30 January 2008

The Candeau and Tran Tien Genealogy

I have decided to begin a project which I had toyed with for years.

I want to make posts about the history of my family which I would argue is a historian's delight.

I have chosen the maternal side of the family because it is aided by a wealth of material whose compilation was made possible by two astounding branches of people:

1. My late grandfather, Yves Candeau (1924 - 1996). Yves was a natural writer and a detailed-oriented researcher. At the death of his father, he became the guardian of the family archives. He left no stones unturned and worked assiduously on the reconstitution of our family records into a number of legible manuscripts. It is not a coincidence that he was a Virgo and was born in the Year of the Rat!
Yves' meticulous research -following in the footsteps of his own grandfather, Commandant Auguste Candeau- meant that before he died, he left an enviable set of documents which trace the Candeau family history from its Basque origins right up until our time.
Included in his historical account is the unusual yet charming story of his marriage to my grandmother, a Vietnamese. It was 1948. A time when the French were not seen well by Vietnamese people, let alone proud royalty. It is my favourite story and I have since obtained more details from my grandmother.

2. My grandmother's family in Vietnam is worth mention. Their written account of the Tran Tien family history is unique because during those times, in Annam (former name for Vietnam), tradition would more likely pass down orally among uneducated people. Therefore if it exists, it is simply because she was a descendant of mandarins from Chinese origins. Her father, also a mandarin (yes, he reportedly grew his fingernails to shocking lengths), was Chief Archivist of the Imperial Library at Hue. In Vietnam, as for China during those times, Mandarins were educated and it must be said, privileged, people. And they would have invested great care in compiling family records for future generations.
The story of the Tran Tien mandarins (in my family) begins in 17th century China. They were disillusioned Ming dynasty subjects who emigrated to Vietnam following the establishment of the Qing dynasty by the Manchus. Some of the family documents, reprised in French by Yves Candeau and narrating the Tran Tien lineage right up until the birth and childhood of my grandmother, are a treasure.

I can not fill my grandfather's shoes. For now, I will translate significant excerpts from both the Candeau genealogy and the Tran genealogy, into... English. That insipid language he understood all too well but like a good old fashion French could not resign himself to speak!
In addition, I will enrich those stories with material collected during interviews with my grandmother, Phuong Lan.

I have several motivations for embarking on this project:
1. I am after all a historian. I enjoy delving into the past. And so it will be my pleasure to post this.
2. My grandmother wants me to write about this. She is akin many older people who find delight in offering glimpses of their life with others. And so they should. In fact, we should listen more often.
3. It is a unique story which must be shared, as every person will understandeably assert when speaking of their own family background if, that is, they take pride in their background.
4. I want this story to be available to the public both as a curiosity and for education purposes.

Along the way (if you choose to come with me): love against all odds, far travels, too many sailors to name, a French naval explorer commanding an expedition to New Caledonia, a slave trador under the name of Jean-Baptiste Candeau, three recipients of the French legion of honor, mandarins of the court, foul murder and Vietnamese princes.

21 January 2008

My 2008 Oscar Nominations

Best Actor: I guess the question plaguing everyone's mind (or is that just mine) is whether the evil Academy Award judges will finally relent and deign award Johnny Depp his well deserved Oscar for Best Actor.

That is, could someone please, please hand over that naked statuette to Johnny so we could all, at last, die happy?

So enough said. I nominate Johnny Depp for Best Actor in Sweeney Todd!

Over the years, too many persons have voiced outrage over Johnny's close but unsuccessful encounter with the Best Actor title. He's always come so close, if not for his role in the POC trilogy or in Willie Wonka then at least for Finding Neverland. Personally, I grew fond of his debauchery in The Libertine and thought he could have at least wooed the judges there... But no. Nothing. Not even a nomination. How could this be?
It's the Johnny Depp curse.
Does he have to be black to be granted an Oscar?
Sorry that was uncalled for. But you get my drift.

If not, then why not hand over the little golden man to Viggo Mortensen. He'd have to be my second choice for his hold your breath (and your private parts) performance in Eastern Promises. I can still feel the hard cold tile landing!
Incidentally, there was something about Viggo in that role that reminded me a little of Rutger Hauer. He had that Eastern 'thing'...a crisped jaw inscrutability that was only mildly tempered by a dangerously sexy and mellow Russian accent. It made him ooze polished thrill and hardcore sweat.

Ok... well...
That was fun...
So now on to,

Best Picture - I don't think Atonement should win this but it probably will. I would award Atonement with Best Adapted Screenplay. So what should win Best Film this year?
I'm blank.
American Gangster doesn't cut it either. I can't feel it.

Best Director - Tim Burton may just have something. But my support goes to David Cronenberg for the edgy Eastern Promises. He had me by the...

Best Original Screenplay - Oh, my blog! Can you not even ask this question? Diablo Cody for JUNO. Nothing else will do!

Best Cinematography - This is where Atonement truly shines. An uncontested winner. Loved the warmth of the afternoon light in the garden scenes, the cool underwater shots in the fountain, the soft focus caress on Cecilia as she gazes into the powdery glow of her mirror, the sensual shadows gracing that emerald silk number, the dramatic, misty evening on the beaches of Dunkirk...this film was an immense pleasure to watch. On that note, I would throw in another Oscar for Best Art Direction. Although Sweeney Todd comes very close.

Best Actress - I'm vaguely thinking Ellen Page for Juno but I doubt it. Maybe Julie Christie will win for Away From Her since she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress? I'm getting so good at film award logic....
I suppose those who haven't experienced Angelina Jolie's sultry angst in the film, Gia, will be profoundly moved by her performance in A Mighty Heart. She was heart-wrenching to watch as Mariane Pearl, it is true.

Irfan Khan

But strangely, I was more moved by the police investigation led by the sober, edgy Irfan Khan than I was by her acting! I think, by the way, A Mighty Heart deserves Best Film. So let's rewind.

Best Film - I really want Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart to win Best Film. There is a message in that journey, and it's not anti-terrorist or fear-mongering or anti-Muslim etc... This film gives credit to the people of Pakistan who actually helped Mariane and her family through her harrowing ordeal. Though a gritty, suspenseful film, it manages to inspire. The ideology which transpires in this docudrama along with Mariane Pearl's last message to the narrow-minded media are both extremely powerful.

I think I've rambled enough.

So here are some final Oscar wishes:

Best Supporting Actress - Nicole Kidman for her impersonation of Mrs Coulter in the The Golden Compass . Few will agree with this one!

Best Supporting Actor - My friends rave about Javier Bardem's role in No Country For Old Men so I'd say he'll have to win. For Spain this will be nothing new: let's face it, Javier rocks! And not just when he is chewing garlic cloves and nibbling Penelope Cruz' breasts. Though that was a long time ago...

I also enjoyed Vincent Cassel as the enfant terrible spawn in Eastern Promises...so he'd be my second choice.

Vincent Cassel (left)

Best Costume - Are you kidding? Atonement.

Best Special Effects - How about, the CG work over New York in I Am Legend.

Best Editing - American Gangster

Best Make Up - Sweeney Todd but I'm just guessing.

I will now enter into a deep sleep and hope to implant some of my brilliant thoughts into the jury...

12 January 2008

Je te Rends ton Amour - English Translation

This is my English translation of one of my favourite Mylène Farmer songs.
Laurent Boutonnat's video is also a masterpiece, as usual. I have added some notes about my personal interpretation of this song based on the lyrics/video combination.

M'extraire du cadre
Ma vie suspendue
Je rêvais mieux
Je voyais l'âtre
Tous ces inconnus
Toi parmi eux

Extracting myself from the frame,
My life, suspended
I dreamt of better.
I saw the hearth
All those unknowns,
You among them.

Fibre qui suinte
Des meurtrissures
Tu voyais l'âme
Mais j'ai vu ta main
Choisir Gauguin

Fibre that oozes
You saw the soul,
But I saw your hand
Choosing Gaugin

Et je te rends ton amour
Redeviens les contours
Je te rends ton amour
C'est mon dernier recours
Je te rends ton amour
Au moins pour toujours
Redeviens les contours
" la femme nue debout "

And I return your love,
Become once more the contours,
I return your love
It's my last resort
I return your love
At least, forever
Become once more the contours
"The naked woman standing"

M'extraire du cadre
La vie étriquée
D'une écorchée
J'ai cru la fable
D'un mortel aimé
Tu m'as trompé

Extracting myself from the frame,
The skewed life
Of a butchered woman
I believed the fable,
Of a beloved mortal
[But] you betrayed me

Tu m'as laissé
Me compromettre
Je serai " l'Unique "
Pour des milliers d'yeux
Un nu de maître

You allowed me
To compromise myself.
I will be the "unique"
For thousands of eyes
A master's nude

Et je te rends ton amour
Au moins pour toujours
Je te rends ton amour
Le miens est trop lourd
Et je te rends ton amour
C'est plus flagrant le jour
Ses couleurs se sont diluées
Et je reprends mon amour
Redeviens le contour
De mon seul maître : EGON SHIELE et...

And I return your love,
At least forever
I return your love
Mine is too heavy
And I return your love
It is more obvious in the day,
[that] it's colors are diluted
And I return your love,
Become once more the frame
Of my only master: egon shiele and ....

And I return your love,
At least forever
I return your love
Mine is too heavy
And I return your love
It is more obvious in the day,
[that] it's colors are diluted
And I return your love,
Become once more the frame
Of my only master: egon shiele and ....

Video Clip

This is my literal interpretation of the video clip:

A blind woman is betrayed by a priest who murders her.

This is my critical analysis of the video clip:

I think the fact that she is blind is a signifier for naive, misplaced trust. Her blindness seems to represent vulnerability... or anyone easily taken advantage of and/or blissfully unaware of reality, often to her own peril.

Throughout her lamentations, the distressed female character makes various allusions to painting and artists, in particular, Egon Shiele. My understanding is that she likens her horrendous objectification - whether this be physically, as the blood letting would have us believe or else figuratively, in terms of her ruthless betrayal - to Ego Shiele's pornographic subjects. Perhaps the woman's conservative, innocent background does not allow her to express what has happened to her or to communicate the crime that she has suffered. So I thought maybe she employed the bleeding canvas and rigid frame eupheminism to signify herself as victim under a cruel master. In this case the French term 'master' can actually mean both an authority figure and a great painter.

And maybe those moments where she has "extracted herself from the frame", are those moments where she is able to think objectively, free of her captivity to this rigid frame or murderous love. On the other hand, when she chooses to once again "return love", she is willingly resuming her enslavement, that is, her objectification and her naive beliefs.

Could the poor woman be sadomachistic?

Anyway, perhaps I'm thinking too hard about this video... and it could be that I'm way off the mark!!

In the end, only Farmer knows the meaning of her own complexity and these are not for me to derive. Besides, I'm sure everyone will have their own interpretation.

11 January 2008

Pretty Frocks for Summer and Fall 2008

Forgive me, I'm not equipped with a fashion vocabulary. Yet, I sense things.

Right now, what has me most inspired are those initial scenes from the film, Atonement.

I want to linger in the evanescent, smokey essence of a summer afternoon. I want to dull about in the gardens of an English mansion. To play with light, sheer fabrics that beg to be ripped. I love the dashing yet soft spoken quality of men's clothing. Creams, various shades of browns, pale mustard, greens.

Yes, that near transparent blouse clinging to wet skin, that little diamond hairclip, those well filled dark eyebrows...

The insolence of that emerald silk gown....

I want wavy locks in chocolate or reddish brown. Pale skin breathing through sheer pastels in creams and roses. Effortless sylphlike waists, free of belts. Nude backs. Plenty of nude back. And halter necks.

Brown boots. Jodhpurs. That last scene from the Illusionist awakened a desire for jodhpurs. To wear with dramatic, crisp white shirts with puffed sleeves and fancy cuff details.

Office wear in cream and white layering.

White everything.