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Saturday, February 5, 2011


The weather goes on being steadily cold. Never a letup. The mud has dried enough that it's not slushy mudpit any more. The ruts are deep, but they don't sling mud. The ice has largely melted off the surface of Brown Road, though seems like it's still ice half an inch below the surface. Friday night I skipped driving to Woodlawn for the music at the Front Porch. The forecast was for ice rain, the temp at 31 and 32. On setting out I saw it was going to be one of those nights so black it absorbs the headlights so I can't see anything and makes oncoming headlights so bright I have to look away. It's especially disorienting between Woodlawn and this side of Galax where the cars are the thickest and I'm driving among extremely bright lights and can't see anything my lights are supposed to be shining on. Virginia doesn't keep their yellow lines and white lines on the highways very fresh, so I can seldom see them when the sky is so dark.

In Sparta, I made the decision, went to grocery store for some items, went home and called Scott at Front Porch to say I wouldn't be making it. Came home and went straight to bed. Got up in early afternoon today wanting only more sleep. Sleeping off a week of being on the run, though not objectionably. Every time I go to town, I stop at Selma's for some coffee in the morning, mocha in the afternoon. I and several others are happy to have her here. You can find Selma now on facebook at Backwoods Bean. Feeling like I didn't want to do anything but sleep some more, though wanting to be up some so I can sleep some tonight.

I put on a movie, HERO with Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, people who are big stars in Asian films. This is one of the great ones by Zhang Yimou, the director. It was made a few years after reuniting Hong Kong with mainland China. Art is waking up in China. Novels and poetry of high quality writing have been coming out of China over the last 20 or so years, recently more and more. Shanghai seems to be the art center of the new China. I've googled contemporary art museums there to see what the artists of the present are doing in China. What I see is they're coming on fast. The 21st Century is on the verge of becoming China's century. The Chinese have the potential to make 21st century art as dynamic as 20th century art has been. Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace prize this year in prison. They wouldn't let him out. When Martin Luther King Jr won it, his government at home wasn't at all tickled about it, either.

The talk about the Hero in videos about the movie afterward, like Quentin Tarantino in an interview with Jet Li, and short videos on the making of the film, interviewing Zhang Yimou, and actors, calling it an action movie. Tarantino was surprised to see Zhang Yimou take on the action genre. It seems to me out of place to call this an action movie. Surely it is, because it has sword fights and million-arrow assaults, they're even the theme. Yet, where action is concerned, it's so beautiful it's something more like modern dance, like the long sword fight between two women dressed in flowing red gowns in a landscape of trees with red leaves for awhile and golden leaves for awhile, the leaves flying in the air. One of the women named Snow, the other, Flying Snow. They fly into the air, sail over the ground, in attempts to kill each other. The way it was filmed was more like it was dream reality instead of awake reality.

The time Flying Snow and Noname (Jet Li) stood on the roof of the calligraphy school fighting off the arrows of the Qin army with swords, flying around, swirling red cloth, hitting the arrows out of the air with their swords. And there was the time the two of them had a sword fight to the death, she in flowing pale blue silk twirling in the air, turning, slicing the air with her sword, giving her adversary some serious resistance. They all move like martial artists, though Jet Li may be the only one of them who is adept at the martial arts. The others learned their parts from a martial arts choreographer. Jet Li loved being in it so much he said he cried when he read the script. It was the movie he'd been hoping for. I can't contest that it was an action movie. It just didn't feel like it.
There was a bigger story going on, the unification of Our Land (China), 6 provinces that were continually at war. The emperor of Qin united them by conquering all of them. He was unpopular, a target for assassins. Jet Li was an assassin set on killing the emperor. By the time he was given the opportunity, he had come to understand the emperor's thinking and was with him. Another assassin, Broken Sword, had a swordfight with the emperor earlier in the story in a maze of yellow-green drapes of sheer silk hanging from overhead. They moved in the breeze as the men had their swordfight in that flowing dreamscape. There again, the assassin realized he was in agreement with the emperor and decided against killing him. The story had emotional depth and every scene was breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe this is the 4th time I've seen it. Every time, it has the freshness of the first time. I become so involved in the beauty of the whole production, I miss that it's an action movie. I think of it among the most beautiful movies of my life.

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