Puzzling Chinese

Last journey?

I have written a few times on this blog about one of my favourite French director, Cedric Klapisch. This affinity is not only related to our homonymy, but more importantly to the fact that his films capture a reality that speaks to me. Many of them struck a cord in the past, but I must say that L'Auberge Espanole (Pot Luck) an its sequel The Russian Dolls really hit the bull's eye for me. They are simply generational movies... They brought me back to my own referential scheme, at the right moments of my life. They come with an exquisite sense of short-lived nostalgia, and a reality check on our society values...

The first instalment shares the life of a French student who arrives in Barcelona as part of an Erasmus exchange programme, a few months before entering the exhilarating life of an administrative clerk in the finance ministry. In Spain, he will discover life, its difficulties, its tensions, its passions... In the flat share that accept to host him, he will live with Spanish, Danish, Belgian, English, German... folks who will all help him make sense of that intrinsic mess. He will discover himself and ultimately unleash his contrived passion for writing. A year that will change his life.

The second opus takes us a few years later, when our students have started their adult life and seen some their dreams shelved for a while. Xavier, our hero, is struggling through his Parisian life. He may be writing but not with passion. Until a TV channel ask him to write the sequel of a cheap love story, a dull assignment that ends up getting him back in touch with Wendy, his Barcelona roommate who may reveal being the love of his life.

A mess, a life.

Last week in France, I have heard that my wait for the next episode is now over. Early December, we will hear back from Xavier, in a third (and possibly final) instalment of our hero: Cassel-Tete Chinos (Chinese Puzzle). The plot is a delight....

10 years after his last adventures, we are finding Xavier in NYC. "Cool!" you may say, except that his life, like many of us, is nothing but linear. He lives in NY to be close to his two children who stay at his former wife's, Wendy. He has another child in Europe but is only the surrogate father as he helped another Barcelona friend, Isabelle, who is a lesbian finance analyst and wanted a family. To be able to stay in the US and get a green card, he married a US citizen from the Chinese community, and therefore made China Town his home in the Big Apple. Xavier will discover who he is as a father, a husband, a foreigner... in a word a Man.

Call me a masochist, but that mess is triggering much anticipation for me, to the point that I have reached out to the director himself to hear his plans for the distribution of the film in the UK. And here is his answer:

YES, the film will be released in the UK, but timing to be confirmed... Well, I cannot wait. So let  me leave you with a quote from this inspired director:
Optimism it is also to say that there is sadness and desolation in life. Pretending that everything is happiness, that everything will be fine, that is not optimism, that is stupidity.
Cédric Klapisch (1961-)


Melody... Nippon Style

Food stalls
Asian noodling.
Last year Korea was trusting the world music charts with a Psy-chedelic tune that was all the more representative of the emancipation and internationalisation of the country, let alone region. I have personally never been to the Country of the Calm Morning, but have done a few immersions in the broader eastern region. If I loved walking the unspoilt Burmese countryside, the constant smile of the Malaysian people, the spices of the thailandese food... It is really Japan that caught my imagination, like no other (as Sony once said in its advertising).

I belong to the generation X, which means that I have grown up with the rise of that nation on the international scene. Sega and Nintendo have kept me awake at night ; Shizuo Koizumi and his anime "Attacker Yu!" (Jeanne & Serge in French) made me discover volley ball and live magnificent moments with great fellows ; I have delightfully seen sushi bars take over France restaurant scene like Pizzerias did in the 70s, Vietnamese restaurants in the 80s, Kebab shop in the 90s... It was therefore natural for my wife and I to aim for the archipelago when evaluating our honey moon destinations.

Nippon Style.

It was already a few years back, and I have written a few articles on that experience, but what I recall most is this frenetic calm that tears appart that nation. On the one hand Tokyo and its always-on beats, strobe lights and capsule hôtels, and on the other hand the traditions and relaxing nature of the Takayama region.

And it is always a pleasure to dive back in these fantastic memories through the pictures I brought back, or thought more serendipity. The latest happy accident was this advertisement for the Touchwood SH-08C, a very special phone by Sharp and launched by NTT Domoco.

As introduced in Engadget:
Kenjiro Matsuo was responsible for the creation of the instrument, while Morihiro Harano is being handed credit for the idea itself; in fact, he confirmed to The New York Times that no artificial music was added whatsoever, with only the background levels being adjusted up for effect. You may have never listened to a piece of classical music in your life, but you're sorely missing out if you ignore Bach's Cantata 147, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." Or, at least the version in that video below.


Metro stations in the viewfinder

Mind the cultural gap

The Parisian metro, the local tube, is a constant source of inspirations. For poets, singers and yes... photographers. During the 90s, French photographer Janol Apin walked the underground tunnels to find funny ways to put the station in image.

Visual puns, captured in black and white, literally translate the name of  Metro stations. Maison Blanche (White House) is guarded by a couple of security agents; Charles De Gaulle features the eponymous silhouette of the French General; Duroc is populated with AC/DC fans, etc. Some of the jokes might be lost to the non-French speakers, but it is worth a browse.

Discover the full portfolio here,