Something light-hearted and brief.

I love it when life throws up an anomaly like a deja vu, or a co-incidence or pattern so strange, the otherworld can be felt poking through the veil of this reality. I’ve seen and felt some odd things – pre-cognition so strong I know what someone’s going to do or say. Or the time I was party to a random example of telekinesis in Germany once – a glass gliding, unassisted across a table, that only I saw. I think that we are all constantly surrounded by blessed synchrony and cosmic giggling.

So this is not that strange in comparison – but I just want to share what I’ve come to describe as the lesson of Leon Lai. First let me say, I love movies – something of a buff, a geek. And how soulless I find the Hollywood action machinery, no decent acting, plot or pacing, crass editing, mumbled dialogue and made for audiences with an increasingly short attention span and a numbed out  shock threshold. No-one seems to need to act any more, or learn the craft of character or performance. Actors are just basically themselves.

Amongst all the kinds of films I do enjoy, I have a soft spot for epic sword/sorcery/martial arts costume films, even though they do suffer from their own kind of commercialisation. There was a particular character in Seven Swords, (Tsui Hark, 2005) played subtly and with great precision and expression by actor, Leon Lai. The same actor cropped up a few years later in Siu-Tung Ching’s An Empress and Two Warriors – looking older, more worn, but playing a not dissimilar character, repressed and heroic, running from a terrible past/inevitable karma. I thought, ah yes he’s the good guy with a secret burden. I’d definitely become a fan.

Imagine my total intrigue then, when  I thought, hang on I’ve seen this performer, but where – I know, he reminds me slightly of the assassin in Wong Kar Wai’s achingly cool noir masterpiece, Fallen Angels, which I’ve seen about 5 times. Then my brain went clunk/click and I checked the name. The same person, albeit 13 or so years previously. This is true talent, to be looking at the same performer fully believing they are two or more people. (In Fallen Angels, he plays a hired gun so cold, so devoid of feeling, expression or moral principle that he’s almost a machine.)

But all the same person. This is how disorientating a good screen or stage actor should be. To be able to split your perception, then meld it back again.

And not only this, Leon Lai is also a movie director in his own right, and a huge pop singer with a massive fan base and fine discography of songs and music videos – so he is many people, all seemingly unrelated.

So what’s the lesson of Leon Lai? Time travel. Perception interruption.

Re-invention and longevity. It is possible, to start a whole new version of oneself in one’s 4os, 5os… and onwards. Every day can be a new era, a new page. Personas and roles can be discarded and new skins inhabited. And, against all odds and conventional advice, being a polymath is only ever a strength, not a weakness. When I’m stuck in a rut, or in fear of getting older, I remember cinematic enigma, Leon Lai.

Long live Leon Lai!

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