Tuesday, March 26, 2013

French Golden Oldie - "Les Feuilles Mortes"



“Autumn Leaves” is without question one of the much loved golden oldies of the 40s. Its original French version “Les Feuilles Mortes” sung by Yves Montand, in my opinion, surpasses any other version in poignancy, and it leaves a lingering after-taste. No doubt this is owed much to the heart-wrenching sentimental lyrics. Indeed, the French song was rendered from Jacques Prevert’s great poem of the same name.



Jacques Prevert may perhaps be a lesser known name than Charles Baudelaire, Stephane Mallarme or Paul Verlaine in the realm of French poetry, nonetheless his name was first introduced to me when I was studying French in my youth at L’Alliance Francaise. Ever since, one of his poems, “Barbara”, which was about the afflictions brought on by war, has stuck in my head to this day.

Here’s the link to the French song “Les Feuilles Mortes” (“The Dead Leaves”) performed by Italian-French actor/singer Yves Montand:-

Here’s the link to Nat King Cole’s rendition of “Autumn Leaves”:-

The lyrics of “Les Feuilles Mortes” as performed by Yves Montand in the above clip:-

Oh ! je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis.
En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui.
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié...
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi,
Et le vent du nord les emporte
Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais.

C'est une chanson qui nous ressemble.
Toi, tu m'aimais et je t'aimais
Nous vivions tous les deux ensemble,
Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais.
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment,
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants désunis.
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment,
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants désunis.


Here’s my English translation of the lyrics:-

Oh, how I wish that you could call to mind
The happy days when we were friends.
At that time life was more beautiful
And the sun more sizzling than today.
The dead leaves gather around the shovel,
You see, I’ve not forgotten…
The dead leaves gather around the shovel,
The memories and the regrets too;
And the north wind carries them
Through the cold night of oblivion.
You see, I’ve not forgotten
The song that you sang to me.

It is a song that mirrors our story.
You, you loved me, and I loved you;
We used to live, the two of us together.
You, who loved me, and I, who loved you.
But life separates those who love each other
Very softly, without making a noise.
And the sea wipes away from the sand
The footprints of lovers torn asunder.

But life separates those who love each other
Very softly, without making a noise.
And the sea wipes away from the sand
The footprints of lovers torn asunder.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Outrage or Apathy?



While Hong Kong activists are busy talking about another “Occupy Central” movement – this time to be a better organized and better grounded one than the last, the passing away of Stephane Hessel, a much revered champion of human rights and author of Time for Outrage (Indignez-vous!), the very book that inspired “Occupy Wall Street”, went largely unnoticed in Hong Kong. 



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Critique of Critic's Prize Award



The Hong Kong Arts Development Council’s award of a Gold ADC Critic’s Prize (the first of its kind) to a local journalist Jia Xuanning for her critical essay on the film “Vulgar Comedy” (“低俗喜劇”) has stirred up much controversy. The essay itself is under caustic attack from liberal-minded Hong Kongers.

Here are translated excerpts from another retort article by an InmediaHK writer:-

“I have commented from a cultural viewpoint. Now let me give a critique on the latter half of the essay from a social viewpoint.  The essay points out [the Mainland may well act as Hong Kong’s benevolent master, but it has not won Hong Kongers’ heart. On the one hand Hong Kongers bow to the Mainland’s economic prowess, while on the other refuse to let go of their residual sense of superiority on the mental level. This paradoxical mentality is like the psychological struggle of the film’s character played by Du: he shows an obsequious smiling face, while at heart he feels he’s being raped; they feel alienated from the mainlanders’s ‘inferiority’, yet they are being naturalized and glossed over. In the face of the Mainland, Hong Kong senses a loss of self-esteem and a collapse of the last line of defense with no power to retaliate, and in the end the already sickly relationship between the two places will only exacerbate.] (I’ve quoted this from the original essay, to avoid being accused of taking remarks out of context.) Jia’s essay smacks of imperialist mentality, full of condescension, insinuating that Hong Kongers are subservient to money, that being rich is almighty (as implied by ‘benevolent master’). Yet, Jia does not have a clear perception of reality. To say that Hong Kongers are jealous of mainlanders’ wealth is pure conjecture. According to IMF data, Hong Kong has a GDP per capita of close to US$36,000, while the Mainland’s figure is around US$6,000. Hong Kong is the Mainland third largest export partner (the first two being the European Union and the United States). The PRC’s Commerce Department data shows that Hong Kong’s investment in Mainland China amounts to US$600 billion, i.e. 46 percent of all of its foreign investment. As is apparent from data of different sources, the Mainland has to rely on Hong Kong.”

筆者已經批評《從》的文化觀點,今批評文中後部的社會觀點。文中指「大陸可以做香港的恩主,卻無法收服港人的心,港人臣服於大陸在經濟層面的強盛,卻又決計不肯放棄精神層面殘存的優越感,這種一邊依賴、一邊排斥的矛盾關係,令港人對大陸的心態正像片中杜汶澤那樣掙扎:表面曲意賣笑,內心卻感到在「被強姦」;既不能認同大陸人的「低質素」,又在被不斷同化與浸淫。當香港在大陸這個「他者」面前,感到尊嚴流失、底線崩塌又偏偏無力還擊時,病態的中港關係便愈演愈烈。」(此處為原文,免得指筆者斷章取義)。賈氏的文章充斥帝國主義者的心態,如君臨天下的駕馭港人,以為有錢大晒,暗指港人為奴才(恩主的暗示)。然而,賈氏沒有看清現實。若果論香港人妒忌大陸人有錢,卻是無中生有。根據國際貨幣基金組織的數據,香港人均本地生產總值為近三萬六千多美元,而中國大陸為六千多美元,香港的人均本地生產總值足足多大陸六倍。香港為中國第三的出口顆伴(依次為歐盟,美國),達近百分之十四。根據中華人民共和國商務部外國投資管理司的數據,香港對大陸的投達近六千億美元,佔中國境外投資的百分之四十六,為各國最高。從各方面的數據,大陸都必須依靠香港。當年戈爾巴喬夫說俄羅斯的經濟改革比大陸更困難,因為沒有香港

“Even without mentioning the mutually beneficial economic co-operation, the Mainland is still indebted to Hong Kong from the historical standpoint. During the Great Leap Forward when 30 million Chinese were starving to death (I do not know whether Jia has read about this part of Chinese history?), Hong Kongers selflessly extended help to the Mainland. More recently, whenever there were natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, Hong Kongers, apart from donating money generously, were involved in a series of rehabilitation hope -projects. On the other hand, the so-called tourism benefits brought about by the individual travel scheme are only concentrated in sales of luxury goods and local properties, to the detriment of local small and medium businesses. The real effect of that scheme is to enrich the few conglomerates; it does not benefit the average citizen at all. Indeed, citizens have had to bear the negatives, like street congestion, bad behaviors of travelers, parallel trades and a whole lot of resource distribution problems. I would urge Jia to take a fuller view of facts before writing, and would beseech the award panelists to use their common sense in making judgment.”    

先不論互惠互利的經濟合作,從歷史看,大陸仍是虧欠香港。當年大躍進餓死三千萬人(不知賈氏讀中國歷史時有沒有這段歷史?),香港人無條件接濟大陸。改革開放後,中國發生的天災人禍,例如華東水災,四川大地震等,香港人捐了無數的資金,還有一系列的希望工程。大陸有錢人不做的,香港人全都包了上身。然而,自由行帶來的所謂消費,高度集中在奢侈品和樓,排斥了本地的中小企業。而掌控奢侈品的,卻是本土大財閥,自由行的結果就是助長財團,一般市民根本不能得益。另一方面,一般市民卻要承受負面的外部成本,例如阻街,自由行影響市容的行為,水貸問題和一系列資源分配問題等等。請賈氏寫文章前,好好看清現實,並請評審員判斷時,運用你們的常識。

“On another issue, the essay mentions that the film ‘Vulgar Comedy’ discriminates against mainlanders because one of the characters in the film played by Cheng mocks at mainlanders, which reflects a fear that Hong Kongers harbor. First of all, the film is not discriminatory towards mainlanders, as that character is a nouveau-riche plebeian and is not representative of all mainlanders. What the film tries to mock are the philistine habits of some nouveau-riche commoners – it does not amount to discrimination. However, what Jia says about Hong Kongers’ fear is correct, but for the wrong reason. Starting from the day of the handover, the Central Government has constantly been chipping away Hong Kongers’ freedom, trying arrogantly to domesticate Hong Kong with the Mainland’s officialdom way of handling things. It even mentions co-operation of the three powers. Now Hong Kong enjoys less and less freedom. Dissidents are suppressed. A society attuned to lies is in the making, thanks to the Central and Hong Kong SAR governments. The freedoms that we enjoy are a natural endowment – they are not granted by the Basic Law. We are being robbed of those freedoms. Certainly we have good reason to fear.”  

此外,文中提及《低》歧視大陸人,因為鄭中基所演的角色是嘲弄大陸人,反映出香港人對大陸的恐懼。她的說法部分正確。第一,《低》並沒有種族歧視,因為鄭中基所演的角色是大陸的暴發戶,而非指所有大陸人。《低》所嘲笑的,是大陸暴發戶的惡俗,並不構成種族歧視,而且,若果將暴發戶英雄化,恐怕賈小姐亦不能接受。賈氏所說香港人對大陸的恐懼是正確的,不過卻是錯的理由。自主權移交後,中共不斷壓制香港人的自由,妄圖以大陸官場的方式同化香港,更提出所謂三權合作。現今香港的自由越來越少了,反抗者被打壓,變成謊言社會,全都是中共和港共政府所造成。我們所享的自由,理應是天賦,不是《基本法》賦予的,中共像強盜般奪去,港人當然恐懼。

“What should have been an arts critique essay turns out to read more like a social commentary, full of political motives. I cannot but be baffled as to why such an essay could be selected for an award. Is it proper for the Arts Development Council to be thus politically charged? Why has this Council in Hong Kong become so like the Propaganda Department in directing ideology? If such an essay is worthy of an award, then participants in the next competition will probably slant their essays towards ideology. I would rather watch vulgar films than read a work of venomous lies.”

一篇藝術評論文章,竟然寫了社會評論那樣,而且充滿政治動機,令筆者不得不擔心為何《從《低俗喜劇》透視港片焦慮》一文可以得獎。藝發局是否有政治的含義?為何一個香港人的局變成中宣部那麼,指示意識形態?若果這文章可以得獎,那麼下一屆的藝術評論參賽者則可能朝此意識形態寫文章,只怕不久香港爆發一場文化大革命,藝術品服膺於政治命令。我寧可睇低俗的作品,也不想看惡毒的謊言。