The drive from Hoi An to Hue took a good 200 minutes due to (a) the road snaking up and down a large green mountain, and (b) traffic rules dictating maximum speeds of 60 kph, or roughly 40 mph. I checked into Pilgrimmage Village around 2:25 pm and now it’s off to Hue, renting scooters, the Citadel, a dinner and a moonlight put-put cruise down the Perfume River.
Is there any way to process trailers for films like this except to say to yourself “here we go again”? Another assault on normal everyday domesticity by “the other.” And yet it seems (a terms that means nothing when you’re talking about a trailer) a cut or two above. Maybe.
This, I realize, is not anyone’s idea of an exceptional video clip. But if you’ve never been to Vietnam and you want a little taste of what it’s like to be driving back to Hoi An from My Son around 6:20 pm (it gets dark here fairly early) just as you’re turning onto Route 1A, here you go. This delivers about 33% of what it really felt and looked and sounded like. This is travel as it should be. Raw, robust, chaotic, aromatic, tingly.
For whatever reason I can’t load the Les Miserables rave posted by Hollywood Reporter award-season columnist Scott Feinberg, and I’ve got really great wifi over here. The Universal release is going to win Best Picture apparently, and hats off to Tom Hooper and the gang if it does. If it’s over, it’s over. I can live with this, and perhaps I’ll celebrate it. The proof is in the pudding.
I actually felt the wave coming a week ago when a lady friend told me she and her daughter can’t wait to see Les Miserables “because I know I’m going to melt.” That convinced me more than Feinberg’s report.
Just keep in mind that it’s natural for trade reporters to feel flattered and excited at having been given a first-anywhere peek at a heavily hyped Oscar-bait release from a big studio, and that this can sometimes result in a more enthusiastic response than you might get from a dispassionate, even-keel viewer at another venue. I’m just saying.
L.A. Times reporter Glenn Whipp writes that “granted, the reaction mirrored the rapturuous tweets that greeted the year’s other high-profile festival films such as Lincoln, Argo and The Master, and should probably be taken with a grain or two of salt. At these early screenings, haters are few and far between.
He also noted that L.A. Times film writer Steven Zeitchik “apparently was the only one keeping his handkerchief in his pocket.”
“Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables [is] a very well done if methodical take on the musical staple,” Zeitchik tweeted. “Hathaway is a stand-out, albeit in very few scenes; Jackman and Crowe singing is solid but doesn’t reach for as much.”
The screening happened Friday afternoon at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. It’s now 8:27 pm in Manhattan and 8:27 am (Saturday) in Hoi An.
Data Lounge’s “Lyn Stairmaster” reports as follows:
“It’s 100% successful, absolutely great on every level. It will be hard to beat for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Hugh Jackman) and Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway). The little kid who plays Gavroche should be up for Best Supporting Actor. The one new song ‘Suddenly’ is lovely and could be up for Best Song if there’s a category.
“There was huge applause after pretty much every musical number, particularly Jackman’s and Hathaway’s. Russell Crowe (Javert) is the only one I had a teensy problem with because he’s not a singer like the others but he still looks great and acts it well.
“Hooper, Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) and Samantha Barks (Eponine) did a q&a afterwards. Hooper gave a speech before the screening, telling us he had only put the finishing touches on it at 2 am on Wednesday morning.
Before heading out to My Son Binh took me to the modest manufacturing headquarters of Ha Linh, the longest-running, most established maker of bamboo lanterns in the area. 15 or so employees, age-old craftsmanship, beautiful vibe. I bought three mid-sized lanterns for about $3 a pop…or was it less? Wires and bulbs included.
Yesterday afternoon Binh (my brilliant Vidotour travel guide) and the driver took me about 45 kilometers southwest of Hoi An to the hallowed shrine of My Son, a cluster of ancient Hindu temples built between the 4th and 14th Century. The trip meant driving for an hour through a symphony of rural atmosphere and flavor and cultural detail. I felt like a wide-eyed lad of five. Everything was new. To die for.
Hindu temple at My Son — Friday, 11.23, 3:55 pm.
Vidotour guide Nguyen Thai Binh (just call him Binh) at the entrance to the shrine.
I sat in the back seat and drank it all in. Earthy aromas, water buffalos, fields and rice paddies, three or four lively ragtag villages (which weren’t even acknowledged on the iPhone 5’s map app), dense forest, hundreds on scooters and bicycles.
The valley at My Son was a site of religious ceremony for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes. The Cham (who still live and maintain a marginal culture in Vietnam) more or less ran the show in what we now call Southern Vietnam until the 15th Century of thereabouts.
The temples (made of brownish, orange-y brick) are located in a valley surrounded by two mountain ranges. The area is roughly two kilometers wide (although it felt smaller), and is close to Duy Phu in the Quang Nam district, and about 10 kilometers from the historic town of Tra Kieu. The temples dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva.
I told Binh that I was a bit of Hindu in my early 20s due to a series of LSD meditations with readings of the Bhagavad Gita.
Most of the temples were destroyed by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. That’s really something to be proud of, U.S. Air Force! There are four or five huge bomb craters in the vicinity. Binh isn’t sure precisely what year this happened, but the planes were apparently trying to kill some Viet Cong who were hiding in or near the temples for shelter. Binh’s grandfather, Vo Trong Khiet, was a Vietcong solder from 1965 until his death in the mountainous area near Laos sometime around 1968 — Binh isn’t sure exactly when.
It’s quite a feeling for an American walking through and knowing that your guys did this. Hell, they weren’t my guys. They never have been. Yes, war is war and you do what you can do lay waste the opposition, but you’d think the guys dropping the bombs would’ve thought twice.
One of the bomb craters from the U.S. aerial attack.