in my lifetime”.

Right before he died the Queen invited him to dinner and had him sit next to her.
Like forty years of solid, humble repentance.
From his obituary:
Profumo’s dedication and dignity won him enormous admiration from people in all walks of life. The author Peter Hennessy, a fellow trustee at a charitable foundation associated with Toynbee Hall, described him as “one of the nicest and most exemplary people I have met in public or political life; full of the old, decent Tory virtues”. Margaret Thatcher called him “one of our national heroes”. “Everybody here worships him”, a helper at Toynbee Hall was once quoted as saying. “We think he’s a bloody saint.”

YES

(ht Wrensh)


The scum of the earth

(c) English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A French army is composed very differently from ours. The conscription calls out a share of every class — no matter whether your son or my son — all must march; but our friends — I may say it in this room — are the very scum of the earth. People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling — all stuff — no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children — some for minor offences — many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.

Christopher Plummer played Wellington in the 1970 movie Waterloo, an expensive flop:

Final costs were over £12 million (GBP) (equivalent to about U.S. $38.3 million in 1970), making Waterloo one of the most expensive movies ever made, for its time. Had the movie been filmed in the West, costs might have been as much as three times this. Mosfilm contributed more than £4 million of the costs, nearly 17,000 soldiers of the Soviet Army, including a full brigade of Soviet cavalry, and a host of engineers and labourers to prepare the battlefield in the rolling farmland outside Uzhhorod, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union).

To recreate the battlefield authentically, the Soviets bulldozed away two hills, laid five miles of roads, transplanted 5,000 trees, sowed fields of rye, barley and wildflowers and reconstructed four historic buildings. To create the mud, more than six miles of underground irrigation piping was specially laid. Most of the battle scenes were filmed using five Panavision cameras simultaneously – from ground level, from 100-foot towers, from a helicopter, and from an overhead railway built right across the location.

Happened to tape the film onto a VHS off Boston’s TV 38 in my boyhood and thought it was pretty good.

 

is a very compelling book on the topic.  Another great one by Howarth.

Wellington said a bunch of cool quotes:

As quoted in A History of Warfare (1968) by Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: “Sir Winston Churchill once told me of a reply made by the Duke of Wellington, in his last years, when a friend asked him: “If you had your life over again, is there any way in which you could have done better?” The old Duke replied: “Yes, I should have given more praise.”

The phrase “scum of the earth” turns up in some translations of 1 Corinthians 4:13.

On this Veterans’ Day I like to remember unlikely veterans like Larry David:

He wrote a funny essay about his experience in the Army Reserve here.  And:

He was drafted into the United States Army in 1970. He trained as a medic and was stationed in West Germany. After being honorably discharged he used the benefits of the G.I. Bill to enroll in the California Institute of the Arts, and received a BAdegree in drama from The Evergreen State College in 1975.

Thomas Ricks of course has a Veteran’s Day guest post worth reading.