Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Lust, Caution" (色戒), Dabangan (大板根) and Emerald Lake (翡翠水庫)

Ang Lee's most recent movie "Lust, Caution" was based on the novel of Chang Eileen (張愛玲) of the same name.  The very mention of her name brings us back to the era of Shanghai at 1930s.  Her own life during that time was as colorful as her stories.  During the WWII, in France, there were the Vinchy goverment, French resistance, German occupation force and communists.  In China, we also had the Wong Jingwei (汪精衛) goverment, KMT, Japanese occupation force and communists.  Ms. Chang's lover and husband of seven years was Wong goverment's propaganda chief, Hu Lancheng (胡蘭成).  Both of them are considered as important figures of Chinese literature for the 20th century.  But their role during the Japanese occupation also colored their reputation all their life.  Mr. Hu was considered as a traitor, and Ms. Chang who was helplessly in love with him while the whole China was embroiled in the Japanese occupation, was considered the very symbol of decadent of the era.  Behind "Lust, Caution" is a true espionage story, which Ms. Chang might learn from Mr. Hu at the time.  Ms. Chang then mingled the true story with her feeling to Mr. Hu and took 25 years to finish the novel.

The heroin, Ms. Zheng (鄭蘋如) of the true story could not be more opposite to Ms. Chang.  Her father studied in Japan and married a Japanese girl.  He was closely associated with Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of modern China, when Dr. Sun was in Japan organizing the revolution.  Ms. Zheng had two sisters and two brothers.  She was a socialite in the Shanghai upper society at young age, and was on a magazine cover when she was only 19.  She joined resistance underground very early and used her Japanese background to mingled with the officials of Japanese occupation force and Wong's government.  She was given the task of luring Wong's government secret police chief for assassination.  When the plot failed, she was arrested and shot.  She was only 23 at the time.  

To bring the whole story closer to home, when Grace was visiting Hong Kong, she was shown a documentary of the history of Ms. Zheng.  She also learned that one of Ms. Zheng's sister is actually Grace brother's godmother, who now still lives in LA.  She must be in her 80s by now.

The weekend (2008/9/7) after Grace came back from Hong Kong, we decided to visit the Dabangan park.  It is a 17 acre Tropical forest only about an hour by car from Taipei.  It also is a recently developed hot spring resort.  We took one hour walk through the park and the trail was quite a climb for us.  At our age, it was not easy to keep our camera steady with all the heavy breathing.  The heavily wooded forest also was not easy to photograph, but we were still able to get a few interesting photos.

After visiting the park, we then drove all the way to the other side of Taipei to try to catch the sunset at Emerald Lake.  The lake is a damed reservoir that supply the drinking water for Taipei city.  Thus the surrounding area are protected and hard to get to.  The place that we took the photos is a tea plantation.  We arrived just in time for the sunset.  The water level was quite low in the lake.  We could see the red clay at the bank.  The sky was very clear.  The cloud seen in the pictures was actually jet streams from airplanes.  I have to do a lot of work in the Photoshop to achieve the look for the images.

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