Kuala Lumpur seems to leap each time I’ve visited – originally here five years ago, it felt like a “3rd world” place of dirt roads, shanties, with little eruptions of modernity, like the Petronas Towers breaking through the surface; last year’s visit showed a leap into the future, and in a mere additional year the changes are tangible. A bit unnerving the rapidity of the shifts, with gleaming office sky-scrapers filling the valley, freeways (traffic jams), a sprawl of residential areas poking up high-rises all around. We’re staying with U-weih, who is deep into preparations on a new film – a big budget one, based on the Conrad story Almayer’s Folly. (For more on U-weih’s film see this.) It requires building some large sets – houses in the jungle, an old steam-boat – and has a cast of regionally famous actors, a famed Polish cinematographer, and the necessary office bustle to accomplish all this. They start shooting in April and hope to finish in 9 weeks, just before the monsoon season. To me it is all an alien world, far removed from the kind of filmmaking I have done which I think of as slightly overblown home-movies with friends and not much else, and which increasingly I find less and less interest in doing (or any kind of filmmaking). Apparently this will be Malaysia’s biggest film, though you wouldn’t guess it from U-weih’s modest demeanor. Or maybe he does that just for me!
We’re here another few days, and then wander north – we thought to Penang but now think perhaps to a rain-forest jungle area, far from the bustle of KL, though into another bustle of evolutionary wonders working from the same essential bifurcated forms we call “life.” And then we’ll go visit a friend, Chan, at her family’s home in the Cameron Highlands, an area of civil landscapes of carefully terraced tea-plantations. Then back it seems to shoot a little something for U-weih before returning to Seoul. In the meantime putting things here is likely to be sparse.