The Legend of White Snake (2019) Review (Spoiler Free)

I have just finished watching 36 episodes of The Legend of White Snake (2019) that totaled up to 27 hours of TV entertainment. The first post – which is this one – is a review, with no spoiler. If you are interested to read my thoughts on its ending, click here instead.

Rating: 9/10.

I have grown up watching White Snake in a Chinese opera house in Hong Kong decades ago. My dad was used to work in a theater. I was very small. I could hardly remember the story despite the fact that I must have watched it numerous times thanks to free family tickets. I remember the opera version of White Snake as a tragic fantasy love story. But I don’t remember the specifics.

The Plot

Fast forward to 2020, I have zero expectation on this modern adaptation of a story about love and obsession. I am more used to Korean drama – short-and-sweet (16-ish episodes) and more often than not, a happy ending that is heartwarming. Watching Chinese drama (or reading Chinese books) can be a roller-coaster experience. Any character – whether he or she is good or bad, whom you love or don’t – can die in any episode. It is full of deception, betrayal, poison and prison, sacrifice, and more sacrifice. White Snake 2019 is no exception.

Plot-wise, there are plenty of twists. At times I wonder, how many times can the same person be poisoned or put into yet another life-and-death situation that requires yet another hard decision to be made, which on top of all that, leads to misunderstanding and more misunderstanding that will take a few episodes down the road to resolve. If you are looking for character development, White Snake 2019 has plenty. If you are looking for extraordinary plot twists, White Snake 2019 has plenty.

The Main Cast

I am not going to lie. Whenever Ju Jingyi (who plays Bai Suzhen a.k.a. White Snake) appears on the screen, the story literally lights up. Chinese fans dubbed her as ‘once in 4,000 years idol’ (she must have some really hardcore fans in China). Japanese media somehow translated that to be ‘once in 4,000 years beauty’. That branded her as the most beautiful woman in China, ever.

Ju Jingyi plays Bai Suzhen a.k.a. White Snake

I like Ju Jingyi’s acting in White Snake 2019. Or rather, the character that she plays has offered her the opportunity to express a wide spectrum of emotions – innocence, smart, playful, joyful, thoughtful, falling in love, anger and rage, despair, determination, stubbornness, empathy and sympathy, sadness, and content. The acting is natural to watch, hence convincing.

I must say, with a few exceptions, the video clips without her in it feels longer to watch.

I also found Xiao Yan who plays Xiaoqing a.k.a. Green Snake a delightful watch. She can be reckless, has terrible manner, but super faithful to Suzhen making her a superb support character.

I have nothing against Yu Menglong (Xu Xian the Physician). His character does get more interesting passing the midway point. It is pretty hard to match up against Ju Jingyi – in my opinion. The chemistry perhaps could have been better. At times I wonder, what attracts Suzhen to fall in love with Xu Xian?

The Cinematic

Out of the three categories, cinematic is something I can often overlook if the plot and cast are great. Compared to say, The King also produced in recent time, White Snake 2019 pale in comparison.

It is hard to describe. But it seems like the brightness has been boosted while contrast is lost. At times, the character’s face may look too ‘flat’ losing that 3D effect (all white without contrast). The color vibrancy is not there, contrast at times is not there, and CGI is so-so (still better than other Chinese dramas I have briefly watched lately).

In Closing

I am entertained and happy that a classic story has been remade into a modern adaptation. I am fortunate that I don’t have any expectations for this remake. Because the only version I could compare this against would be the Chinese opera I have watched decades ago. Any adaptation would have beaten that.

The Pain & Frustration of Almost

You know that pain and frustration of almost. You almost passed your driving test. At the last turn back to the driving center, you forgot to signal. Hence, you failed. You almost got married or at least have a longer relationship with that someone. But a third person came along and your loved one left you. Your favorite Formula One driver almost won the race. But a mechanical failure at the final lap robbed him of that podium, which in that case, not only the fans suffered from the pain and frustration of almost, the car team too.

And etc.

A couple of days ago, after a 2 hours casual catch-up with my friends online and since I have failed to find a driver to deliver dinner ordered online, my wife suggested that we shall cook instead.

I enjoy cooking – love is a strong word – and the process is therapeutic to me. It is seldom about the destination. Because I often take 5 to 10 minutes to consume my meal. Cooking takes longer. It is the journey, not just the destination.

I chopped red onion, peeled the garlic, sliced the ginger, deseed the chili, and diced the tomato. I dried and marinated the fish fillets and fried them to golden brown. The smell was so good.

After the fish was cooked, I removed the fillets from the fire, washed the wok and stir fried the onion, garlic, chili, and tomato. I added water, covered the wok to soften the tomato, poured in the rest of the seasoning, and just when the dish was almost done – all I needed was to put the golden brown fish filet onto the tomato sauce when …

… a bottle of chili flakes fell from the kitchen cabinet as I accidentally knocked that off the shelf. That bottle of chili flakes fell onto the plate that held the beautifully and perfectly fried fish fillets, shattered the plate into pieces.

I attempted to clean up the fillet under a running water and continued to cook – much like how an F1 driver continued to pilot his car after a mechanical failure. But as I looked at the tabletop, there was really a lot of shattered colored pieces. I even bleed my hand as I clean it up. Can you imagine what if some of these pieces got stuck onto the fish fillets and then we ate them for dinner?

I sulked. Genuinely sulked. I nearly cried. Not sure why. Perhaps the food waste. Perhaps the effort made. Or perhaps I felt sad about that home-cooked dinner on a late Friday evening that we almost had.

After making a joint decision with my wife, I threw the dish into the bin, took out the trash, and went to a food center nearby to buy dinner.

Looking back and as of now, I don’t feel that sense of pain and frustration no more. That’s what time does to you. That almost driving test, didn’t matter no more. That almost relationship, didn’t matter no more. That almost F1 victory, didn’t matter no more. But at the moment, when the reality dealt its hands, that really hurt.

French Wine Box 05 from Eiffel Markets

I am not really a refined wine drinker. I can hardly tell one from another. Having said that, once in a while, I do come across some really good wine that I wish I have recorded it somewhere, have a repeated experience. These days, I have French wine ordered online.

Well, that’s why I have my own website, yes? I will update this post as I go.

Wine Box 05

Chateau la Marjoliere, Cahors Tradition Red 2014

South West, 80% Malbec, 20% Merlot, lots of black fruits and plummy notes.

OK. Both Cynthia and I love this one. I can really taste the plummy notes. I love the fruity aftertaste. Though my wife was like … how does plum taste like? I am happy that she doesn’t have … erm … that problem. Once in a while, I do take in plum juice for its natural laxative effects.

Domaine Martin, Mediterranee “Le Petit Martin” Rose 2019

Rhone Valley, 60% Grenache, 40% Cinsaut, light, citrusy and refreshing.

I am not that into rose wine, but my wife does. This one is pretty light and refreshing. Very easy to drink. I did experience a headache the day after. Probably nothing to do with this wine, but rose wine in genera.

Chateau Palene, Bordeaux White 2018

Bordeaux, 50% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Muscadelle, a dry and fruity white wine.

This one is interesting. I have no idea how French wine works or if the wine is blended. I like Sauvignon Blanc. That is my go to white wine. But this one though, is lighter than the usual Blanc from say Australia or New Zealand. It is very accessible. Perhaps a bit too light for me.

Domaine de Noire, Chinon Soif de Tendresse 2017

Loire Valley, 100% Cabernet Franc, light-bodied, fruity and mineral.

My experience with red wine is very limited. Because my wife prefer white to red. But thanks to this box set concept, my wife is keen to try. Again, very light and accessible. Fruity indeed, kind of playful (maybe the label). Great for some casual catch-up, which I did open this one during my chat with my friends online.

Domaine Buisson, Meursault “Les Climats de Marguerite”

Burgundy, 100% Chardonnay, rich and complex with a long finish.

Yet to try!

Domaine Burle, Vacqueyras “La Muse” 2015

Rhone Valley, 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah, round and powerful.

Yet to try!

My Hairdresser Part 2

My hairdresser and I have known each other for a long time. It must have been 22 years. I always go back to the same one because the result does not vary. I like consistency when it comes to haircut. For 22 years, she delivers the same result without failed. That is why even as she moved to another location, I followed. That is why even as I have moved house, I still return to her.

I can’t tell your her name or which branch she is at right now. What I can say is that she is from Jean Yip, one of the chains in Singapore. She seldom takes leave. The only time she takes leave is when she returns to her home country during major festivals or when she takes an oversea trip with her friends. For more than two decades of working as a hairdresser, she had accumulated close to one year worth of leave.

To cash out her leave, she would need to take a 30% penalty. That is Jean Yip’s policy. She cashed out some. Because who knows. Policy changes all the time.

In the time of Covid-19, the service industry is being hit the hardest. As part of ‘circuit breaker’ phase 1 here in Singapore, basic barber service was still allowed. As someone who has leave balance, she was asked to take leave. And as ‘circuit breaker’ phase 2 kicked in, barber serviced is no longer allowed.

It must have been a stressful period for those who are in the service industry, as I can imagine. Imagine not knowing when one can resume work.

Each crisis affects different segments of people. I feel blessed that I still have a job, and working from home. I will most likely look like a caveman when life goes back to normalcy. Perhaps I shall take this opportunity to grow my hair long and have a different hairstyle for a change.

That Look from a Poodle

In the time of COVID-19, we seldom head out. And when I do, I hurry to the wet market nearby to buy fresh produce or pack lunch and then back. I don’t usually get out of bed early on a weekend. But these days, the line between weekdays and weekends has been blurred with the working from home arrangement. If there is one thing I look forward to these days, that would be the opportunity to walk out of my apartment, even for a simple act of buying groceries. A 5-minute walk to the wet market, through the rows of 4-story tall and old, yet well maintained public housing. There is a playground – now closed due to the outbreak. Trees along the pavement. Those who live on the ground floor naturally inherited a piece of grassland in front of their homes. Most have turned the public area into a garden with a perimeter set up to gain some level of privacy.

One of the homes on the ground floor lived a Western couple. Artists I presume as I have seen homemade furniture at their ‘garden’ decorated with lines of small light bulbs. Plants meticulously well placed, which form a perimeter. As you walk past the apartment, you can see what happens at the front porch. But you would avert your eyes even though you know you are looking into a public area for it is an extension of someone else’s home. If you were with me on that day, you would also see a shirtless young man sitting by the front porch. Shortly after, another man passed by – with a mask on of course like everyone on the streets these days – walking a dog. I don’t know the name of the breed. The dog was handsome. A bit of white, a bit of brown. Short frame with short legs. The dog would pee onto one of the trees. Upon finishing its business, giving a few forceful pushes onto the ground with its hind legs, it went on finding another spot to pee.

At that moment, I was thinking, would I be fine having dogs of others peeing at my front porch though technically speaking, it is the public area? I probably wouldn’t like it. But hey, free fertilizer I guess.

By the playground, there was someone else walking the dog. This time, I wasn’t paying attention to the dog. I was observing the girl who walked the dog. Somehow, there is a heightened mystery when a girl puts on a mask. What does she look like? It is fascinating. Because what you see may please you. But what you can’t may excite you more.

At the gate of my condo, upon finishing my daily visit to the wet market, there was a man with a white singlet walking a white poodle. I am not a big fan of poodles. But this one was special. It was playing with the grass and when it saw me, it looked deep into my eyes. I sensed a connection, between a human and a dog. That look of longing and perhaps, a sense of loneliness. Its owner was on his wireless phone all the time playing a mobile game. Beep, beep, beep at maximum volume. The dog was ignored. I was annoyed. The pet owner was there. But at the same time, not there.

And for that brief moment, through our connection, I was thinking, perhaps walking a dog also means that one should be with the dog. Not just literally walking the dog. I am not a big fan of poodles. But I wish I could walk this one instead while its owner was busy playing his mobile game.

We looked into each other’s eyes, into each other’s soul. As I entered the condo and closed the gate behind me, I hurried back to my home. It was just another day, in the time of COVID-19.