Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stay Tune For New Features!

Dear Readers,

We are pleased to inform you that we will have a new post very soon. One of the contributors will be going on a Museum trail and will be doing a write-up shortly!

If you ever wanted to learn more about the Terracotta Warriors and the significance of it, watch this space! Also, there will be a post about a particular opera and how it had a profound impact that changed the world.

Aside from that, kindly tell your friends about this blog and contribute to it by suggesting topics to be featured here!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

我的父親母親, The Road Home

我的父親母親 is a heartwarming film that illuminates the pursuit of love and how it still resounds in one's heart after so many years. The audience are brought on this beautiful journey through the eyes of a son who returns home after the demise of his father, a respected village teacher, to handle the funeral arrangements.

As he tries to balance between his mother's seemingly stubborn request of a traditional procession to the limitations of reality, he relates the love story of his parents as we (the son and the audience) collectively discover the reason behind his mother's insistence that is borne out of an unwavering devotion for her husband. This motivated the son to fulfill his mother's wishes to conduct a tradition funeral against the odds.

The courtship all those years ago started when Luo Changyu comes from the city to teach the students in the village. On seeing him, Zhao Di, the belle of the village, becomes infatuated with him as he is taken aback by her beauty and kindness. This sparked off a blossoming romance that consists of exchanged glances and the silly things one would in the midst of being intoxicated by love.

Yet, the course of true love never did run smooth as they are separated due to the ambiguous political trouble that Luo has gotten into. But Zhao's devotion never wavered as she awaits his return at the expense of her health. Fortunately, true love did triumph in the end as they were reunited and never to be separated for forty years.

This film, anchored by the brilliant performances from Zhang Ziyi, Zhao Yulian (young and the elderly Zhao Di respectively) and Zheng Hao (Luo Changyu) as well as furnished  by Zhang Yimou's directorial vision, is certainly a masterpiece.

The innocence and chemistry between Zhang Ziyi and Zheng Hao certainly moved me as the flush of first love between their characters unfolded. The subtleties between the actors through each sideward glance and emerging smile communicated so much more than the usual melodramatic fare. Despite having little screen time,  the quiet strength exuded by Zhao Yulian in her devotion to provide a proper funeral for her husband and fulfill his last wish of rebuilding the school is a beautiful contrast to that of Zhang Ziyi's portrayal of innocent anticipation. The evolution of Zhao Di's devotion provided by the contrast in the portryal of the two actresses gives us a more realistic sense of the strength of her devotion in different times of her life.

Having said that, the direction of the film provided by Zhang Yimou is simply outstanding. His interesting choice of presenting the present day in monochromatic colours to enhance the bleak physical and internal landscape of winter and Zhao Di's mind respectively as opposed to the lush and vivid colours to paint the flush of love in Zhao's youth enhances the brilliance of the love story. The same could be said of the pace of the plot as there are extended scenes of nothingness in the present day as compared to the quick unfolding of the love story. While the scenes in which the young Zhao is waiting for Luo to return may be long, the emotional beats of anticipation, longing and hope somehow increases the pace of the scene emotionally in the midst of the stillness.

Another aspect of the film which must be credited to Zhang Yimou and Bao Shi (screenwriter of the film which is based on his novel, Remembrance) would be the use of silence in the film. The economical use of dialogue is meant to explain and accelerate the plot and nothing else but images of Zhao running clumsily in a state of pure happiness or close up shots of a bowl being mended act as symbols of love and understanding. This truly appeals to the raw emotions of the audience. While it is unknown to us if Zhang Yimou ever intended his film to reach beyond his Chinese audience, he has certainly woven a beautiful story poised for the international screens.
This cinematic work of poetry transcends all boundaries and I challenge anyone not to be touched by it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What Do Different Colours of Roses Mean?

A rose by any colour,  would mean different things
 In our maiden feature of this blog, we will start off with a lighter topic to allow the readers to get acquainted with Essential Culture. Hence, what better issue to talk about than the meanings of the different colours of roses.

While roses are not the only kind of flowers that are bought today, it is without a doubt the most popular of all when it comes to expressing one's feelings. But as all feelings have different shades and intensities, so do the message that the colour of the rose. So here is a brief introduction of the different colours and its meanings:

No prizes for guessing the meaning of the red rose as it has become the universal symbol of romantic love; something that says, 'I Love You'.

Certainly useful in the occurrence of an unbelievable romance in which one has fallen in love at first sight.

This inviting colour of brightness aptly contains a message of friendship.  Therefore, a yellow rose is a great choice to offer congratulations to a friend or perhaps reaffirm one's friendship with another. Under no circumstances, should a gentleman buy one for a lady he intends to woo.

Purity and innocence comes to mind when on receives a white rose. As such, a lovely way to express how one misses the recipient of the rose.

A favourite colour with most ladies. And certainly a great way to compliment them on their gentleness, gracefulness and the joy that they bring into your life. It also sends a message of gratitude to the receiver.

The act of giving flowers is not limited to the intention of courtship. Peach roses bear the connotation of appreciation and gratitude. A simple and the most effective gift for Mother's Day.

Three words besides I love you: 'I want you.' Indeed, coral roses express a sense of desire for the person.

As its cheerful hue suggests, orange roses relay a sense of enthusiasm and desire of the sender. But certainly not in the strong sense of desire as its coral cousin suggests.

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So there you have it, something to aid the gentlemen in choosing the right colour and for the ladies to decipher the intention of the gentleman bearing roses.

While I firmly believe in the need to abide by proper etiquette which has its traditions steeped in history, I am never opposed to the modern sensibility of ladies buying gents roses. If your man has any inclination towards nature and flowers in particular, I am sure he will certainly appreciate the refreshing change when he receives a bouquet.

Has this been helpful? What other topics would you like to know or share? Start a conversation by leaving a comment!


Dear Readers,

Welcome to Essential Culture! This is where you will learn the basics of all things culture. From etiquette, dressing, music, theatre and art. In short, Essential Culture is Culture 101.

To some, this may appear as elitist as it may come across that those who read this blog are uncultured. On the contrary, this is not a top-down approach of instructing people about culture and reading this blog means you see the importance of culture in a transient society. Instead, this blog exists because all three of us wanted to kick-start a lively discussion and to document for everyone to learn from each other.

With that, thank you for visiting, tell your friends and do contribute ideas to what you would like to see by dropping a line in the comments below!