Monday, April 28, 2008

A really long Monday Post

Mea Culpa: I made some corrections to my Minx post from last week. I thought Water Baby came out in March, but it doesn't until July.

Oh! And vote in the poll on what I should read (aka, what you'll read) during the 48 Hour Challenge!

Lust, Caution, the book, has under 60 pages of actual story (this version has a rather long introduction and afterward) so I was intrigued to see how Lust, Caution, the movie could be 2.5 hours and rated NC-17.

Ok, well, actually, I wasn't that unsure. In the book, Chang leaves a lot unsaid, or highly glossed over in a way that just wouldn't work in a movie. I feel really good movie adaptations are true to the book, while still being true to film as media. That's what I didn't like about the first two Harry Potter movies-- they were so true to the book that they failed to add anything to the story. The later movies leave a lot of Rowling's work on the cutting room floor, but they work as separate works of art (well, at entertainment at least) that add to the Potter story.

Ang Lee's take on Lust, Caution is visually stunning. If I wasn't in the mood to read subtitles, I could just watch this movie for the aesthetics. It got roundly panned by the critics, but having read the book and seen the movie... I can't understand why. I know that one review I read really confused by because it talked about Communists, even though there weren't any in the film. There are some shifts in time (clearly labeled) and the political situation in Hong Kong and Shanghai is confusing. (Japenese have occupied, there is a puppet government that Mr. Yee works for. Mak Tai Tai et. al work for the resistance, which is the Nationalist government who have fled to Chongqing.)

Anyway, I think while the movie didn't have all the taunt tension of the book, it is still wonderful.

Now, the NC-17 bits-- they're lovers, and we see that. There are 2 main sex scenes that I've been waffling on whether or not they were necessary. I'm going to say they are, just because there is such a difference between the two scenes that it's significant and I've been puzzling over why-- I have a theory... has anyone else seen this? I'd love to talk about it!

But, it has me in mind to review some specific books...


Man's Fate (La Condition Humaine) Andre Malraux

I read this in March of 2007.

It focuses on the Spring of 1927, when Communists and Nationalists are starting to break apart, right before the outbreak of the Civil War. There's a failed assisnation attempt, lots of intrigue, and it culminates in the absolutely horrifying April purge in which Chiang Kai-Shek rounded up all the Communists in Shanghai that he could get his hands on and killed them. Many of them, he burned alive.

What's really fascinating about this book is what it unintentionally shows-- it was published in 1933, before the Long March, before WWII, before the Communists won. It (accidentally) shows in the influence of foreigners in Shanghai in general, and in the early communist movement-- there are very few Chinese characters in this novel. Also is a little confusing as to what's going on and who's on what side (which is the same way I felt reading Doctor Zhivago) because the Nationalists and Communists are fighting, but they're supposed to be on the same side and then Japan throws a whole 'nother wrench into things... my comment at the time reads "lots of philosophy on state of man etc (very French) that I wasn't in the mood for."

Most intriguing is Malraux's ending conclusion that Communism is dead, especially in Asia.


Next up is Nanjing 1937: A Love Story Ye Zhaoyan

I finished this one this weekend and am still torn on it. I liked it, but I'm not sure why.

Ding Wenyu is a hapless foreign language professor and playboy and I'm not entirely sure why I liked him, or even if I did.

He attends the wedding of the youngest daughter of a family friend, Yuyuan, and falls desperately and madly in love with her.

This story is one of the growing scandal as Ding hopelessly pursues the poor Yuyuan and of Yuyuan's own marriage and how it falls apart...Yuyuan is not a strong woman, nor a helpless wallflower. Rather, she's vaguely amused by Ding's attentions, but frustrated when they start to cross the line and everyone around her treats it like a joke. She's also devastated by her the truth behind her marriage, but doesn't know what to do about it--there's only so much a person can save a relationship if the other person isn't trying.

Throughout it all is the comings and goings of officers and committees and the coming Japanese threat. (Nanjing would fall to the Japanese on December 12, 1937. They still sound the air raid sirens all morning on December 14th to commemorate the deaths (estimates range from 100,000-350,000) and at least 20,000 rapes that occurred in the 6 weeks after the city fell.)

It's not nearly as tense as you'd think, but it does cover almost the full year.

I will say that is uses the word "nauseating" or "nauseatingly" way too often to describe prose--love letters, newspaper articles, etc. I have no idea if that's the text or the translation.

I liked this book, I really did, but I can't tell you why. Frustrating.

And, now, it is nonfiction Monday. For weeks I've been saying that I don't have any unblogged nonfiction. HA! I totally did. Really old nonfiction.

Last spring, in my reference class, I had to do a paper where I asked a multi-faceted question (and answered it) and then asked a librarian and an online reference source the same question. (Does every reference class in the world have to do some variation of this assignment? I think so.)

Anyway, my question was about the evolution of communist thought and how Marxism/Leninism was different that Stalinism was different than Maoism etc. I knew a decent amount about Maoist thought, but was really just curious as to how it was different than regular Communism. (Why are the Nepalese rebels Maoists instead of straight up commies?)

The answer (in case you're wondering) is the role of the peasantry. In traditional Marxism/Leninism, the peasants are part of the petty bourgeoisie. Now, there weren't that many workers in China, so Maoism has the peasants as the workers. Tada!

So, I read some books to try and figure this out. Forgive the short reviews--I read them 13 months ago and am working solely on my notes here.


Communism: A History Richard Pipes

Very accessible and informative, this was the most useful out of everything I read for that paper.

That said, the writing was a bit uneven.

It could have used more information on some countries--Cuba, Vietnam, N. Korea, Ethiopia, and the workings of Che, but it does briefly discuss these issues.


Socialism: A Very Short Introduction Michael Newman

I do love me the Very Short Introduction Series put out by Oxford Press. They are short, yet dense, and fairly accessible. I am however, fairly distressed that there isn't yet one on Communism. My notes on the socialism one read:

More pro-socialist while pointing out how it doesn't work (what the #Q@$! does that even mean?!) Focuses more on the New Left/1968 Green Movement and feminism as modern socialist movement and welfare/social programs as evolution of how socialism can/will/does work/survive in today's Western world.

I'm not entirely sure what that all meant, but there you go!




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