Another important example of Chinese culture presented in Faces Tell All is martial arts. The main character, Harold is a devotee of Chinese Kung Fu, blended with Korean and Brazilian techniques which he learned from Choi Hong, a Korean-American master. The Chinese Kung Fu techniques are called Wu Shu; the Korean, Taekwondo. In the story, Harold is shocked by the murder of a museum worker by a Chinese gangster hitman delivering a martial arts “killer-kick”. Harold, who trained for sport only, condemns such a corruption of “the noble arts”, musing that even his cinema heroes Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan fought only in self-defense or to protect others.
Master Choi had taught him that Wu Shu’s upper limb grabs and swings married well with the leg lunges and kicks of Taekwondo. But now that Harold is confronted by a new challenge: facing down Chinatown criminals, the Master agrees to show him an ultimate killer kick which is also a supreme confidence builder. But only if he promises to use it strictly in times of extreme danger. The move is a lethal martial arts kick from Brazil, called the capoeira, which can deliver approximately eighteen-hundred pounds of force at the point of contact.
Two other ancient cultures described in Faces Tell All have contributed to the art and science of the human face: Greek and Egyptian. Elements of ancient Greek geometry, such as the Golden Mean, that relate to symmetry and proportion, are credited with the development of esthetic masks or matrices that seem to fit faces considered attractive by many cultures. Such geometric principles were also applied in Greek architecture, art and statuary. Greek sculpture, which was modeled after actual and idealized specimens of Greek people of the time helped create “classical” Western standards for beauty and physical esthetics.
The related concept of balance, typical of Western (Classical) design in art and architecture largely jibes with aspects of the Chinese (Yin Yang) Taoist tradition. Yin Yang, embodies the harmonious blending of apparent opposites (solid/empty, heavy/light, curved/linear) which create a dynamic whole different from but totally dependent on its component parts. For example, faces deemed attractive among many cultures, tend to be composites of lines and curves and bulkier and smaller features, rather than say strictly angular, roundish or block-like. This is apparently true also of buildings’ and even automobiles’ shapes—the most admired of which mix both rectangular and circular elements.
The character Ma in Faces Tell All is a Chinese-American digital image technician of which there are numerous actual examples employed in cinema both in China and the US; he is plausibly imagined as someone who, born and raised in China and now working in the US, would have a familiarity with Chinese culture, including Face Reading.
Ancient Egyptian mythology emphasizes the importance of the eye as a symbol and source of power.
Images of the god Ra and Horus feature large symbolic eyes which represent power, life force and healing. Scholars have speculated on the hypnotic power of the human eye and its representations; clearly, hypnosis and mutual gazing have been documented as psycho-physiological phenomena that have measurable effects on suggestibility and concentration, and which can produce trance-like (altered) states of consciousness.
The fictional character named Hoda, in Faces Tell All is an Egyptian woman with typically-large and exotic-shaped eyes. She is said to resemble Nefertiti, facially, and is modeled after actual tall, statuesque women of Egyptian (Coptic) descent whom the author has encountered.
Hoda is plausibly imagined as an egyptologist and museum curator. She has knowledge of symbology and suggestion therapy originated by the ancients which are thought by some to affect perception and belief in susceptible individuals—enabling healing or protection against evil; in the story the fixated, hypnotic power of the human eye—in this case, Hoda’s—is enhanced, by a mask of Horus, to frighten and disarm a fearful and vulnerable evil-doer.
(In fact, have demonstrated with functional MRI’s, that projecting fearsome faces can emotionally shock viewers—activating amygdala areas of their brains which register fear.)
Social scientists have theorized that masks and other representations of the face that ambiguously combine animal and human form have the capacity to frighten or horrify some people who regard them as monstrosities. The reason for this is deeply imbedded in the human psyche and may relate to an ambivalence or reluctance about acknowledging our primitive/animal origins—so thought Jung. (He is quoted as such in Faces Tell All.)
In the novel, aspects of Haitian Voodoo are described, relating to masks which can represent evil spirits. The character expounding on this is Dr. Alphonse Maupassant, a professor at the Universite Notre Dame D’Haiti; he explains that such “primitive” masks correlate with Jungian archetypes of personality and emotion, which would include fierceness and fear.
Thus we see the long history and importance of facial imagery as reflective of the human condition and used as a tool of social communication and control. And Faces Tell All illustrates and dramatizes this dual role, wherein faces are both indicators and activators of emotion.
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