Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
There are certain women that I seek out when I watch movies. Women who I make plans to watch and re-watch.
I am not discussing stars. Sometimes it may happen that she is a woman known by her star persona, but that's not what attracts me. I'm thinking of Natalie Wood in SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS or Ingrid Bergman in STROMBOLI. More specifically though, I'm confessing when and how I watch certain women. I scope out the right film tone, the right type of music or narrative detail, the right hair style on her head...maybe I remember something that happened to her that the film forgot to mention.
These are the women i drill myself into , I hunt them and I find them-- those handful of ladies who turn out this portal of a performance, one ripe for me to fill and usurp with personal psychological projections.
There is still a part of me that is too immature to readily admit the extent of these crimes I've committed. I am, after all, a rarefied NYC film goer, aren't I? A cinephile, or a BFA in Cinema Studies or whatever waste of the English language you want to dribble on me.
Laying bare, I am also a woman who is unable to not take on the personal and SECRET task of compartmentalizing a certain dream. For all the films I see, day in and day out, I have a small part of my mind reserved for finding those films with those women...where the dress and the smell is right and i can take those films for myself...to lose myself to, to cry with, to erase.
If I want to kill these films it is because I want to kill myself.
Just vaguely. Not technically.
I only want to escape my problems and so instead of living a fully actualized life I hide inside movies. I really hide. Not just in the movie theaters, but also inside these certain films.
One such film is MILLENNIUM MAMBO.
I watch it now, because I'm looking to fall.
Its protagonist Vicky (Shu Qi) is some strange step sister to Anna Karina's Nana in VIVRE SA VIE.
Vicky is in trouble but she is also tiptoeing , running away and saving her tomorrows in a way that never worked out for Nana. Vicky is surely in danger but she is safe, and we know this at the beginning, in that most magical of sequences while she dances while she walks to the wonderful electronic music. walking is a dance because she is alone and she is free. Her narration tells us in the opening moments that she saved money for herself and she waited for a time to use it as a reason to get away from him.
These introductory moments slayed me in 2002 or 2004 or whenever it was this film finally opened in NYC, at Cinema Village on 12th street.
Several moviegoers walked out in the first half hour, but certainly not me! Not I who so clearly fell in love and in suicidal erasure projection mode with this wispy pretty girl who was so late 90s in her ear 20sness ...so dreamy and gauzy , and she was newly freed, as was I!
There is something foundational and unerasable about the colors and the way they bleat and whisper, running over the film's characters. The sound is used similarly and it creates a harmony that marries the experience, or rather MY experience of this film to my own sense of myself at a particular time and place. Please, let me give you some idea of how it does this:
About twelve or thirteen minutes into the film, following scenes of social nights out and the dulled, industrial feeling of a techno nightclub circa 2000, Vicky and Hao -hao have come home for the night. Post intoxication, post scenes where almost no relations between characters are established and no dialogue seems discernable or worthwhile. ....now comes a domestic moment as the young couple returns home. Vicky undresses to her white bra, and then puts on a red hooded sweatshirt.
Hsien's colors count time.
Later in the film, maybe a half hour or so after this scene, Vicky is again seen wearing red while voiceover is narrating her story of Hao-hao. She is working as a sensual dancer in what she describes as a "Hostess Club", and she says she worked for money (she moves erotically , in an upscale scene, spreading her legs in nothing but an elegant red thong.) and Hao -hao never liked it, most likely because he never really had his own work.
Back to the scene with the red sweatshirt...So lurking in the bedroom is Hao hao, who seems as if he is alone. He puts on music, reacting to it and taking more drugs to it. He sits on a bed in the back of the frame, with a look lost inside intoxication, and Vicky straightens up silently near the foreground.
The first moments of this domestic scene carry over from the one that proceeds it. There are those cool colors like the ones from inside the club...the violets, piercing white yellows, the white blues. Here are the blurred out glowing blobs that act as sources of light in the dance club, places lacking real color and smells. But here we are at home, close up, and so the lights are large blurs that lack the busy movements between presence and absence that occur with the nightclub strobes. Here they flicker in concentric light sources; flourescent desk bulbs and home computers.
As the scene progresses the music bridges as well, though it is less happy and more spare. It sounds like bits of melodies which start out as subtle warnings, coming in just after a bit of violence or just before a meaningful voiceover comment. The colors and shapes of the home become slightly more defined and less expressionist as the tension and the narrated reflections build in tempo.
Actions in the present tense (which are detailed in parentheses in the following paragraph) both inform and inflect the narration , from the future, which tells of the past. From a (which i believe is Vicky speaking in third person) voiceover narration on the start of the relationship with Hao-hao : "They'd go into the toilet together, take drugs, and get high to a certain level. She first met Hao-hao in a disco on He Ping Road called "Spin." That day she and Xuan-xuan planned to go to a karaoke club with friends. But the girls were stood up. Hao-hao and his friends started chatting to them. Asked them to sing. (Hao -hao interrupts by walking over to her and suddenly elbowing her, causing her body to be kicked left of the film frame) She noticed that...(camera pans slowly left to now show them both in a two shot) Hao-hao was staring at her all evening. (He puts a hand to her head, pushing it to the left, expanding film frame further as he shouts something. Vicky puts his hand down-gives a pointed soul baring look and he stares back) Shyly, without saying anything. (He walks to just the right of the film frame , just showing Vicky , looking at him, he calls out nastily"What are you looking at?" There is a beat of silence then he grabs her arm again as narration resumes...) She never finished high school. (They struggle, she is trying to keep his arm off her) He stopped her sitting the final exam, (She gets his hand off her and sits down so frame is on her sitting, continuing to straighten up the table with Hao-hao seen in a torso shot as he stands, looking over.) they were in a motel together. (She stays at table as he walks slowly back into his room, in frame's background.) He deliberately didn't wake her. He didn't want her to take the exam. He was afraid she'd move on if she did. (She walks to the right, past end of film frame; Hao-hao in background, sitting on bed, watching, forlorn, now coming into clearer focus.) Later, they began living together in a rented apartment in Taipei. Neither of them had a job. "
The scene for the story moves into a loudly lit (cool neons-violets + horizon pink) techno coated night club.
The narration tells of him stealing his father's Rolex and how his father came to question him. We see him and Vicky flirting but they look like children and they are intoxicated, him especially.
The narration fades and so does the music and they are fucking quietly in a bed, but all we see is smothered noises and a face. There are two suns, like in a fantasy..two sun spots in the dark bedroom-both goldish yellow and they move around the right side of the frame which is otherwise warm and dull and brown or grey, i can't even be sure which because it does not matter.
I think that overidentification is selfish and it sabotages the art and experience of watching the film without the purpose of erasing it to hold court in it's walls. It is unfair to the FILMS..the things I adore. It's unattractive, self obsessive and narcissistic to boot.
So I admit this to you and I think this is the first level of acceptance. There will have to be more uncovering and investigation to come.
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