In typical fashion, I sent off a pitch for my Faye Wong piece, but then ended up sitting down and writing it, with no idea of length or anything. With my luck, it's turning out about three times as long as what they would accept (were the mag to accept it), and I'll have to go through the heartbreak of cutting it to ribbons. Regardless, I may at some point post the several false starts and rambling bits that preceded what ended up being the version of the article I am currently calling the article (and a version that still needs an ending). I've been enjoying laboring over some writing again. It's been a while. Most of the editorials I do for Oni are done in one take, due to time. I like approaching something with a more open pace.
Anyhow, I had been avoiding reviewing Faye's new album, To Love, as I thought maybe this article would cover it more. As it turns out, I ended up writing primarily about my overall feelings about Faye's music with my sole specific focus on my favorite song of hers, Lovers & Strangers-track "The Moon at that Moment."
Anyhow, I got my copy of To Love a couple of weeks ago now, and I haven't stopped listening to it. There is a palpable beauty of a Faye Wong record. Her voice, the music, it wraps around you, as if a physical presence in the air. To Love is certainly no exception. I could just sit here and listen to how pretty it is without even worrying about any of the other aspects of it. Her voice is particularly lovely when backed by the sparse string arrangement on "Beautiful Mistake." She sings soft in the verses, just a few points of volume above a whisper, but goes higher, bolder for the choruses. Gorgeous.
Elsewhere on the disc, including songs Faye composed, there is a harder techno edge, balancing out against the orchestral ballads. The title track actually reminds me some of Bjork's "Army of Me," while the more straight-up pop songs would sound at home on Natalie Imbruglia's White Lilies Island.
Adding to her resume of impressive covers, Faye tackles the song "Going Home" by Sophie Zelmani. Unfamiliar with Zelmani's work, I downloaded the original. It has a simple arrangement, lead largely by acoustic and steel guitars, and grounded by a hook that sounds like maybe it's played on a flute. Faye keeps the flute, but adds some piano and the occasional electronic ambience. Zelmani reminds me a little of Luna, oddly enough, while again, I hear maybe some Natalie Imbgrulia on the To Love version.
As an extra bonus, To Love came with a VCD with about three minutes of behind-the-scenes footage for the video for "To Love." Wong looks fantastic, dressed all in black, and sporting raccoon eyes. Her continual fashion transformations put her on par with any western artist as far as cultivating image, staying fresh, bold, and interesting.
It really is too bad that music doesn't cross borders more. Faye's material can be a pain in the ass to get over here, and it seems rare that she would be discussed in any music press. Perhaps she'll get some attention if Miramax ever finally releases Hero, which she did the theme for. (It's currently rumored as early next year, a full year after the movie lost the Oscar for best foreign film 2002). Also, with Wong Kar-Wai having finished his latest film, and Faye a featured player, perhaps next year I'll be bemoaning how she is no longer my private passion.
A couple of movies I have seen recently have gotten me thinking some about storytelling.
Last year's Neil Labute picture, The Shape of Things is interesting in that over the course of several months, he developed the story as a play with his four principle actors, and then almost immediately took them from the stage to the screen, rewriting and directing the film himself. There is definitely a staginess to a lot of the scenes, with particular chunks of the movie taking place in one area between a set number of people. On the DVD, Labute talks about the process, and also indicates by breaking out of the mold of a stage, he can show more of the story and thus create a more varied moral gray area; a trade-off for the audience interaction that he was allowed in the theatre. Near the end of the film, Rachel Weisz is delivering a speech to the audience, and when it was a stage play, that meant the actual audience in the theatre became part of the narrative.
In discussing The Shape of Things with a couple of people, I've decided it's not entirely successful in getting its point across. The best trait of the movie is that it's a film about ideas, that attempts to say something; its failing in that it doesn't do that as well as it could. In articulating this feeling, I noted that it's not that I wanted it to answer the questions it posed, but perhaps to pose them better or maybe pose the right ones. In particular, Weisz suggests that some of her actions were done in the name of art, yet there is no explanation given as to how her project actually is art. Similarly, while the supporting characters act as mirrors and counterpoints to the main couple, they don't actually get the resolution they deserve or need to drive the point of their existence home.
21 Grams is a different kind of animal, but it certainly tackles a storytelling technique I think best suited to cinema. The drama focuses mainly on three people, and how their actions intersect and not only affect one another, but the periphery characters in their lives. However, all linear storytelling is removed in favor of a slow build. Events are given out of order, and often incomplete. Like the movie is on several different TV channels, but it started at different times, and as a viewer we are jumping back and forth. I almost want to get a bit pretentious and compare it to William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom, which reminds me of a painting--it starts with the basic sketch and as Faulkner goes over the image, each time adding color, the full picture comes to life. 21 Grams is more disjointed than that, however, and doesn't work with as much repetition. But there is a kindred spirit there. And it works best in cinema because we can get smaller snatches without the luxury of being able to look back if we miss it (though, it doesn't hold true once on DVD, perhaps bolstering David Lynch's stance against chapter breaks).
And to be honest, as much as I like Memento, I think for sheer complexity of narrative, 21 Grams puts it to shame. Just going backwards seems so simple by comparison. (Though, really, both screenwriters most likely planned out the entire story in a linear fashion. The writing isn't necessarily done out of order. It's more the skill of rearranging.)
Current Soundtrack: To Love, naturally; The Beatles, Let it Be...Naked