Black Coal, Thin Ice (Chinese: Bai Ri Yan Huo; literally: “Daylight Fireworks”, dir. Yi’nan Diao, 2014). I had picked up good notions on the film ‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’ a year ago already but English subtitles were not available anywhere. Only a few weeks ago those where readily found on the web and I managed to watch it after a long wait. ‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’ is a 2014 crime drama directed and written by Yi’nan Diao which is his third feature. The story is set in northern China in 1999 and 2004. I loved everything about it, it automatically shot itself into my top loved Asian films. As in quite a few Asian films of recent years (‘A touch of Sin‘, ‘Pieta‘, ‘The Yellow Sea‘) wall to wall dialogues are not the main driving force in the film but a subtle drama, the visual language, the unexpected, and a degree of abstraction. I can talk a lot about the virtues of each of the films I mentioned here but I will stick with ‘Black Coal’, and in a way what I think about it resonates in many other Chinese, Korean and Thai directors films I like. Yi’nan Diao’s neo-noir detective story slowly rolls with unexpected and surprising originality that starts from his Director of Photography’s framing. The pace, locations, visual style, surprising turn outs are all great. The whole film throughout takes place in a freezing icy setting in an industrial suburb in Northern China and involves a melancholic femme fatale working in a dry cleaners. Great premise.
1Q84 (Haruki Murakami, 2009). Usually I read a few books simultaneously and one of them now is ‘1Q84’ by Haruki Murakami. Not a short book and a bit heavy on the character background descriptions, but the imagination and storytelling abilities – also in regards to fine details of Haruki Murakami are just amazing. Reading this neo-noir, you can really feel fantastic micro details of intimate strangers.
The Hermon, Israel. The Hermon is Israel’s top northern peak bordering with Syria and Lebanon. Every year it harbors a short season of snow, usually lasting a week or so. It also has a modest ski facility. Driving there is about 3-4 hours from Tel Aviv. This year’s winter saw an exceptionally cold streak and the mountain was well powdered so we decided to check the skiing up there, something we hadn’t done for 7 years. It was exceptionally beautiful, white and sunny day and great facilities. The snow was up to a meter high on the roads. Luckily we managed to catch a good time window as now the site is closed due to occasional mortar bombings and tension from the Hizbola on the Syrian border.