I am Love (Io sono l’amore)

I am Love (Io sono l’amore)

I read some reviews and interviews about this film. Plus, I saw the impressive film trailer. I thought it was a film worth seeing, regardless the fact I wasn’t convinced that Tilda could play the role.

It’s about a Russian woman who married with an Italian man coming from a very rich family in Milan. She fell in love with a cook, her son’s friend. Her love affairs helped her to find her lost identity. She was rejuvenated. The film ended with her son’s accidental death, she confronted her husband and announced her love for Antonio, left the grand residence.

The operatic film style struck somehow empty key notes in this film. It was exquisitely  made – amazing camera work and music throughout the film. But I was getting bored in the first 30 minutes.

Tilda is a talented actress. Her niche lies in roles such as feisty, cold, intelligent, bizarre women, rather than a sentimental, sophisticated and feminine middle aged woman who speaks both Russian and Italian attracting a much younger Italian chef.

She is one of those who has got the perfect body but does not quite translate into sexy languages on the big screens.

She was completely naked in the film. I hardly believe anyone in the cinema felt excited and thrilled. I was yawning half way through the film, trying very hard to stay awake.

Films like this so precisely executed and visually challenged give that very clinical feeling. Where is the essence? Where are the vital ingredients that excite your taste buds? Years ago, when I travelled in Japan, I saw some beautiful cakes and pastries in the bakeries.  I bought some. They didn’t taste great – there is something that Japanese can’t copy.

It was a film that satisfied the creators’ ambitions – something that intelligent film workers always wanted to do. Only left me unsatisfied – I expected much more, not from Tilda Swinton, but from what you can truly call a gem of indies.

Whereas Luca paid homage to his home grown celebrated director Visconti (The Leopard, 1963) (Death in Venice, 1971), I was wondering whether it was fair to call his film shallow. The fact was I was so captivated by Visconti’s The Leopard, I did not even realise that film ran 161-minute long.

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I love you Phillip Morris

I love you Phillip Morris

I love you Phillip Morris

I don’t know how to rate this film. I went to see it because I am a big fan of Jim Carrey, and I think Ewan McGregor is one of sexiest men on screen that appeal to me.

Jim Carrey:

You either love him, or hate him to guts – you will hate everything I love about him. In real life, he is friendly and behaves pretty normal, according to one of my girlfriend, who saw him at the backstage in an event.

In most of films he played you can see his roots – He did everything he could, move every muscle to attract your attention – something you always see in most standup comedians. Very dramatic and ever changing facial expressions and strong body language.

I remember those days in China: I laughed my knickers off when I saw his performance in the films – obscene, grotesque and pathetic. I could imagine how a little boy was desperately trying to please his audience. He was into acting when he was a child.

Coming back to this film, I think Carrey did his best. Really couldn’t blame him for the low rating of the film. I did laugh for the lines such as:

“Being gay is really expensive.”

Gay love:

Not terribly familiar with gay community. However, having lived in Europe for the last 13 years, I wouldn’t call myself against gays/lesbians. In China, the gay culture had a long history of being underground. At a recent dinner party in London, the hostess L, a charming Chinese lady, told me how the debate went on till early hours next day after she and her German husband H saw a film with some gay content. I assume H is more liberated in the subject whereas L is not.

L would have shut her eyes when she saw those gay intimate scenes. They aren’t that shocking to me – they aren’t much more different from what a heterosexual couple does in the boudoir.

Kinky sex? Nope. No bandage, no chains, no sex toys. I believe a lot of gay/lesbian couples engage themselves in sex within their comfort zones. There is love in the air – the romance between two men. If a man loves a woman,why can’t a man love a man? This film is not a hard-core porno after all. A montage switching from Jim having sex with wife (mechanically) to steaming act with a man was done brilliantly – it was hilarious!

Ewan McGregor:

He was gorgeous in playing a sweet and gentle gay man! In reality, he is a rugged motorcyclist having travelled from London to New York through central and eastern Europe. On screen, he could play straight, gay, bisexual, taking off his clothes completely. At an interview I read years ago, he even admitted his arousal when he was shooting some intimate sequences with leading/supporting actresses. Did they enjoy it? So far, there are no allegations against him! I suppose any women who find Ewan attractive would be flattered by his confession.

In this film, his performance is much more credible as a gay man, compared with Jim, who tried hard to impersonate a gay. Whereas Ewan seemed at ease. He is not typecast for only certain types of roles.

It’s hard to conclude whether the film is worth seeing. Sometimes I just want to unwind in the cinema after having a tough week at work. Jim and Ewan might not have the on screen chemistry to make two love birds look less artificial, this film does have a profound effect on my perception about gay’s love life.

For the first time ever in my life, I felt quite comfortable and natural to see two men kissing each other. Gays are not just about exquisite tastes in fashion, interior design, sports cars and über-tidiness in the household.

The Last Station

The Last Station

The Last Station

Saw the film ‘Last Station’ yesterday. It was the biopic of Leo Tolstoy, the final year of his life. On 7 November, Tolstoy died at the railway station at Astapovo, 10 days after he finally left his wife and their family estate, Yasnaya Polyana.

In China, Tolstoy was seemed as an iconic literature figure, a celebrated writer who was favoured by many intellectuals. Even after the relationship between China and USSR turned cold, Tolstoy was still highly regarded. In China, if you claim that you love literature, you are expected to read War and Peace and Anna Kareninas.  It was on my list, a long list of books I read, which impressed my new literature teacher many years ago. I was 15.

I read his books, watched his plays and films. They were translated into Chinese. But I hardly knew that Tolstoy’s mid-life crisis, which began 30 year before he died.  Tolstoy shifted his literature interest to denouncing fictions and sex, even within marriage.

How interesting…is that one of the reasons that the Chinese communists party did not ban his books after they fell out of the good terms with the Russians? Sex and sex related talks were very much a taboo back then. It was not encouraged to discuss in the public. It was seen as an act of capitalism.

I wouldn’t call the film was a success. Helen Mirren’s Countess Sophia threw those tantrums in the name of love – they looked just so comical. Christopher Plummber’s Leo lack of depth and dimension. But it was hardly their fault. Although the film claimed to be a true account of his final year, it failed to present Michael Hofmman’s ideas – his film is a film ‘about the challenges of love’. The love story between the young secretary and his love interest Marsha did not add much weight as the director intended. I thought it was unreal, childish and shallow. Again, this is probably a common problem when it comes to such a genre. Adding some spices to change the flatness if only they could play such magic.

Having some scenes shot in Germany is also disappointing. Surley you can find birch trees too in Germany. I have been to Russia, it wouldn’t be the same thing.

Watching the cast to play those famous Russians gave me an illusion like I was watching a merchant ivory production. The whole film now seriously lack the  flair that makes it very Russian. However, the film did provide me an insight into Tolstoyan’s movement which was led by villainous Chertkov – something that most Chinese did not know much about. I also read Chertkov’s novels, but knew very little about his role in that movement.

An Education

An Education

An Education

The film was set in 1961.An intelligent teenager girl in suburban Twickenham was waiting for bus in a downpouring day. A stranger, a soft spoken older man (Peter Sarsgaard), drove by and offered her a ride.

That ride took her home, but also brought her into a world of adult fun and fancy – weekend trip to Paris, classical concerts, smoky jazz clubs, auctions, dressing up glamorously with the help from stranger’s glamorous friend Helen (Rosamund Pike).

I had very little knowledge about the 60’s. When I told a friend that I was going to see An Education, he wasn’t terribly impressed by the sound of it.

“I suppose this is kind of films that you saw before. They are always very similar to each other.” He said.

I laughed. Maybe he was right. I like the coming out of age films. I can see them again and again. If the film is well directed with a strong cast, I would never get bored. What we know about the sixties – feminism, sex revolutions, hippies, Vietnam War.  What about the beginning of that period in Britain?

Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams)

Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams)

An Education is not a slow film. It is incredibly smooth and upbeat. The plot isn’t complicated. There are a lot of smart dialogues throughout the film. Carey Mulligan played Jenny, a pretty, innocent but rather head strong girl. Carey interpreted so well Jenny’s naivety and intelligence. When she finally got to Paris, she put her hair up and wore a dress with floral prints; she was stunning just like Audrey Hepburn!

Peter Sarsgaard did not present a slimy lady killer. His gentleness, sleepy eyes, even the flirtatious cliche lines with Jenny’s mother seemed all so harmless, light-hearted and boyish lost.  Emma Thompson is the best actress to play the imperious school-mistress.

Helen (Rosamund Pike)

Helen (Rosamund Pike)

Rosamund Pike perhaps was far too smart to play a beautiful dumb bimbo. Educated in Oxford, Rosamund has this depth in her beauty– pale, sophisticated, feminine, intelligent, witty, very British.

You sit there and wonder where Jenny is heading to and what she will turn out to be. It’s an education about life.

Without a doubt, this could be the best British film of the year 2009.

The film was based on Lynn Barber’s autobiographical essay in Granta Literary magazine. Screenplay by Nick Hornby. Directed by Lone Scherfig.

Trivial: In Lynn Barber’s early career, she was a journalist writing for Penthouse, she also published a book – How to Improve Men in Bed.

P.S:

My friend did see the film himself. I was surprised to hear that how much he enjoyed the film.

An Education (By Lynn Barber)

I just finished reading ‘An Education’ the autobiography of Lynn Barber. A rather thin volume for an autobiography, but quite amusing and insightful about British journalism.

Hotel Policy

A German friend recently travelled to Stuttgart on business.

At the hotel reception, he spoke to the receptionist:

“Single room, please.”

“I need to let you know we have a policy for single rooms.”

“What’s that?”

“If your guest stays more than 30 minutes in your room, then we will have to charge you for double room price.”

“30 minutes should be more than enough…”

The September Issue

The September Issue

The September Issue

This documentary tells some interesting stories about a bunch of larger than life editors at Vogue.

Editor in chief Anna Wintour – behind her icy armour, it is her business talent that has been driving Vogue to success.

Grace Coddington, ex-model turned creative director, seemed to eclipse Anna in the film. Her working relationship with Anna, however odd it is, is the compelling driving force at Vogue. In the end, Anna had to put some of  Grace’s ingenious ideas back to the drawing board.

Grace and Anna

Grace and Anna

I often thought fashion designers predict the trend for the next season.  I was wrong. It is Anna Wintour who influence the fashion industry. She has the final say about what goes to the issue. We, as readers of Vogue,  will probably never have a glimpse over what she has ‘killed’.  I was very surprised to see how those big names so scared of Anna. If she breathed a word like ‘no’, their effort over months would go to the drain.

Some critics claimed that this film failed to probe deeper into Anna’s inner world. I think the film is good enough to prevail what’s behind the glitz of fashion industry.  Do we really want to know more about Anna’s private life? We were told that her father was an editor at Evening Standard and her siblings all engage in rather respectable and more serious jobs.  Anna’s daughter wanted to go to a law school, she did not think a job like her mom’s is serious enough for her.

It is a serious job to run any business into profit.

Anna Wintour is doing a damn serious job.

Someone like it a bit hot

Chicken Curry with Vegetable

Chicken Curry with Vegetable

Inspired by Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, a cookery programme I saw recently, I came up this simple but very tasty dish – Thai Chicken Curry.

This has become one of my signature dishes. It has everything – meat, vegetable, spices……I love this exotic dish!

When it comes to food, my favourite has to be food in Asia. But I have to avoid most dishes in Thai restaurants here in London. Simply because they are too spicy. And I believe too much chili ruins my taste buds as I can’t taste anything else after I got this burning sensation in my mouth.

This dish will give you a spicy taste, a tingling sensation, yet rather subtle, you will then be able to taste other spices in this dish.

Here is a list of ingredients:

1. Meat (cut into small pieces): 500g organic chicken thighs (never use chicken breasts, they will be tough and dry, alternatively use chicken drum sticks, but make sure you make a few cuts in each drum stick so it can be cooked through.)

2. Vegetable: potatoes, carrots and zucchini.

3. coconut milk (1 can, 400ml), galangal, lemon grass, shallots, fish sauce, shrimp paste, curry paste, palm sugar, fresh lime, coriander.

Now cooking instruction:

1. Heat oil in the wok, stir fry the chicken until the meat turns to white, take them out of the wok and leave them in a bowl.

2. Add some more oil to the wok, heat it, stir fry the following ingredients in the wok:  sliced galangal (one chunk is enough), chopped lemon grass, 4 or 5 shallots, then added chunks of potatoes, carrots, zucchini to the wok, stir them.

3. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of curry sauce (depending on how spicy you want the dish to be), I used Matsaman curry sauce as it’s less spicy than other pastes. Pour a can of coconut milk, add some fish sauce (2 tea spoons), palm sugar, mix the shrimp paste with a little bit water, add it to the wok, some fresh lime juice, add half tea spoon of turmeric powder, close the lid, bring it to boil, then taste the soup and see whether you need to add more paste or fish sauce.

If you are happy with the soup, now add the chicken pieces, simmer for about 20 minutes.

When it’s ready to serve, sprinkle some coriander to the dish.

Bon Appetit!

P.S. All you need is your passion for food, plus a little imagination, you won’t fail, I promise:-)

Matsaman Curry Paste

Matsaman Curry Paste

Galangal

Galangal

Lemon Grass

Lemon Grass