Monday, December 13, 2010

Another close call

It seems to be happening more and more often...

A couple of days ago, I was crossing a road (with a green light on the pedestrian signal; not that that means anything in this country!).  It should have been simple enough, since I'd already attained the mid-point, getting past the really hazardous part where cars may turn in on a right- or left-filter light without regard to pedestrians in front of them.  On the other half of the street, the first two lanes were empty, and the far lane had a short queue of cars waiting for a right-filter light to turn green.

And yes, just as I was crossing the empty lanes - a tad incautiously, perhaps, because the lanes were, you know, empty - the guy at the back of that queue (of course, he was driving a black Audi!!) got impatient with waiting, pulled left into the vacant middle lane, and drove at speed around the outside of the cars ahead of him to make an illegal right turn... without pausing to check for any traffic approaching from his left, and certainly without paying any attention to any pedestrians unfortunate enough to be in his path.  I was obliged to not merely check my forward progress, but to take a hurried step or two back out of his way - and my agility was hampered by a pair of heavy shopping bags.  I only just made it: the car grazed my leading shin.  The driver was looking ahead and to his right, completely oblivious of me.

I can't think of any other country in the world where driving standards are so poor, where people behind the wheel routinely behave with such total disregard of traffic rules or of road safety.  'Common sense', it often seems to me, is an attribute which the majority of Chinese completely lack.

Vigilance, I fret, is no longer enough; I may have to stop leaving the house.


JES said...

You've probably seen The Fifth Element, right? Beijing traffic, from your accounts, might have provided the template for the traffic patterns in the early part of that film!

(Different topic, but, hmm -- a quick search seems to reveal no hits on the name "jovovich" here at the 'ville...)

Froog said...

Not yet. Give it time.

Besson's Joan of Arc is another of those films on my 'to be watched (again) over Christmas' list.

JES said...

"Give it time": ha!

Have not seen Besson's film. But the trailers I've seen for it look, well, Bessonic.

You do know the silent version, right? (From the end of the silent era, directed by a Carl Somebody.) A very strange film -- ultra-stylized, almost cartoonishly so -- but also (I found) very moving.

(Aside: Thinking of Besson, I just was reading Wikipedia re: [La Femme] Nikita (which I loved). That article includes a cross-reference to another, on a genre called "Girls with guns." That sounds to me like a positively Froogish topic!)

Froog said...

Oh, darn - now you've set me off on another Internet chase (or two!).

I think I have that one you mean, but I can't remember any details of it now (1920s or maybe early 30s; rather German expressionst look; rather strange, big-eyed actress in the role) - and I can't find it on IMDB. Vexing! It's a problem that there are a number of versions of the story based on Shaw's Saint Joan, others that are known only by a French title such as Jean d'Arc, and others that have slightly more oblique names like Maid of Orleans. Well, there are quite a few other titles I haven't seen for ages and want to lay my hands on, so I suppose I'm just going to have to dive headfirst into those packing cases full of DVDs, strew the disks all over the floor, and then try to impose some sort of filing system on them.

I haven't seen Besson's Joan for 10 years, but I remember rather liking it (apart from the rather over-the-top violence of the opening scene). The battle scenes are very well done, but it's also quite serious in its treatment of the later stages of the story - not shying away (as almost every other version of the story I've seen does) from the central problem that a woman who thinks she hears the voice of god is probably delusional, unstable.

I also remember it because there's a scene where Joan is trying to storm the walls of a fortified town and is wounded as she reaches the top of the scaling ladder. She falls quite a long way (her landing cushioned, if I recall correctly, by the crowd of soldiers around the foot of the ladder - an early instance of crowd surfing) - but the camera follows her down, and it's very clearly Milla herself doing the stunt. I'm not sure how they pulled it off, but it's very impressively done. But I cherish it mainly because I had described a shot just like it in a screenplay I was messing around with as an undergraduate some 15 years earlier. Not a script about Joan of Arc, but one where the protagonist fell backwards out of a window - well, was pushed, actually - and I wanted to follow his fall down three or four storeys, to land on his back in a pile of rubble.

Actually, the story was a sort of surreal fable about how the creative urges, the urge to follow your own whims and desires, the urge to simply play is constantly stifled by societal pressures to conform. The protagonist becomes friends with a mysterious stranger, an angel/devil figure, a catalyst and provocateur who seems to be capable of helping people overcome their inhibitions. At the mid-point in the story, the hero is only just becoming aware of how much his friend can create anarchy, and they're on the run (from the police, I think, though I forget the exact mechanics of it). They come to the end of a corridor in a part-demolished building, throw open the door, and find themselves teetering over a 50ft drop. The catalyst says, "Jump!" The hero turns around and says, "Are you CRAZY?" So the catalyst pushes him.

Cut to next scene: hero is in a hospital bed with head bandaged, IV drip in arm, all four limbs in plaster casts. And the catalyst is there, grinning - cutting the casts and bandages off, to reveal that the hero is in fact (miraculously) completely uninjured; and he then says, "What? You didn't trust me?"

I even had end credit music picked: I wanted to Tom Waits to do a creepily distracted version of When You Wish Upon A Star.

Ah, youthful fancies!

I should probably write a post about this sometime....