Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Weird in Manila: Trese (2021)

I went into Trese, the new animated series from Nettflix, practically blind. OK, a paranormal detective story set in contemporary Manila and based on the folklore of the Philippines. But that was all.
I had seen the trailer, and I was intrigued.

I was a bit dubious because it is presented as an “anime”, but it is not a Japanese product, it was made in the Philippines. You don’t call it New Orleans Jazz if they make in in Sweden, don’t you?
Wikipedia adjusts this by describing the series as “anime-inspired”. OK.
But apart from that, I was curious.

Continue reading


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Mind over matter: Detective L (2019)

A very Holmes-esque mystery series set in 1930s Shanghai?
You know I’ve got to see it.
And I did.

Detective L is a 24-episodes Chinese drama series set in 1932 Shanghai, and distributed on the streaming platform Tencent Video. Newcomer Qin Xiao Man, a woman graduate from a provincial police academy, comes to the big city to serve in the local constabulary, only to be swiftly paired off with Luo Fei, a detective that sometimes acts as consultant for the police.
A Watson-Holmes dynamic ensues, with an extra of romantic tension, as mysteries are solved and a shadowy character, the Moriarty-like “Captain” emerges to provide an overarching metaplot.

The series is a rather classic Chinese serial product, with good actors, great costumes and a somewhat limited budget locations-wise. The 1930s Shanghai is brought to screen via a mix of back lot sets, actual Shanghai villas and mansions and a lot of CGI.
But it’s OK.
Granted, this Shanghai is strangely devoid of Westerners of any kind, and a few glaring errors, prop-wise, caused a laugh-out-loud moment or two (one word: the gramophone turntable), but really, this is light entertainment, not a documentary. So it’s OK.
Even the quirky anachronistic soundtrack really works.

The leads are charming, and the idea of developing a mystery over an arc of three episodes allows a modicum of welcome development. These are classic locked room mysteries, more puzzles than in-depth investigations of the human soul, and it’s fine like that.
Even the comedy manages to be classy – not a given, with Chinese series and Western tastes.

If you are interested, you can find the whole series on Youtube, in mandarin but with English subtitles.
It’s a nice way to spend half an hour before dinner.


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The Day of Memory

January the 27th is the Day of Memory in Italy and everywhere else, in which we remember the millions that were murdered in the Nazi concentration camps – many of which were Italians, sent to the camps by our own government. As those that witnessed the horror are passing away, it becomes particularly important for us to keep the memory alive, so that nothing like this can happen, ever again.

And because I believe, like Leonard Cohen did, that the Nazis were also defeated by songs and stories, here is some music…


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Through the eyes of others

So apparently a Russian TV station celebrated the end of 2020 by broadcasting a fake Italian TV show, full of trashy songs and ridiculous guests, including the actresses that starred on the (equally fake) movie “Le quattro putane” (basically “the four hos”).
What a fun, classy joke, uh?
Happy New Year, you filthy animals.

It is a well known fact that trashy 1980s Italian shows have been a premium export commodity in the last thirty years, gaining a disturbing popularity in parts east, but it’s not so funny when you find out you are the butt of a trans-national joke.

And possibly even more disquieting is the general reaction of the Italian public, that cheered at this ugly thing.
Sure, it’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves, but on the other hand, should we really be proud of being considered a nation of dorks, lechers and whores?
Asking for a friend…

The shows that the Russians “parodied” were not a high point in our national culture, but certainly left a scar on the psyche of the nation. So much so that many consider such trash an important part of their personal background.
I’m probably showing my age, but I do not find it particularly pleasant.

In the end, there is only one thing I can do at this point to balance things off…