Category Archives: Thoughts 思潮起伏

His Love Story

I was at a car wash at an off peak hour and while getting my car wiped down, one of the workers very politely came over to ask for a photo. I gladly obliged. He walked away and moments later he approached me and said, “Mam, can I ask you a question?” I replied, “Sure!” and looked at him expectantly.

He averted my gaze, lowered his head, licked his lips and looked like he was mustering the courage to ask what is now the question. He paused.

I grew increasingly curious about what it was he wanted to know that was making him so awkward.

“Mam, what does a woman look for in a man?”

I was stumped into silence. It was a simple question yet not so simple. I couldn’t answer straightaway because I knew it wasn’t about me. It was evident that he was probably hoping to find answers for himself. In other words, he must be having doubts or problems in his relationship.

Sure enough, after I blabbered something about the importance of communication, having someone who can understand me…he asked, “If you love somebody but always quarrel, does that mean it’s not the right person?”

Now it was my turn to pause. I didn’t want to respond because it wasn’t in my place to and more importantly I didn’t want to give him any (misleading) ideas.

He went on to share that he is going to get married to his ex in a month’s time, but they have been quarreling a lot. This morning before he left for work, they had a quarrel again. He is stressed up at work and he is stressed up at home. It appears that they fight over the smallest things.

I was moved by how truthful he was about his feelings and how he was hoping to improve the situation. I felt a warmth from this stranger, who was pouring his heart to me. He was reaching out to me in an effort to help himself.

I guess his wife-to-be might be feeling the same way on the other end. But he will never know and neither will she because they aren’t talking to each other about it. They probably can’t even broach the discussion without arguing about something else first.

Now is his marriage doomed before it even started? Is that why so many couples either don’t talk to each other anymore or end up in divorce?

“Do u remember what it was like when the two of you were dating?” I asked him.

He nodded, lips curved up in a faint smile, eyes searching the sky. It seemed like he was trying to recall moments, maybe specific incidents that made them both smile.

“When we are happy we laugh a lot, but now we just keep quarreling and I am so stressed. I love her, but if we always quarrel then maybe we should just be friends.”

My heart sighed.

Sometimes you just forget to be nice to each other; sometimes you become so used to being irritated with one another that even when one party tries to be nice, the other blindly reacts in a negative way; sometimes couples get caught up with daily tasks, to-do lists, family decisions, that they forget to love.

Everything in life becomes ruled by KPIs. We familiarise ourselves with “how to achieve”, “when to complete” in every aspect of our lives. But love has no must complete date. There is no end or finish to it. And because of that, it is easy to put it aside.

It’s like one morning you are in a rush and u didn’t kiss your partner goodbye. The next day your partner woke up late for work and didn’t kiss you goodbye. Each day pass with something that requires both your attention other than that kiss, then weeks, then months, and before you know it, a new habit has formed. What started off as seemingly  justifiable neglect becomes the beginning of the end of affection.

Love is not what needs to be done. It is not made up of acts. A kiss can be just as empty if there is no love. What I mean is when we focus on the practicalities of life, neglect sets in. We become careless with the way we speak, we become calculative, we become stingy with our affections. We find excuses like “it’s natural that the honeymoon period is over”, to justify the deterioration of relationships; we blame the other person for starting it.

It’s not easy for two people to get together, it is even harder to stay together. But like the saying goes, you can drag a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  It takes both to cherish the rare union and make the effort to keep the romance alive.

When I told the stranger who asked, that I look for a man whom I can communicate with and understand me, I didn’t mean to be generic, I firmly believe that is the foundation to having a fulfilling relationship.

And it starts with listening.

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《唐山到南洋》:i-周刊的拍摄

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我们在福建永定拍了i-周刊的封面,给我留下难得的回忆。很少可以那么自在地拍封面,是因为这次是以自己已经非常熟悉的造型出现呢,还是因为现在的我对于拍照已有不一样的见解 -- 或许两者都有吧!

记得拍摄那天我们准备了2套衣服,当天没有拍戏通告,只是得录个制作花絮的访问。因为地点的关系,我们大家就一同行。花絮的团队和i-周刊的团队都很体谅彼此需要完成的任务。我喜欢这样的工作安排,不用从一个地点赶到另一个地点,没有时间的压力就可以专心的完成工作。这也是对于工作,还有涉及完成这份工作的伙伴们的一种尊重。

i-周刊的团队就只有摄影师和记者两个人,我们就跟着摄影师,一边看风景,一边拍照,整个过程很随意,很轻松。有时候我们拍照要穿一些高档服装,带一些首饰,或是做某一个特别时尚的造型,这些其实都成了无形的负担。这次我没有这样的装扮,很自在,很开心,所以很多时候都不感觉镜头的存在,纯粹就是感受这个异乡给我的感觉。还有,身边的一切成为了我们拍照的布景和道具,没有特别设计,只是最真诚地对待。

在拍我的个人照时,来了个“伴儿”。。。

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这只狗很亲切,很喜欢咬我,也不是真正的咬,就是在跟我玩吧。。。本来我很担心会感染什么细菌,但是它无邪打动了我。它就是想要人疼,想要人爱 --

其实我们大家不都想要人疼,想要人爱吗?

有时候我们会因为某个人或某样东西的外表,有了先入为主,但是真正接触了之后才发现,原来我们对于别人的判断,正反映了自己缺乏了宽阔的心胸。

My Struggle with the Pistol

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This morning, the team from CLIF 2 arrived at the National Shooting Centre to film a scene.

One would think that my playing a policewoman for two seasons now would put me at ease with guns and ammunition. Unfortunately there was no thrill nor excitement. In place was a heavy heart, filled with fear and dread.

At one point I was overcome with grief as I stepped on the empty shells on the grass to take my position for the camera. It was, to me, a painful reminder of the children who lost their lives in Connecticut some days ago.

When I pulled the trigger of the pistol for the first time, I had to choke back tears because I realized just how easy it was to fire. And I was disheartened and relieved at the same time — for the safety our children are getting here from these weapons of war, some other place in the world is grieving from the lack of it.

It had been a tough morning as I battle my own demons not just with the flood of emotion but also with regard to the scene. We should never ever turn to shooting as a means of venting frustration. Not in the reel world nor the real world.

I pray that children around the world will have a chance to grow up, and not have their lives cut short because of human beings greed for money and power.

The Tree of Life

Once in a while, you get an artistic film like The Tree of Life that almost drives you out of the cinema half-way through and makes you wonder why you didn’t buy tickets to Friends with Benefits instead. To be completely honest, if I watched this on DVD, I probably would never sit through it.

But to watch it in the cinema was quite an experience. A half hour into the movie, I heard people fidgeting in their seats, turned and saw the man next to me look at his mobile phone, and about forty-five minutes into it, a quiet snore emerged from somewhere, then a soft sigh. As for me, I was desperately trying to figure what was going on.

The Tree of Life is like an art-cum-national-geographic documentary, layered in between a dramatic plot of a family who has lost a child, all the while moving in a slow, non-linear fashion. There is little dialogue and hardly any climax and if you want to know the plot, it is best you refer here.

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There are several voice-overs throughout the film that will fly by you if you don’t pay attention. As you watch merging organisms, erupting volcanoes, orbiting planets unravel their mystery right before your eyes in slow-motion, someone whispers a thought and leaves you thinking if that is meant to coincide with what you’re about to see.

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I am not one of those people who would look at art and then lavish you with technical jargon, history and explain in depth the psyche of the artist when he was doing this painting or that sculpture. Yet I do appreciate art in every form, however little I may understand it.

My first thought after about ten minutes was how someone can shoot a series of random things, put them together and win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. But by the end of the film, I realised that I can’t take a straightforward approach with this uncompromising film.

There is nothing random at all what director Terrence Malick did. What may seem random to us, the viewer, is probably driven by a very strong artistic influence and his personal stake in a story like that. Which is to say, if anyone tries to simply imitate what he does, it would be like replicating the physical appearance of something, without actually understanding that it is the inner workings that has contributed to how it eventually looks.

The story does have a cycle. The family deals with the news of a dead child, the mother questions God and why bad things happen to good people, then you get some sort of an answer midway into the film, catch a glimpse into the life of this family over the years, and by the end of the film, you understand that all that arrangement was to allow you to grasp the essence and fundamental concept of the tree of life. I think that quite completes the journey.

For an actor, it would be a rather daunting task, yet the most rewarding, to hold a script that has so few words. I wouldn’t say it’s empowering, because at the end of the day, it is the director’s overall vision and his call on what he would like his actors to project, that would tie in beautifully with his other visuals.

In local television, we are so used to telling stories with words that leaves us with hardly any quiet moments to just not say or do anything. Then I watch a film, that tells a story with cinematically stunning visuals of nature (not sure if they were shot live or digitally re-created) and MTV-like shots of the actors that might not seem to make any sense when put together. Somewhere along the way, I found myself trying to seek reconciliation.

When they aren’t using words, these actors in The Tree of Life have so much emotions and inner dialogue in each of these beautifully composed shots that they are essentially “doing something” even though it seemed like nothing at all. This to me is the highest form of acting, where the idea of “acting” completely eludes the audience.

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This begets the next question: What did the director tell them before each shot?

The way it is shot with the actors seems to come off almost voyeuristic. Especially with the young actors, it almost felt like the camera was trained of them the whole time, allowing them to be uninhibitedly natural. I’m guessing, they might have been told what the emotional requirements of the scene were, or perhaps, told to imagine a time or maybe even told a story, whatever it was, the director must have been very clear what emotions he wanted from them for the scene, and he captured it in the most raw and uncomplicated manner while still maintaining an aesthetic quality to it.

Having said that, The Tree of Life has indeed given me a lot to think about, not just in terms of the underlying themes of life and death but also in understanding myself and my craft.

Misleading headlines

Misleading headlines are not exclusive to this generation, although social media does provide more room for distortion. Public opinion, albeit based upon exaggerated facts or inaccurate reports, remains a creative expression, unique to every individual and allows us to make sense of life. We cannot deprive one another of this need, for it will strip us bare of thoughts, thoughts that help us move forward.

Lack of clarification is not a sign of weakness, it is my respect for your need to be creative. Art needs creativity to flourish and this industry is all about that.

Prominent literary figures have written about this way before this era.

Jean Cocteau, French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker, in his 20s.

The inaccuracies of the press, and the banner headlines by which they are trumpeted, are soothing draughts to this thirst for the unreal.

— Jean Cocteau, 5 July 1889 – 11 October 1963

The Naked Truth

Under normal circumstances I tend not to comment on news articles about myself, but I feel I need to clarify a few points made in the Yahoo, TNP articles that were released yesterday.

With regard to the Rose Chan feature film, nothing has been confirmed thus far. I have had a few meetings with Eric Khoo about the story and overall vision of the film a number of months back, but nothing has progressed due to both of our filming schedules. I’m honored by his complimentary words and if everything falls in place I would definitely like to be involved. I believe that this story has the potential to give us Singaporeans a film that goes beyond our island and break the stereotype of a “local film”.

Another topic that has caused some debate are these quotes:

“I don’t belittle my body but it doesn’t really mean anything. What matters is our soul and what’s inside of us, not this outer shell.”

“When I entered this industry, (my body) is something I have to give up. I have to let my co-stars or strangers touch or kiss me.”

As an actress who is constantly seeking to improve my craft, I have learnt that our “tool” in this unique profession is ourselves. We have our experiences to draw on, and our bodies to help express our emotions. I admire actors and actresses who can transform themselves internally and externally to embody a character (Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, the list goes on) and I strive to commit to such rigor someday.

In the words of Nicole Kidman in a recent interview, “as actors, we need to be thick-skinned but we also need to be vulnerable.” We don’t give our body away freely, but we do use it to create a character and portray a wide array of emotions. I believe to be a versatile actress, it is our job to recreate reality in a surreal world, not by imitating but by inhabiting the role truthfully. If done right, we can make you laugh, cry and maybe even feel love.

Where nudity is concerned, I am not opposed to it IF the story, director and overall project is good. There has to be a clear, positive and reinforcing message to make any cinematic journey worthwhile for the audience. Having said that, I believe in the potential “The Charming Rose” has as a feature film. Her story is about love, heartbreak and tragedy, all of which far exceed the physical aspect of nudity the film might have. It’s a part that many actresses, if given the opportunity, would love to play.

Ultimately, to have a part in great projects, portray multi-faceted persons, and bring their interesting stories to the screen are my desires and goals as an actress, and I will give my best to fulfill them.

Thank you all for your support.

Yours Sincerely,
Joanne

Injecting local flavour in TV serials

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It’s always easier said than done, but what do we know of the limitations faced by content providers in trying to inject local flavour into local content?

I once spoke to a certain official from a particular government organisation who said he would like to see more colour in our local dramas, especially since we are a multi-racial society, so that should be reflected in our shows. But it’s excruciatingly painful for  someone whose mother tongue is not Mandarin to memorise lines based on hanyu pinyin, and have to act and react at the same time. Also I think there could be a certain rule set by MDA that limits the percentage of alternative languages that can be spoken in Chinese drama. So unlike in American dramas where you see people of different skin colour in every setting, we don’t have a common language to unify us.

But this lack of a common language is what defines us.

In fact, I think the way Singaporeans speak is very uniquely Singapore, (but I’m not sure we are exactly very proud of that). The truth is when we speak Mandarin, we inject a bit of English here, a bit of Hokkien there, and throw in a Malay adjective once in a while, and while we don’t have terrible pronunciation, we are not Beijing-accurate either. Yet we are not encouraged to speak this way on TV, which I think could be due to a certain guideline, but then again I never asked to know for sure. I think though, that even if we are allowed to do so by our directors and executive producers, it would certainly anger some disapproving viewers who think we should be setting a good example instead of perpetuating a less-than-perfect speech pattern.

From what I see, it’s a sticky situation.

It certainly doesn’t taken one person or even a panel of decision-makers to alter the status quo of our local television content. It needs a revolution (or miracle, depending on how you want to see it) that won’t take place overnight. But I think that shouldn’t deter us from recognising the need to solve the fundamental problem that is causing  lacklustre audiences’ response.

Results don’t come if you don’t start from somewhere.

我在回复这位朋友时,认为或许可以与更多人分享我的看法。

读者认为应该多制作具有本地风味的电视剧,比如《出路》和 Channel 5 目前还在播映的 “Fighting Spiders”.

我呢,则认为,不是以那种年代当背景的电视剧,并不代表它就没有本地风味。毕竟我们的国家已经成长了许多,现在的环境,人民所面对的压力和挑战都和以前不同。那我们要怎么样把这个年代给搬上电视,制作一部脍炙人口的电视剧, 才是接下来应该关注的挑战。

我认为本地电视剧就好像是一个国家的相簿,记录着不同年代的环境,也描述了国家和人民的进步和成长。80年代的代表作有《雾锁南洋》,《红头巾》等,就算不是出生在那个年代的人,看了电视剧也能对当时的新加坡大概有个概念。可是十年、二十年后,人们想知道我们这个年代的思想和环境是如何的话,如果所观赏的都是年代剧,那我们不是好像没有前进吗?

不过说来容易,我们又对制作组所面对的限制了解多少呢?

曾经听过某个政府机构的高层说,希望在我们的电视剧里看到更多色彩,既然我们是多元宗族国家,电视剧就应该凸显这一面。可是要一个母语不是华语的演员靠拼音背台词,然后又要演戏,又要作反应,真的会要了他的命! 况且听说有某个政府条规,限制在华语电视剧里能说其他语言的比例。所以我们不象美国的电视剧,能靠一个统一的语言让不同肤色的演员在同一个环境切磋。

虽然我们少了一个共同语言,但这也是我们独特的地方。

我们大部分新加坡华人的其中一个特色,就是平时的对话里常常参杂了不同语言,发音不很差,但也不是特别标准 。(这或许不是每个人愿意接受的特征。)电视剧不鼓励这么做,应该是因为要按照条规吧,我也不清楚,也从来没有人提过可以还是不可以。但是我想就算可以,播了出去也会惹来观众的批评,认为我们应该给下一代树立好榜样。

我在此又在强调的是,要让本地制作包含着本地风味,要制作杰出的电视剧不是靠一个人的努力,或是一个条规的调整,而是整个大环境的改革。这也不是一朝一夕能发生的事。

不过如果能意识到我们必需从最基本的根源下手,那已经是一个开始。