Sunday, November 29, 2009

TimeOut KL Dec'09


TimeOut KL, December 2009
Writer from the Cold by SH Lim

***Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tropical Affairs: Indochine -- racing boat scene

On the set of racing boat scene in Indochine.  Robert Raymer at left with Siggi and friend on the footbridge that the French built.


Robert Raymer with actress Linh Dan Pham


Linh Dan Pham took this black and white photo of Siggi and me and sent me the photo from the Netherlands


In Indochine, I had also been in the racing boat scene, which was set in Parit, Perak, a place I knew well, since it was one kilometer from my former mother-in-law’s house.

The French constructed a footbridge, made from solid timber, painted white with three evenly-spaced peaked, blue roofs, linking the town to the islet in the middle of the Perak River. They also constructed a matching gazebo on the islet and a dock for the racing shells. The race was between a French Navy crew led by actor Vincent Perez and a group of Indochinese plantation workers employed by the character portrayed by Catherine Deneuve, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

On the day of the filming, the current was swift, and during one of the takes, the eight-oared racing shells (brought to Malaysia from Hong Kong) got too close and collided. For several tense moments, since they had no back¬ups, everyone watched in silence as the various experts and consultants checked out the damage.

In order to take close-ups of the rowers and the race itself, the movie camera had to be mounted onto a pair of sturdy rubber rafts that had been strapped together. Not only did the rafts have to support all of the heavy equipment but also the director, Regis Warnier and several technicians needed to make the shooting a success.

Meanwhile members of Saigon’s high society, portrayed by expats from Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth, and Penang, myself included, were dressed in period costumes from the 1930’s – suspenders, hats, vests, seer¬sucker suits or navy uniforms – watched the race from the bridge, cheering the rowers on to victory.

During the filming I became close friends with the actress Linh Dan Pham, and later we danced together at a Bastille Day party in Ipoh.

-excerpt from “Parit - A French Legacy”, Tropical Affairs: Episodes of an Expat's Life in Malaysia

*Here is a link to another Indochine post about the Christmas Party scene.  In the future, if the interest is there, I'm considering posting both complete articles

**Looks like I have another French connection.  Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia, has been translated into French by Éditions GOPE!




*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia

**Update: Book orders for Trois autres Malaisie  E-book orders.  Or recommend it to your friends, especially those who would like to know more about Malaysia or have an interest in Southeast Asia.
  
Here's a link to the intro and excerpts, and to four reviews of Trois Autres Malaisie in eurasie.net, Malaisie.org, easyvoyage.com, and Petit Futé mag.

***Here’s an update to the French blog about Trois autres Malaisie and my meeting the French translator Jerome Bouchaud in Kuching, and my involvement in a French documentary for Arte (June 2017) on The Sensual Malaysia of Somerset Maugham.

***Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tropical Affairs: Indochine - Christmas Party Scene

Robert Raymer at center on the set of Indochine


Catherine Deneuve rehearsing her dance with Linh Dan Pham


The Christmas party scene was to be filmed atop Penang Hill in the old Crag Hotel, which, incidentally, was once run by the Sarkies brothers, the renowned Armenian hoteliers who also founded the Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Penang and the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. After being transported to the set, I was led away by Patrick, who chopped off most of my hair. Lolita slicked back what was left with a combination of gel and mousse into a style that was fashionable back then. Alberto dressed me in my 30’s style tuxedo, with suspenders, cuff-links, and bow ties that actually had to be tied.

The scene itself begins with the arrival of the guests (although in reality this segment was shot on the fourth day). Deneuve, the other stars, and the invited guests, sat around three tables (the stars at one table and the rest divided between the other two), while the waiters waited in the wings with traditional Yule Log cakes that they would be serving us as soon as the cameras rolled.

As the cameraman, the lighting and sound technicians made endless adjustments to their equipment, the other assistants and helpers scurried about wherever they were needed. The make-up people would buzz around us like flies touching up our hair, powdering our faces, spraying water on the wilting flowers on our lapels.

While our Yule log cakes were finally being served (they had been coming and going for days) Elaine Devries' father, Emile, (portrayed by Henri Marteau), arrived with his concubine. With dramatic flair he unveiled a phonograph, his Christmas present to Elaine. A record was played and the music cranked up. Elaine then escorted her adopted daughter, Camille (Linh Dan Pham) to the small dance floor where they proceeded to dance the tango.

This was our cue. All eight of us tango dancers rose from our chairs one by one, led our ‘spouses’ to the dance floor, turning and dipping with fancy head movements.

-excerpted from “Four Days with Catherine Deneuve” from Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia.

*Here's a l link to a tango clip from Indochine and some other films I've been involved with.

**Looks like I have another French connection.  Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia, has been translated into French by Éditions GOPE!



*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia

**Update: Book orders for Trois autres Malaisie  E-book orders.  Or recommend it to your friends, especially those who would like to know more about Malaysia or have an interest in Southeast Asia.
  
Here's a link to the intro and excerpts, and to four reviews of Trois Autres Malaisie in eurasie.net, Malaisie.org, easyvoyage.com, and Petit Futé mag.

***Here’s an update to the French blog about Trois autres Malaisie and my meeting the French translator Jerome Bouchaud in Kuching, and my involvement in a French documentary for Arte (June 2017) on The Sensual Malaysia of Somerset Maugham.


***Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tropical Affairs: Indochine


The Tango Dancers.  standing Robert Raymer, Joelle St-Arnoult, Angela and Lee Clark; seated Anni Nordmann, Andre Cluzaud, Laurence, Seibert Kubsch

In Indochine, Joelle and I danced the tango together. Compare this photo with us in our tacky tourist clothes.

When I was asked to dance the tango in the Oscar-award winning French film Indochine I said no. I told them I couldn't dance. Of course I agreed to be in the movie. Who wouldn't want to be in the same scene with the beautiful and legendary Catherine Deneuve, the pride and national treasure of France, and star of such films as Repulsion, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Belle de Jour, The Hunger, and The Last Metro.

At 20 million, Indochine was, at the time, to be the most expensive French movie ever made. It went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and an Oscar nomination for Catherine Deneuve for Best Actress. Set during the 1930’s in Indochina, the story centered around the lives of two women: Elaine Devries (portrayed by Catherine Deneuve), a proud, elegant Frenchwoman who presides over a vast rubber plantation and Camille (Linh Dan Pham), her willful adopted Indo-Chinese daughter.

Originally I was to portray one of the invited guests at a formal Christmas party at the house of Elaine Devries. In this scene, a pivotal one, Catherine Deneuve danced the tango with her adopted daughter Linh Dan Pham, and then exchanged slaps with her co-star and lover in the film, Vincent Perez – in front of Linh Dan, who had recently fallen in love with the same man.

The Christmas party scene, although six minutes long, would take four days to film. Four days with Catherine Deneuve! The scene also called for eight tango dancers who would later join Deneuve and Linh Dan on the dance floor. As things turned out, one of the tango dancers twisted his ankle playing tennis, so the casting people wanted me to play the part. I agreed. I figured the director, Regis Wargnier, would know how to work around one lousy tango dancer.

-Excerpted from “Four Days with Catherine Deneuve” from Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia.


* Here are links to The Chistmas Party scene and the Racing Boat scene

**Looks like I have another French connection.  Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia, has been translated into French by Éditions GOPE!



*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia

**Update: Book orders for Trois autres Malaisie  E-book orders.  Or recommend it to your friends, especially those who would like to know more about Malaysia or have an interest in Southeast Asia.
  
Here's a link to the intro and excerpts, and to four reviews of Trois Autres Malaisie in eurasie.net, Malaisie.org, easyvoyage.com, and Petit Futé mag.

***Here’s an update to the French blog about Trois autres Malaisie and my meeting the French translator Jerome Bouchaud in Kuching, and my involvement in a French documentary for Arte (June 2017) on The Sensual Malaysia of Somerset Maugham.


****Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tropical Affairs: Beyond Rangoon

Joelle St-Arnoult  and Robert Rayme as tacky tourists.  Compare this to our costume in Indochine.

After seeing me in Beyond Rangoon, my brother disowned me because of the tacky tourist clothes I wore, which I wrote about in “Beyond Rangoon Part 1” and “Tacky Tourist Clothes” in Tropical Affairs. Directed by John Boorman, the film is about an American doctor named Laura (portrayed by Patricia Arquette) who travels to Asia with her sister Andy (Francis McDormand, who won an Oscar for Fargo); while in Mandalay, Laura witnessed a political rally led by Aung San Suu Kyi (who later won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991). But then things go wrong, and there’s a military crack¬down. Unable to leave Burma because of a lost passport, Laura tries to flee the country with the help of a middle-aged Buddhist priest whose life is also in danger.

For my small role as a hotel guest, they asked me to bring along some touristy clothes so I picked out a geometrical Balinese shirt, beige pants, beige socks and hush puppy shoes.

Deborah, who was in charge of Wardrobe, took one look at me and said, “I have just the thing for you.” She asked me to follow her to Wardrobe, which was located inside a shipping container. She held up a pair of plaid shorts.

“You got to be kidding,” I said. “That's really tacky!”

She smiled and said, “That's the look, I'm afraid,” and asked me to put them on.

“Here?”

She nodded.

When an attractive woman asks you (orders you) to undress, who am I to say no? So down went the pants and up went the shorts. The beige socks and shoes remained. So did my pale legs. Not a pretty sight. It was a wonder Deborah didn't bolt out of the container.

My friend Joelle, however, had it worse; despite her red hair, she was asked to wear a pink dress. Boorman kept referring to her as the lady in pink.

-excerpted from "Beyond Rangoon Part I" from Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia.

***Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tropical Affairs: Paradise Road - The Sailors

Robert Raymer at left, Paradise Road

When the sailors turn finally came on the second day of shooting the Cannon Square scene in Paradise Road, we were presented with clean, white sailor outfits. We were sent outside to have those same nice, clean white sailor outfits made to look like we had been through a ship¬wreck and a battle with the Japanese soldiers. Water and oil, black powder and grease were rubbed into various places including all over our bodies. Some blood-like substance was rubbed in for color. Our black polished shoes were also scuffed up, and in some cases removed.

Three sailors were sent to have their moustaches shaved off. One refused, so he wasn’t allowed to take part and a lucky replacement was quickly found. I was sent to Simon the hairdresser and he chopped off my hair in five minutes flat. I didn’t leave him a tip.

The sailors were led to the set at the Khoo Khongsi Temple, to an enclosed court yard, where Kathy and Becky, the make-up artists, assigned us various injuries. I was given burn marks on the side of my face and a bloody nose. Two sailors were given broken legs with splints and crutches. Bruce Beresford, the director, thought one of the sailors should have a broken arm and that honor went to me. Since I was right-handed, I volunteered my left, but that was just after this photo was taken.

Taking my cues from Glenn Close and the other actresses, I looked for something significant to do in the film other than just stand around and be in other people’s way. So when a Japanese soldier was told to knock down one of the sailors on crutches, I noticed he had trouble getting up since his momentum was being pushed backwards by the soldier. If this were real life, despite a broken arm, I would have helped him to his feet so he wouldn’t get killed by the impatient Japanese soldier.

So I did, and continued to do so for the remainder of the afternoon, for about three dozen takes – from several different camera angles, for different purposes: shots from far away, up close, in front, and behind.

Helping the fallen sailor up was not easy since he was much larger than me, but then no one in that scene had it easy. It was boiling hot and the conditions were often chaotic, with people running every which way, fleeing the Japanese soldiers in pursuit. The stars had it no better. Despite her muddied clothes, her sunburned bare feet, and her bloodstained face, Glenn Close took it all very well like the hardworking, seasoned actress she is.

After the Japanese soldiers finished running the sailors off the set and presumably to our deaths, the director called for a wrap. In pairs of two’s and three’s, we trickled back to Wardrobe where we removed our clothes and washed up, slowly becoming the person we once were, albeit exhausted, and with memories to take home with us.

-excerpted from “Close Encounters with Glenn Close” from Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia.

*Here's a link to the group shot of Paradise Road.
**Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.