The Scent of Green Papaya (Anh Hung Tran) 1994
Anh Hung Tran’s The Scent of Green Papaya is a film that appears so outwardly modest in its goals that it is easy to underestimate it. In its own, nearly wordless, way it tells the story of Mui, a poor Vietnamese girl that leaves her family (whom we never see) to act as a middle-class family’s servant. Many of the film’s early scenes show us Mui’s introduction to this new household, as she learns to cook and perform her chores, and as the youngest son of the home taunts her. Mui’s character remains relatively mute as she observes the world around her. The film watches her as she delights as ants scurry to retrieve a piece of food, and then contrasts that image with one that shows one of the sons as he drips hot wax onto a group of ants. The moral seems pretty overt here: we should pause to consider even the lowest members of society, rather than antagonize them. Just as it begins to feel too simple for its own good, however, the film leaps ahead ten years. The family, due to financial strain, has to release Mui from their service, and she ends up working for a young conservatory student. The film’s politics take on a new dimension here. We notice that her new employer has an apartment that is decorated with western artifacts. He studies at a French academy, where he plays the piano (The film is, tellingly, a co-production of France and Vietnam.). This is in stark contrast to the family that Mui previously worked for. Their music was played on traditional Vietnamese instruments, and their home was a collection of antiques. That the first household has failed becomes another bold political statement here. That the film is able to fully convey political concerns without ever actually having a character utter a word about politics is one of its achievements. That it can do so while remaining completely within the context of Mui’s simple life is sheer elegance. Its argument that even the most nonpolitical citizens feel the impact of political change is given an uplifting shot in the arm with the film’s ending.
The film deservedly won the Camera D’Or at Cannes. It's a stunning first feature. There are many shots that combine several stunning compositions with fluid camera motion. Every time the camera pauses, we expect the shot to end, but it moves deeper into the frame to find something else to look at. I find this sort of filmmaking, which is present in such films as Tarkovsky’s The Mirror or Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, somehow purer than most. This style is perfectly suited to a film that slowly reveals layers that would not be apparent to those that were not willing to look more closely at what’s on screen.
October, 2001 - Jeremy Heilman
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The Scent of Green Papaya (Anh Hung Tran) 1994
I've fought this stupid cold? flu? bug? CRAP!!! off since last Thursday. Today it has overtaken both my determination & my good humor. Mostly I miss my Mom, who sent an email that yesterday she stood in Beatrix Potter's home, not only that but in her bedroom!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ In fact, here is Mom's portion of the email: 'Well ... so what can I say?? We had a wonderful time at the bed n' breakfast [The Lake District]...it's a beautiful place to stay.
(Above: Hilltop Farm
Bottom: B&B in the Lake District) We took several walks...this morning we found a house where Beatrix Potter stayed as a child on vacations, and supposedly the garden that was Mr. McGregor's garden in the Peter Rabbit book!! The countryside is so absolutely beautiful that there really are no words to describe it. We had a lovely day with all sunshine and no rain...can you believe it?? When we went to Hill Top Farm (Beatrix Potter's home), I was totally amazed at the lovely furnishings, etc., that she had. There's no way I can describe it here. As Klaus said, I did cry a bit at the end of the tour...just so overwhelming to finally be some place you have always wanted to be.
Just like my approaching Venice at night type of experience (Klaus says only better!!).
The lakes in that district are beautiful...very large...all surrounded by green, green vegetation. I won't be able to come back to the Phoenix moonscape now!!!
Tomorrow we are going to go to Chatsworth House...really looking forward to that.' [googled photo of Chatsworth House, below]
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It's strange to me -- for over 2 months now I've absolutely had my FILL of craft shopping. I don't need anything else, I don't WANT anything else, I can't stand to look at anything on-line (all the old websites that used to make me slobber), I don't want to visit Joann's or Michael's even with 40% off coupons in hand, I'm frustrated by the sameness of everything in all the craft-related magazines, even Stampington! What I'm in dire need of is what Jerome gave me a short, small taste of -- feminine frills, flowers in the garden, hand-sewn aprons, that woman's touch by way of dish or decoration or window covering or vignettes on table-tops. I want to go to Savers & buy 3 mismatched saucers covered in flowers, a set of girly bowls I can use for my paints instead of my icky plastic palette, an embroidered hand towel someone else doesn't want anymore, a big chunky warm man's sweater for mornings on the patio. I need what Julia Cameron calls an 'artist date' where I just go and absorb, take in, inhale, ingest, images, colors, creations, settings or set-ups, sounds, flavors, scents. I haven't been in Cost Plus in over a year -- WHY NOT?!!!!! Or Williams Sonoma where I really just took my time & looked at everything, even all the cookbooks! & now I can't go to SAS cuz they burned down. But I have nothing to give in my studio because the well is dry. DRY. The trip to Jerome kick-started some things again, and I've been doing a lot of just writing -- but the visuals are on lock-down & so much of my stuff is at a complete stand-still until I can turn those faucets back on.
I want to go back to San Francisco with Double BB, but this time I want us to go to China Town. (I've been watching movies like Indochine, The Lover, & The Scent of Green Papaya, so I'm under an Asian influence ... ) Below is The White Swan Inn ... I'd love to stay here.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
"House of Joy" -- This is my favorite store of any in Jerome and has been for several years now. It's filled with vintage frills and ephemera, risque girly costumes, cool antiques ... and I only had three frames left on my last roll of film!! Torture!!! House of Joy offers beaded handmade bags, paintings & posters & luggage labels & needlepoint from every imaginable era, glassware, bottles, fishnet pantyhose, pasties, eyelashes, gloves, boas, you name it! Our Jerome tradition includes a) beer for Bobby at one of the saloons, b) fudge for all of us (I can't show you a picture of that - it was HOOVERED in the truck on the way home!), c) the purchase of some trinket for me, from Bobby. This year included the purchase of each other's anniversary gift. The two photographs here are actually magnets, my 'trinket' gifts from Bobby. The original painting of the woman with the rose was also available, from 1893, but way out of our budget! The necklace is my anniversary gift from Bobby. Bobby immediately put on the ring and copper bracelet he got (his anniversary gifts) so I didn't get a photo of those.
What a feeling inside me, coming around the corner to see these theater seats, red velvet, worn, an entire empty theater. If I had known how well my flash would work, I would've made more attempts, tried more angles. I sometimes find myself inhaling sharply in response to something, some place, some ambiance or sensory impression. That happened to me here -- and then it takes me three days to really exhale, because I feel as if I've absorbed the entirety of it (in this case, the place AND ambiance) ... I felt I was reeling from the intoxicant of its historicity!
Down a side street, in front of one of the shops, we found this! In my family, any kind of camera or projector is of supreme fascination, and I was practically doing an Odie dance around this. Inside, in the window, was another ... as soon as I asked the shopkeeper if I could shoot it, she grinned, said, "Sure! And for $2, you can go upstairs, because this used to be the theater, and there are lots more cameras and pieces of photographic equipment up there." To follow in the next few entries ... all the photos I shot of all that incredible equipment! But first, the rest of the pictures of 'Big Mama'!