Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Killing Fields – My Father’s Guests

It’s so nice to have a little bit of free time! I’ve managed to see two movies over the weekend, which, as most of you would know, is quite an achievement for me! The first one I watched (on DVD) was  “The Killing Fields” directed by Roland Joffe. It is an oldish movie (It dates from 1984) and one that I had actually seen before, but after my trip to Cambodia last month, I wanted to see it again. It stars Sam Waterstone, Haing S. Ngor, and John Malkovich, and won three Academy Awards (Best supporting actor, best editing, and best cinematography). The story is about Sydney Schanberg, a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia, and his local Cambodian interpreter, Dith Pran. When the American forces leave in a hurry before the Khmer Rouge forces enter the capital city of Phnom Phen, Dith Pran manages to send his family away while he stays behind with Schanberg to cover the event. Schanberg and his fellow journalists eventually leave the country, but Pran, as a local, has to stay and is arrested by the Khmer Rouge. Pran will survive and manage to flee the Khmer Rouge regime and is reunited with Schanberg. It’s a great movie about a story too often untold: the fate of the Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge regime who managed to murder two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. It’s not an easy movie, but then it is a very difficult topic as well. The story is well presented, the actors are all very good, there are beautiful landscapes to admire, and it is impossible not to be touched by the story of Pran and his narrow escape from death. I find it amazing to see how Cambodia has managed to overcome those terrible years and become what it is today, a welcoming, peaceful, and stunning country. As a consequence of the war years, there are unfortunately still too many land mines in the country. The country is definitely worth an extended visit. The Killing Fields will give you an introduction to a dark side of its recent past.

The second movie I saw on the weekend was “My Father’s Guests” (Les invites de mon père in French) as part of the Hong Kong French Film Festival. The film is from 2009 and was directed by Anne Le Ny. It stars Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Michel Aumont, Valérie Benguigui, and Véronica Novak. It is the story of how Lucien Paumelle, a retired doctor, welcomes two very special illegal migrants from Moldova in his home. His commitment leads him to marry the sexy, young woman, Tatiana, several decades younger than him, to the dismay of his adult son and daughter, Babette and Arnaud.  They soon realise that despite being 80 years old, Lucien has succumbed to the charm of his guest. While Tatiana and her daughter invade Lucien’s home, Babette and Arnaud’s lives turn to chaos. The movie is fun to watch, especially the beginning when Tatiana makes herself comfortable in her new home and family. It touches on tricky topics such as illegal migrants, fake marriages, racism, sexual relationships by interest, and age and grieving. I was particularly interested by the topic of an old man dating a young woman while the mother had recently passed away, and how the children react, since this is the main theme of my latest full-length play “Sorting Dresses.” I don’t like Luchini as an actor, he annoys me, but he is okay in this movie. As for Karin Viard, she is as good as always. I was however a little disappointed with the last part of the movie: too fast, not realistic, some big holes in the story, and an ending that did not gel with the rest of the film.

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Filed under France, Hong Kong, Movies

Earth from Above

I went to see a great exhibition today entitled “An aerial portrait of our planet – toward a sustainable development”, consisting of about a hundred or so aerial photographs taken by famous French photographer and environmentalist Yann Arthus Bertrand. The photos are amazing. I own a book by Arthus Bertrand, Earth from Above, which was published a few years ago, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the photos in the exhibition were not all from the book. The exhibition focusses on sustainability and renewable forms of energy. It is staggering to know that only around 14% of energy currently produced in the world is renewable… The pictures are beautiful and have each a deeper meaning, from New Orleans’ houses covered by water after hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, to waste dumps in Africa or France, or land mines in Australia. The exhibition is held at the Open Piazza, Olympian City 2, Kowloon, Hong Kong (Olympic MTR Station), and lasts until 26 December.

I don’t want to infringe copyright by posting photos on this blog, but for those interested, you can visit Arthus Bertrand’s gallery site here. There are a lot of beautiful photos to be browsed on the site. There are even many free, stunning screen savers for your computer.

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Filed under Arts, Books, Exhibitions, Hong Kong, Travel

Body Swap giveaway ending soon

There’s a Body Swap giveaway on at the moment. Details below if you are interested.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Body Swap: The world's first text message adventure romance with... by Jerome Parisse

Body Swap

by Jerome Parisse

Giveaway ends December 15, 2010.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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Kindle, Body Swap et al

Hooray! I have finally finished work that required all my attention (and all my time) and can now get back to reading, enjoying life and writing posts for my blog. My French editor had asked me to proof-read my latest manuscript before the book is put together, and I also had to write a final scene for my latest full-length play. I am still reading “Hong Kong Murders” and my pile of books has grown higher… Argh! Watch this space!

I’ve also been interviewed by David Wisehart (author of Devil’s Lair) about Body Swap, my latest young adult novel, and publishing on Kindle. The interview has been posted in his blog and can be read here.

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The Animated Version of the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival

If you have the time and manage to get tickets (I heard it’s sold out), there is a fantastic exhibition in Hong Kong at the moment. The Animated Version of the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival, which was exhibited at the China Pavilion of World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, is currently in Hong Kong! Projected on a screen of more than hundred and twenty metre long and six metre high, the picture is really amazing. It’s as if you were sent back to Bianjing, the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty, nine hundred years ago. The animated version of the picture is thirty times the original. You can admire the bustling streets, the moving boats and the people walking in all directions.  The picture shows night and day cycles lasting four minutes each.

Zhang Zeduan’s “Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival” is among the top ten most famous Chinese historical paintings. It depicts the life of the various social classes in Bianjing during the Qingming Festival at the time of the Song Dynasty. The exhibition’s website states that “Cities in the Song Dynasty underwent drastic changes when compared with those in previous times. These were revolutionary changes for cities in China. On the one hand, the urban outlook changed a great deal such as appearance of shops and workshops along the streets, and on the other, the social life of people changed greatly such as enrichment in cultural life of civilians. In addition, the painting demonstrates the harmony among ancient citizens inside a city as well as that between urban and rural areas.” The entire piece was painted in hand scroll format. It is often called China’s Mona Lisa by the Chinese.

Here are two pictures of the original painting.

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Filed under Arts, Exhibitions, Hong Kong

What is it about Japan?

We had a friend staying with us in Hong Kong for a few days this week. He decided to spend three days in Tokyo for a short visit mid-week and came back enthusiastic. He had never been to Japan and he was, like many, swept away by the place and the people. I have always firmly believed that  many people hold false preconceived ideas about Japan. What they find when they go there is a very different place from what they expect.

So… what is so different about Japan? To start with – especially when you come from Hong Kong – it’s a shock to see how truly nice and helpful people are. Try standing in a street in Japan – even in the middle of Tokyo – with a map in the hand for more than a minute and you’ll understand what I mean. Someone is bound to ask if they can help you to find your way. Trust me, this is a delightful experience, and it does not happen in many places in the world. The Japanese are polite, careful, attentive, eager to help and always smiling. Forget the image of crowds of commuters pushing you and smothering you to death in the subway. I have found this to be a fairly inaccurate picture of Japan. Yes, there are a lot of people around, but very rarely will there be any kind of physical contact. People welcome you with open arms in stores, shops, cafes and restaurants, they will never fail to say good-bye when you leave, and they mean their smile. Shopkeepers are also often seen joking with each other! As a general rule, people will enquire about where you are from with a genuine interested. Okay, you’d better speak some Japanese if you want to have meaningful exchanges, as most people tend not to speak English at all, but if you do or if you find an English speaker, you’re in for an interesting conversation.

Then of course, there are the ubiquitous cafes and their amazing variety of cakes. Yes, the Japanese are into coffee and cakes. Big time! Japanese food is amazing, and there is so much more to it than sushis and sashimis. It is highly varied, healthy, and delicious. My favourite dishes are tempuras (battered vegetables or prawns) and okonomiyaki, a sort of pancake made of a variety of vegetables, meats, seafood etc… And it’s cheap. Yes, I did say cheap. The higher end of the restaurant market is very expensive, but the lower and middle ends are not that dear. You can eat very well, and quite a lot, for not much at all. My stays in Japan have never costed me very much (but I tend to avoid Western places which are expensive).

Everything in Japan is a feast for the eyes. Everything is treated with care, prepared with attention and love. Try the basement of large department stores and your eyes will be popping out in all directions: food of all kind, beautifully prepared and wrapped, a feast for the eyes and for the mouth, food that is varied enough to keep you tasting new things for the rest of your life. Every single thing in Japan is considered from an aesthetic perspective; not only does it have to be useful, it also has to be beautiful. Everything is an art: wrapping a parcel, displaying food, serving tea, selling goods, or simply dining out. Modern cities are nothing spectacular, except for the odd boldly designed building, but there are numerous temples and parks to visit. Try Kyoto and Nara for a start. You won’t be disappointed. And there are the million other small details that make Japan Japan! On top of my head, the heated toilet seats, the heated bathrooms mirrors which never get fogged, the white gloves of taxi drivers, how clean everything is (Have a look at the upholstered train seats if you don’t believe me), the exquisite flowers and pot plants, the manicured gardens, the calligraphy, the capsule hotels, the complexity of subway lines, the silence of big cities (electric cars and no trucks… what a relief!), the extravagantly dressed teenagers… Of course, Japan, like any other country in the world, has its own problems and is not a paradise, especially for people who live there on a permanent basis, but this is not what I want to talk about in this post. As a tourist, it is difficult not to fall in love with Japan and its people. I keep going back and I love every second of it.

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The Ice House by Minette Walters

Minette Walters is a British crime fiction author of more than twelves books. The Ice House is the first of her books that I have read, and I must say that I enjoyed it immensely. It was published in 1992 by Macmillan and won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey Award for best first novel. It has been translated into several languages.

A decaying body is found on the property of a woman and her two friends. This sparks the interest of the police, who has never been able to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the woman’s husband ten years earlier. But what is the police really looking for? Are the three women keeping something from them? And why does everyone in the village hate them?

I love the way Walters write: extremely witty dialogue, sharp characterisation, and of course, enough suspense to want you to finish the book in one reading. Walters has created three wonderful characters (the women living on the property). I kept wanting more! There isn’t one moment of tension in the story, and I can guarantee you will be kept guessing until the end as to what really happened. This is my first Minette Walters book, but it won’t be the last.


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