Letter to the Editor

Put simply, we are much more likely to have priorities in addition to a career, priorities that are centrally important to the welfare of this country—if we don't provide this care, who will? Until society is reorganized to support caregiving and avoid penalizing caregivers, it's hard to see how you, your son, your daughter, or anyone else could describe the situation as fair.

Stage beauty

Thank you, Jorge Morales, for an insightful review of the Phantom of the Opera movie ["The Phantom Menace," December 22-28, 2004]. Actors in the stage play had years to hone their characters. The depth of character of the Irish Colm Wilkinson, the unparalleled voice of Canadian Rebecca Caine, the sheer beauty of American Sylvia Rhyne, the vocal acrobatics of the real Carlottas . . . all M.I.A. And there's a mystifying disregard for the lyrics ("Masquerade" is about the colors and masks sweeping by—all of which were removed from the visuals in an appalling facsimile of My Fair Lady's more entertaining Ascot number).

The stage play has flaws; they are overcome with rich characterization by talented actors. There are many fine stage talents who could have set the screen ablaze if they'd been filmed doing their work onstage. That would have been worth spending money on.

Timothy J. Anderson
Member of Phantom of the
Opera's original Canadian cast and Far East touring company
Edmonton, Alberta

Eye candy

Re Michael Atkinson's review of House of Flying Daggers ["Flight Club," December 1-7, 2004]:

It's worth noting that the film is not a Hong Kong film—a keystone in Atkinson's argument —but rather a mainland Chinese film. The mainland has a drastically different film history from Hong Kong's. (In Daggers, the only HK connection is actor Andy Lau.)

However, Atkinson's analysis illuminates many parallels to contemporary Chinese society. Mainland China's film industry is a baby compared to Hong Kong's. Similarly, the mainland's market-driven economy and culture are also in their beginning stages. Atkinson likens the film to a "streamlined McSpectacle" that's "reached a state of deracinated gloss, homogenized out from speed-mad native pop lunacy to postcard-bourgeois picture show." Sure, the film at times has no other purpose than to provide intensely exotic eye candy for the viewer. But isn't that China? Isn't trendiness in China an attempt at mass-market appeal? Look at the chic new areas in China—Xin Tian Di in Shanghai, for example. It's a showcase for the potential that money and popularity can bring to China.

Writing from the American perspective, Atkinson makes it clear that Daggers is a cheesy, glossy film, homogenized to fit a formula. From the Chinese perspective, it is far much more—it is glamour (in the good sense), it is potential.

It is . . . the future?

Victor Lang
Chicago, Illinois

Michael Atkinson responds: I never said that Daggers was an HK film—just that it was appropriating decades' worth of old HK clichés and tropes, and doing it with glossy digital fluorescence. Far from looking forward or revitalizing his national cinema, Zhang is merely raiding the Golden Harvest stockyard and, in so doing, picking up where Ang Lee (and the Wachowskis) left off.

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