Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Peacock and black Carmen


It is an old piece of news, but interesting. Some of you might know Gu Changwei's directorial debut "Kong Que" (Peacock) got the Silver Bear in this year Berlin Film Festival. Gu is a famous cinematographer and had cooperated with the so-called Chinese Fifth Generation directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige for years. I later found that director Tian Zhuangzhuang already predicted "Kong Que" would not come back without a prize.

Tian stated that the script had been passed around in the filmmaking circle for a long time and many directors wanted to finish it too. After watching twice, Tian was shocked and reflected "Kong Que" is the first quality movie in this era. He also praised the performance of Gu Changwei: as a debut he is too mature; he just like a master and no apparent fault is shown.

I am more interested to see "Kong Que" after reading Tian's comments, though I do not know is there any emotional point added on his compliments on Gu (they were classmates in the Beijing Film Academy). Taiwan's Tsai Ming-liang got several technical awards with "Tian Bian Yi Duo Yun". The Golden Bear this year went to the South African "U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha", it is a rework of Georges Bizet's story and the lyrics had been translated into Xhosa (a Bantu language spoken in South Africa). I wonder it is something like "Orfeu Negro" (1959).

Indeed, I like Bizet's opera "Carmen". After the black Carmen got the prize, I took out my only 1970 recording of another black Carmen, Grace Bumbry. Although it is a bargain, Spanish Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducted the work vividly and supported by a strong cast with graceful Jon Vickers and Mirella Freni. I am still satisfied with this version even though Bumbry is a little bit out of energy (a frigid Carmen), and the long dialogue spoken by another team of actors is quite odd. Surely, if I could afford, version by Abbardo or Beecham would be my next target.

Referral coverage: BBC News, Beijing Star Daily (in Chinese)