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Monday, April 26, 2010
Stealing Dietrich's Limelight and Other Major Achievements...

Before anyone protests that Marlene Dietrich could never be overshadowed in life or death, you need to see Shanghai Express (1932). After spending many afternoons rewatching all of Dietrich's films for a dissertation, I was awestruck by her presence and ability to dominate anyone she shared the screen with, from Adolphe Menjou and Cesar Romero, to a very young and uncharismatic Cary Grant. However, that was before I was able to get my hands on a good copy of Shanghai Express; Dietrich is still wonderful but overshadowed by the luminous Anna May Wong. After experiencing a minor revelation courtesy of Wong's entrancing performance, Dietrich could smoulder away but I wasn't really watching her. Finishing the film I immediately tried to find out what else I could see her appear in, only to find that she was an actress who never really reached the audience she deserved due to prejudice within the Western film industry and Eastern movie audiences.

A second generation Chinese-American, Wong was the first Asian-American movie star who started her career in silent movies aged 17, achieving stardom with a role in The Thief of Baghdad (1924) with Douglas Fairbanks. Her beauty and style ensured she would always have her admirers on the international circuit, however any roles she was offered were always minor due to the Hays Office anti-miscegenation laws, which prevented her from kissing any Euro-American actors onscreen. At this time studios were also in the habit of giving leading Chinese roles to white actresses, who would play the role in yellowface.
Facing such obstacles, Wong left for Europe in the mid-20s, only returning to America in the 30's where she got roles in films like Daughter of the Dragon (1931) - her last role which negatively portrayed Chinese people - and Daughter of Shanghai (1937). In Europe, she starred in the play A Circle of Chalk with Laurence Olivier and her final silent film role in Piccadilly (1929) - my favourite with AMW. She was received with widespread praise for most of her work, though frustratingly her American background was denied to her as the press continually called on her Chinese roots.

Wong was lured back to the US by Paramount who was looking for fresh talent in Europe, but she began to refuse to play anymore roles which stereotyped Asian culture and behaviour, and she publicly expressed her frustration at playing the 'evil Chinese woman' in interviews. Her prominent role in Shanghai Express was a quiet victory, marred only by the Chinese press who derided her acting and called her a disgrace to the Chinese race because of her stirring on-screen sexuality. Chinese intellectuals were not so quick to judge her, however the damage was already done and the negative Chinese press was enough for the Chinese advisor at MGM to recommend she was not cast in the upcoming role of O-Ian
in The Good Earth (recommended book) - a role that Wong had openly coveted with the support of the press. Evidently MGM had never considered her a strong candidate as they had already cast a European actor in yellowface for the leading male role, and had previously stated she was "too Chinese to play a Chinese". The role went to Luise Rainer who won an Oscar in the Best Actress category.

In a display of further discrimination, Wong later revealed that she had been offered the role of Lotus, an artful and treacherous concubine i
n The Good Earth, which Wong vehemently rejected on the basis that she was loathe to be the only Chinese cast member in an All-American cast, playing a despised character. She soon retired to B-movies which allowed her the freedom to portray Chinese characters which the sympathy and authenticity she had always wanted, with frequent returns to the stage and in 1960, was given a star on the inaugeration of the Hollywood Walk of Fame - in fact, she remains the only Asian-American female to have a star. Marginalized by Hollywood and villainized by the Chinese Nationalist government and press, Anna May Wong continued to champion her beliefs and raise racial awareness to the point that she rejected undesirable roles even when plagued by the financial worries and health issues that led to her demise aged only 56. Fighting the prejudice of mainstream culture, she left behind a legacy and became an iconic figure, not only to the Asian-American community, but in cinematic history.

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Friday, February 12, 2010
Alexander McQueen 1969 - 2010

"People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad."
Marcel Proust


Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Brief Encounters...

My excuses for not updating properly have lost meaning over the last year or so, but between studying, graduating, looking for a job and so on, I just haven't had the time (or motivation) to update on a frequent basis. I also became quite boring for about six months, and didn't really want to inflict that on anyone that appeared here. I've decided 2010 is the year to brush off my terrible blogging habits and update regularly, even if it's tiny snippets of something interesting. Maybe as the year progresses, I'll find my footing again - I'm also studying to become an English teacher in another country (I'm hoping Japan or Korea) this year, so 'the apathist' might be relocated in cyberspace and the real world, which should be exciting!



Friday, January 15, 2010
Sidenote #2

Norwegian Wood (Murakami) as a film.
Tran Ahn Hung directing, and I'm kind of shocked that someone actually thinks they can do this novel justice. Toru, Naoko and Midori shouldn't be brought to life because they'll never be just right. Murakami's words are what make this book so unforgettable, I can't see how the descriptions and internal dialogue will ever be conveyed to invoke the same feeling. Norwegian Wood is something that should be experienced as a book, and I have a feeling people will use the film as a way of it which is such a shame. It's one of those films I'll never see, even out of curiosity because it'll utterly change the way I read the novel. It's too bad because I bet I'll miss some amazing style and great cinematography, but I just can't watch it.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Just watched the Mad Men finale, and I'm kvelling!
Was there ever a more perfect episode from any TV show?
I was shrieking like a fangirl, and actually clapping my hands with glee.
Better than Christmas!

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Monday, November 09, 2009
Still Lives...

Eugenio Recuenco - Sometimes creepy, but always slick.
This silent cinema collection is my favourite from his photography portfolio, however you should definitely check out his film and ad stuff (the Shanghai Tang video is excellent).

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Saturday, November 07, 2009
Jukebox Session #2

Lots as I'm making up for lost time.

Message To Bears - Autumn
(Electronic/Minimal/Repetitive to the point of banal but so good to work to...)

The Gentlemen Losers - Ballad of Sparrow Young
(Quiet Western Twanging - at around 1m34s, I want to live in Texas and serve peach pie to cowboys in a diner)

Phantogram - Mouthful of Diamonds
(Words, drone, drums, guitars. Music)

American Ananlog Set - Choir Vandals and The Only Living Boy Around
(Downbeat Alt.)

Bosques de mi Mente - Dibujame un cordero
(Piano - because you know I love my plinky plonky tunes, and I'm a sucker for string music)

The Mary Onettes - Puzzles and Century
(A bit 80s, but in a good way)

Yasushi Yoshida - Under Calf, Winged Steps
(Modern classical - quavery)

Arms and Sleepers - The Architekt and The International
(Electronic/Trip-Hop - I love, but won't force you to...maybe you could try to just like instead?)

The Hidden Cameras - Walk On and Kingdom Come
(Alt. - A bit of drama)

Grand Salvo - Needles
(Folk - I've never seen pictures of the man behind Grand Salvo, but he probably has a beard)

The Black Atlantic - Fragile Meadow and Reverence for Fallen Trees

(Soulful male singers who definitely close their eyes when they sing)

The Beautiful Schizophrenic - Nocturnosque


Digitalism - Pogo (Shinichi Osawa Remix) and Tomas Andersson - Washing Up (Shinichi Osawa Edit)

(For days that being quiet is just not an option)

Wild Beasts - We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues and All The Kings Men
(Alt/Electronic - love)

Pixies - Where Is My Mind, Hey, Gigantic and Something Against You
(Apparently my teenage cousin doesn't know them, and sometimes it's scares me. Stayed tuned for Sonic Youth, Sammy, Labradford and Teenage Fanclub)



Thursday, November 05, 2009
The Reading Room

So after almost a year, I have finally reconciled myself to the new town library and rejoined despite the fact that it looks all wrong (too big and modern! Public libraries should be slightly crammed and a bit cosy), and despite the increased size, they don't really seem to have more material (more money spent on books instead of floor-to-ceiling windows maybe?). I think my own library has moved up on the list of "If you had three wishes..."

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Friday, July 10, 2009
Baby, we can live vicariously...

Life lesson #05
Tattoos require more commitment than marriage.

Despite knowing I'll never make the leap and get one, I often think about what kind of tattoo I might like and where (similar time-wasting activities are practising your signature, signing up for courses you could do in your spare time, like Introduction to Japanese Calligraphy, and photoshopping yourself into pictures to decide whether you'd look better with Steve McQueen or Louis Garrel). However, 'Tattoo Dreams' recently stopped after I saw Deidre But-Husaim's amazingly life-like paintings of people with these gorgeous floral and bird folk-style tattoos. They enhance the awkward youthful beauty of her subjects rather than mar it with boring 'can't you see I'm rebelling' tattoos of '50s pin-ups and skulls. Love that the designs also acknowledge that modern masculinity is a fluid concept and doesn't have to equate to naked lady on bicep.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Hot Shot

I think I started believing in global warming today, I can't stop thinking about water even when I'm drinking it.
My solution so far: to sit down semi-naked in front of an electric fan on full blast.
Proposed, infinately more practical and aesthetic solution:

Revolver Fan, Commune de Paris

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