Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sweetness in Salt - Nip Ji Yuen (1)

For me I find Ji Yuen beyond sexy; I find him arresting with an irresistible masculine allure. check out the hundreds of Sits screencaps in this  album

My favorite Steven's co-star is still Maggie Cheung in Better Halves. Absolute compatibility. But Stevia seems to have perfect their wordless mutual stares, poignant with unspoken meaning.

More discussions in AF 
For Chinese discussions goto: baidu 《碧血盐枭》
 我就是喜欢聂致远喜欢他有过知错,喜欢他悔悟,喜欢他愁眉深锁的样子(他那种淡淡的忧愁,这种感觉只有马浚伟能表现得让他人感同深受,好多年没看到有他那 种散发着古典韵味的演员,这种感觉是某人至少是不能给我的),喜欢他遍体淋伤,喜欢他执着,喜欢真实,不管最后他和胜雪是否在一起都没关系,这不是我喜欢 他的原因,不管他完不完美都有让我折服的原因,中意聂致远.
Posted 06 January 2009 - 08:40 AM
my posts from Asianfanatics SITS nip ji yuen's thread
I waited eagerly and quite impatiently for Ji Yuen's appearance but it wasn’t until toward the end that he finally made his appearance, literally stopping the show. lol! Now that I think back, my anticipation was exactly the effect that Director Lee had hoped to achieve – to build-up anticipation and to heighten the mystery of one Ji Yuen.

The viewers first got to know of him through Sim Suet’s constant worrying and pining for him, emphasizing her deep love for him. Obviously, JY has also ingratiated himself with her whole family, so much so that SS's father ponders over their (SS & JY's) future together even as they are on the run. Obviously, Ji Yuen, although an outsider, is much loved by her family. So how can such a ‘lovable’ character betray these simple folks who loved him so?

The sense of Ji Yuen, like a thin mist, permeates the episode. He has not appear yet but already his reputation precedes him, as images were formed of him from the other characters. As happier time flashes through SS’s memory, viewers saw him as a fun-loving lover; in times of danger, as someone who apparently did not know martial arts; as a suitor worthy of a Big Brother’s precious daughter's hand in marriage. And as a good man, liked by SS’s people. As SS floats on the river, her last conscious thoughts were of him just as her first were when she regains consciousness. Who is this Ji Yuen character who was so beloved by so many people?

Director Lee cleverly teased his viewers with a glimpse of this mysterious Ji Yuen right before credits roll, just enough to belie the carefully built up image of a nice, warm young man – the stealer of SS’s heart and the affection of her family. Instead a man with cold flat eyes on an impassive face walks into the screen, literally stopping the show. Although looking like her JY, his emotionless face and stiff posture assure SS that she must have mistaken a stranger for her JY.

Reel me in for I’m completely hooked.

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 02:39 PM
Dogmatic political ideology - how many lives have being ruin by it?
Episode 2 sees an impassive JY witnessing the sorry plight of a salt smuggler being beaten by 2 imperial soldiers. The victim's agonized cries for help left JY unmoved, eliciting only his disdain and a disapproving shake of his head. His sense of righteousness has duly buffered him from sympathizing such people who knowingly break the salt laws which he strives to uphold.

Within this episode, the viewers got to know JY better: as the confident imperial official, as the beloved godson, as the filial son to his deceased father, as the exasperated son to a nagging mother, as the cold lover to SS, as the relaxed friend, and as the complex man who can’t will himself to forget his feelings for SS, a criminal’s daughter at that.

Sometimes, the righteousness in a man can tip dangerously over to an unyielding one-track mind, making him a prig who refuses to see or can't distinguish the grayness that lies between black and white, right from wrong.

JY is confident he is the good guy, and that those salt smugglers he pursues and routs out are the bad guys. They are criminals therefore deserved any punishments meted out by his Emperor's laws. Since young, he has been indoctrinated of these laws by his godfather. Moreover, in his mind, he is not only carrying on his father’s dying wish, but also avenging his death, or so he thinks.

A real man must put ideology, duties and loyalty ahead of a mere affair of the heart, or so he thinks. Unluckily for him, he has underestimated the power of his heart, conversely overestimating the strength of his mind over matter. Try as he may, he cannot willfully erase those memories of his loving moments with SS from his mind, Like an album of unfolding sepia photos, they crammed his mind.

He and SS finally meet; their meeting is inevitable, as is the pouring rain.
A heartbreaking scene to watch. Tears and rain wash SS’s face. SS faces the man who deliberately and dishonorably breaks her heart, a betrayer of her and her family trust. Hatred burns her whole being, revenge pumps her adrenaline and pain breaks her heart. She craves blood from him for the blood that was shed from her parents, whose bodies now hung cold from the poles in the city. Ji Yuen’s coldness and calm further enraged her. How dare he acted so righteously, so coldly, so... she's lost for words, as emotions overcame her.

Steven’s fighting actions were crisp and sure; his movements, elegant. A flip of the corner of his tunic during fighting was elegantly done.

Question: How long Ji Yuen stayed with SS and her family in their holdout? How long would it take for him to recover from his injury?

Ep1 ends with SS spotting an impassive Ji Yuen; but at the end of ep 2, these two were joined by Tin Hin; the triangle is now complete.

I like Steven's fighting sequence very much. It is done very crisply and fluidly, and that little flick of his tunic corner was sleekly and elegantly done. Yuen is absolutely elegant from head to toes, an air of refinement oozes from him. Contrast his aristocratic bearing, posture and mannerisms to that of the Kwok Fung's 3rd son - the way he walks and sits and talks with such self-assuredness - breeding does differentiates the aristocrats from the bourgeois. Wonder why Yuen is better friend with 3rd son than Hin since they were childhood friends?

confrontation in the rain

I take back what I said about Yuen being cold.
That cold demeanor was deliberately put on.

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His eyes, windows of his soul, belied his coldness toward SS.
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Elegant posture of holding back the flap of his tunic.

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a conflicted man
Yuen is an intriguing character to watch. Right now, his emotional expressions are limited but that will undoubtedly increase with the imminent collapse of all that he held dear. Right now, his character has mostly acted cool and composed. Even when he so calmly advises Hin to marry the woman he loves so that she will have a good future. When Suet lay in wait to attack him. When he was informed that his godfather is not the honorable hero that he thought he was. In short, he has been a cool dude, pun intended.

But all these will change because things are not what they seem. His world is a sham sustained by a foundation of lies, cover-ups and regrets. Tragedy will befall him

The godfather he looks up to and idolizes is a hypocrite.
His mom; a greedy loan–shark and worst, a buyer of illegal salt - also a hypocrite
The very word that Suet has flung at him as hypocrite (伪君子) will come back to haunt him, stabbing him right into his being. His arrogance, self-pride and self-confidence, vanished.
Was he a hypocrite himself? Was he wrong? Did he do wrong? Did he cause Suet’s parents' death based on his false belief and arrogance? Evidence shows that he is indeed wrong. His life’s a sham. He has been duped his whole life. Faith shattered, he won’t know what to believe, what to do and who to turn to. His black and white vision muddied, his right and wrong belief challenged and shattered, what is he going to do now?

Looking forward to what I’m sure will be Steven’s brilliant acting out of these emotions.

I notice that Steven purposely spoke with a clipped and abrupt diction to portray a upfront and plain-speaking Yuen. Great job!

"How does he think Tavia will have a good future if she marries Raymond? Raymond is going to die unless Steven didn't know about it. Even Raymond hesitates to tell Tavia about his feelings due to her illness at first right? How can he not see that? "

Nothing is what it seems. Yuen does not ask, he explicitly advises, if not warn. Watch it then you will understand what I'm saying. If don't want to be spoiled then don't read.

Yuen initiated the meeting with Hin. He was upset about the trick played on Suet & him, and worried about Suet's life in Hu residence. He wants to make sure, within his power, that the mistreatment of Suet by Hu's relatives will not happened again. And so he sought out the one person who can ensure that. Without beating around the bushes, he explicitly condemned Hin's relatives. Then came the real purpose of the meeting -- the future of Suet.

Yuen: They were wrong to harrass Suet.

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Suet's identity complicates her future as she is an outlaw's daughter.

Yuen: Remember her situation.
Hin: rest assure, I will.
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Why Yuen advises Hin to marry Suet?
1. How to protect her from the laws and from Hin's relatives? If she marries a commoner and her identity is exposed, then she and her husband and his family will be put to death. Only the protection of a powerful family can protect her from the long arm of the law. And as Hin's wife, Suet will be respected in his home. Even after his death. Where can a woman like Suet find a better haven than as a wife or a widow of Hin. Moreover, Yuen respects Hin, between the harsh future of a fugitive and a respected widow of a powerful household, guess widowhood is preferable. In those days, the destiny of a woman is to marry, if lucky then to a good man, if luckier still, then to a rich, good man. Hin is that, though sickly, who knows how long he will live, maybe long enought to leave behind a male heir, and then Suet will be the esteem dowager.

2. Although spoken as an advice, it is more of a subtle veiled warning to Hin. Yuen is warning Hin not to play with Suet's feelings or reputation. And that gossips can ruin a woman's reputation.

Yuen affecting nonchalance: If you truly have feelings for Suet, then give her status by marrying her as soon as possible.

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Akazukin: In one of the scene, Steven and the third young master of Wu were sitting in a noodle shop. They said that it's fortunate that Ting Hin didn't die from the assasination. Ji Yuen said that Sing Suet should have the greatest credit for it. And the third young master commented about how this event allowed Sing Suet and Ting Hin to find true love during the time of difficulty. The expression on Steven's face is just so... I don't know how to say. He looked expressionless yet you can see how hurt he feel inside. He is not showing it yet he is showing it. I think that is totally amazing.

Seems like the fourth young mistress holds a grudge against Ji Yuen, probably because he turned down the marriage proposal before. But really really like his cold and firm look when he didn't let her have her way when she tried to humiliate him.

And I really like the scene where both Steven and Tavia are fighting against the assassins and Steven used himself as shield for Tavia again and again when the assasins are going to slay his sword down Tavia. Very cool and awwwww....

And I finally see his martial actions and I agree that he has done it very well. It's not only smooth but also strong. 

Tamaya: I knew the collapse of Yuen’s world was imminent but I didn’t foreseeing it coming so swiftly, so suddenly and so brutally. Yuen didn’t have the ‘luxury’ of ruminating his godfather’s alleged duplicity. Instead, truth unexpectedly explodes in his face, forcefully ripping off the blinders from his eyes, and forces him to look into the stark ugliness surrounds him.

Yuen is dealt not just one big devastating blow but a succession of them, all equal in strength. They completely demolish the very foundation of his world and strip the very essence of his being: his clear conscience, his pride, his self-esteem and confidence, his belief and his faith. With them gone, Yuen’s very being is diminished to his bare soul. Will his being ever be whole again?

Steven was brilliant in acting out the different emotions Yuen feels at different stage of his destruction.

1st confrontation with truth
Yuen: Why are you doing this, godfather?
Emotions: From defiance to incomprehension to denial
When caught by his godfather as the night prowler, he is defiant and accusative. He is imbued with righteousness. He pleads for a reason that will absolve his godfather of wrongdoing. “Why did you do this, godfather?” Instead, Tou’s unrepentant admission of guilt hits him like a sledgehammer. He recoils from the ugly truth that is his godfather, uncomprehending. His defense mechanism instinctively shuts down his mind, and shields it behind denial. “Enough! You don’t have to continue. I won’t believe it. It’s all a lie!” His voice chokes with anguish as he spits out his denial. His face crumbles as his eyes glisten with unshed tears. He strides off angrily, then breaks into a run and flees. 

2nd confrontation with truth
Emotions: from denial to anger to anguish .
Yuen’s denial has since turned into a righteous rage. Despite his anguish, the face glaring at Tou is just as hard as it was when he last confronted Suet in the rain about him being in the right, and she's in the wrong. He thought he had the mantle of righteousness on him, and of possessing a clear conscience, but Tou brutally rips those illusions apart. And then Tou strikes the cruelest blow of all, he besmirches Yuen’s beloved father’s memory. “Your father and I are birds of a feather!”

Yuen is a man who values truth and prides himself on his veracity, but now with truth bearing down hard on him, he again takes up his denial shield. He roars with a childlike faith: “You lie! My dad was a hero! Don’t insult his memory! “I’ll not believe you anymore!”

And so the close ties between a surrogate father and his child are forever severed, as Yuen strides angrily away. But Tou’s challenge halts him. “If you don’t believe me, then go ask your mother!”

3rd confrontation truth
Anguish acceptance

He catches his mother in an illegal dealing. He strides back home with his mother on his tail. He confronts his mother, who like Tou, candidly admits her guilt; and like Tou, unrepentant. Yuen is crushed especially when she insists she did it all for him. His mind reels as he tries to take in his mother’s rationale. His tight control over his emotions breaks as nausea of disillusion washes over him. His upright posture slumps. His voice breaks as he asks, “So what godfather said is all true?” “Yes!” With tears welling in his eyes, Yuen asks one last important question: “Tell me, was Father a corrupt official?” Her indirect affirmation brutally expunges the pureness of his childlike belief in his father’s goodness and heroism, which had sustained him since childhood. Yuen’s being is now stripped of the essence that makes him what he is. Denial can no longer defy the force of truth. His self-control gone, Yuen completely lost it and roars: “ I don’t want to hear anymore! I’ve heard enough! Mother, you’re not wrong! Godfather is not wrong! Father was not wrong, either! None of you is wrong! I’m the one who’s wrong!” And he flees, again. 
Yuen: None of you is wrong. I'm the one who's wrong!
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 4th confrontation with truth
emotion: remorse
Yuen accidentally bumps into Suet. He faces yet a different kind of truth, the bitter truth of his wrongdoings. Yuen took pride on his ability to distinguish black from white, and right from wrong. It is this very belief that has assuaged his conscience on his betrayal of Seut's and family's trust. He had thought that he could at least die with a clear conscience but now it is not to be. He apologizes to Suet; that’s the least he could do, for he is too confused to do anything else. He is but a child, a lost child at that, inside a man’s body.  

Yuen apologizes to Suet
Yuen: Maybe I can't even tell right from wrong.

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Ji Yuen and his mom's scene touched me the most. In that scene Yuen has reached the end of his tether, and his unstable emotions finally collapsed. To me, that scene was superbly done because of the chemistry between Mary Jie and Steven.

When Ji Yuen met Suet again, Yuen must have realized the irony played on him. When they fell in love, Suet had thought she knew Yuen pretty well, but later to discover she did not know the real Yuen at all. Just like Yuen thought he knew his godfather and mother pretty well, but turn out he did not know them at all. Scary how one can be so closed yet strangers in mind.

teven looks extra good in period costumes. It's like he steps right out of that era.

I especially enjoyed the scene where he beats up the petty thief so ferociously yet controlled. His hurt and rage needed an outlet and the beating is it. When he slams that stick against the wall so hard it breaks, his rage is duly released, for the moment at least.  When I watched the beating scene, despite it ferocity, the beating didn't come across as an attack on a person, it's more like Yuen is meting out a disciplinary punishment for a dishonorable behavior. Yuen bellows angrily at the thief, "You snatched even an old lady's bag? What kind of scum are you?"

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I had so underestimated Yuen’s character as I thought he would flee the city, unable to face the stark truth; I was so wrong and I’m glad. Now that most of his acquired characteristics, which in the past had given him his sense of identity & superiority, have been brutally subdued, if not ripped out, his innate traits exerted themselves. His self-control, veracity and physical courage are never in question; but now he also shows a mental courage and fortitude, as he takes whatever truth and its repercussions dish out at him. He is a man of mettle, not one to shy away from life. Of these traits, the most notable are his loyalty, his integrity and his obstinacy, almost mulish in it. In epi 9, these three traits pitted against one another, and obstinacy came up on top, for now. His passion still lies buried in his heart, for now.

It is these very three traits of him that ensures once he yielded a piece of his heart to someone, it is the recipient’s for keeps. Which is why he still loves his godfather and his mother, regardless, and why he will always love Suet.

Steven’s screen time maybe limited but his character comes out very strongly, and his performance, brilliant. 

I think the biggest difference between Hin and Yuen is that the former is well-acquainted with death, and that through their constant battles, he has strengthen his mentality prowess. Whereas, Yuen’s righteousness had acquired him an air of superiority, insensitivity and a one track mindset, immuring him from vulnerability. What doesn’t jive with him, he dismisses it as being wrong. It’s his way or the highway.

But once he has his eyes opened, his mind is open to outside influences too, therefore making his heart vulnerable. He is now aware his way might not be the right way. Before he had sincerely felt sorry for what he did to Suet but still unrepentant, now he feels guilt and guilt will increase one's vulnerability as guilt can exploit, just as love can. And I think his vulnerability will be even more apparent as the series progresses, as he discards his acquired traits and reassert his innate traits.

Yuen’s character is evolving all the time, from a superior man to a confused man and I think in the end to a charismatic leader. Right now he is in the vulnerability stage of his transformation but as the saying goes if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. I might add if it doesn’t kill you, it shapes you.

About Yuen’s intelligence – will reserve judgment for now. But Hin certainly seems smarter than him, for now. 
Yuen: Nobody in the world is 'dumber" than I am.
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And btw he has discarded his insensitivity.
Halleluia, Yuen finally repents.
Yuen: I know you won't forgive me
Suet says coldly: You take care.

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"it’s that he doesn’t know how to explain himself to anyone."
I think he's giving qiong Yao a run for heartstring tugging speeches.
If Suet had given him a chance to speak, he would have won her over with his eloquence.(j/k)
I bet her heart must have melted somewhat.

Yuen: So long you still remember me in your heart. (AWw!)
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Akazukin: This is a contrast to Raymond’s character who although is very weak physically, is very strong mentally. That allows him to think before he acts that makes him looks and is indeed a lot more considerate. This is lacking from Ji Yuen, who although is intelligent, is actually not as smart/wise as Ting Hin. But I feel for Ji Yuen, he was born with the flaw.

Tamaya: How would you define “mentally strong”?
And what actually is the flaw that is inborn in Yuen – that he’s weak mentally?

I see being mentally strong is someone who can stand up for his beliefs against oppositions, and will prevail against life adversities to ultimately rise above them; whereas a weak mind will succumb and surrender, if not destroyed by his circumstances. I think so far Yuen has shown both mental courage and mental strength in dealing with the curve ball that life has just flung at him.

Granted right now Yuen’s mental health has taken a devastating blow, therefore he is vulnerable/ weak mentally at this stage of his life, but it doesn’t mean this temporary weakness is an inborn flaw. On the contrary, even a strong mind can and will occasionally suffer lapses of weakness and vulnerability, before it can re-coup itself. For instance, in a moment of weakness, Hin would have had taken his own life if not for Suet’s timely intervention. For me, Yuen standing up for his own belief against his mother’s and godfather’s opposition shows a pretty strong mind & courage, as well as strong will. A weaker mind would have succumbed to Tou's strong personality.

Well, who wouldn’t be confused and conflicted if his world suddenly collapsed on him? Before he can explain his feelings, he must first sort them out and that requires time. So let’s give Yuen some time to pick himself up and move on to become a stronger and better man. And hopefully his accumulated life experiences will make him smarter and wiser, if he had enough screentime, that is.

Honestly, I'd rather Yuen strides out on his own instead of hanging to Suet's every word and pining for her like a lovesick puppy. Go expand his horizon, go help the poor, go seek out his own fortune. Just stay away from Suet, her heart is not with him.

So would I but what to do, have a man like Yuen, who has so much potential and so much to offer the world, diminished to a lovesick puppy pining after another man's wife? Another man has taken precedence over him in Suet's heart. But of course, the storyline will have Yuen put aside everything except his love for Suet to help out the Wus family. About time the story focuses on what its title implies: the struggles between the officials vs the smugglers, the law enforcers vs the law breakers and the grayness in between black and white, and not kept on telling the dramas of the wus children's romances. Their romances dragged the series for me.

Steven did the spontaneous, fleeting expressions on hearing Suet's confirmation brilliantly.
What he feared most has finally come. But when he asks Suet for confirmation of her marriage, his eyes still show a glimpse of hope.

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Though the news is not unexpected, the crushing shock of pain to his heart is. The blocked tears glisten his eyes. With some effort, he forced out a smile and his congratulations. His self control is unbearable to watch.

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And when he heard from Xiu Yuen that Suet has him in her heart, joy spontaneously brightens his eyes and smile. Oh that flicker of hope burning up inside him that gives him the courage to plead with Suet to elope with him is most cruel in its fleetingness, especially to his omniscient fans who knows what the outcome will be. 
Ep 18 has changed my opinion on wanting Yuen to leave everything behind - make a clean break and a clean start. I just couldn't bear seeing him moping around and and wasting his time as a lowly soya sauce assistant to his mom. Will write more on my change of opinion. And you're right about Yuen helping out Wu family not only because of his love for Suet but also seeking redemption for his past mistakes. And also agree that it is indeed in his nature to help the meek and the wronged. For now, I think he just wanted to help out, not so much wanting to go against his godfather.

Truly Yuen is a much bigger person than I am.

Why in the first place I had wanted Yuen to make a clean start somewhere, anywhere - mainly because I see Yuen quickly losing the person that he once was - superior, confident, poise, a dynamic and strong leader who possessed a clear vision of what he wants to be and what he wants to do. But he lost those traits, and up to ep 18 he was confused, lost, hurting, vulnerable, in short, all the opposite of what he was before. But worse of all, it's what he feels inside that's devouring his soul; Steven says it best: Yuen's insidious feelings of unworthiness and inferiority. Moreover, I also don't wish to see him always straining for self-control over his emotions. If these emotions are not released soon, they will crest, and crush him, making him less of what he was, if not obliterate that superior being that was him. He had to physical pluck himself out of this mire of helplessness and unworthiness, and self-centeredness. I'm not advising running away, rather I want him to take a step back so as to get a new vision, to find himself again, and enough of his moping around, scaring away his mom's clients with his gloomy presence. There's much more in life than a failed love. But of course, he couldn't leave until he sees Suet properly/happily settled down. After all he has assigned himself as her protector.

How much hurt can a man take?

When Yuen faced off with his godfather, who had been his role model and idol throughout his childhood and early adulthood, the turbulence inside him could not even be imagined. Yuen could ignore Tou's immorality, but he draws the line at Tou's ruthless taking of an innocent life. What's wrong and what's right? He had struggled with that. Is being right based on majority rules? How does one be assured that one is morally right when the majority says you're wrong? How does one stand up for one's belief when your loved ones tell you, you're wrong? What do you do to that familiar face, to the familiar presence, to someone who had been the very foundation of your life. What do you do? Yuen says he will take care of a disabled Tou for the rest of his life, and Tou reciprocated in kind. They love each other yet their love cannot prevent them from killing each other. One will die in the end. One will live with the knowledge that he killed his loved one else be killed himself.


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