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movie

Krzysztof Kieslowski, "Double life of Veronique"

Yesterday's entry ended without completing the point--one of my friends told me, "what a hell?" so I try to continue a bit more for picking up some movies by Kieslowski.


The reason why I mentioned to read about my past entry about Daniel Libeskind and his project, "Jewish Museum," is that I wanted to tell a larger theme, which leads to the same position. A worn out words, such as "connection" or "relationship" should be reinterpreted once again to think not just about their meaning, but how they should be used and what they really mean to us when we use them.

I quote a paragraph here.

"Any dialectic description of history is derived only by abandoning the 'externality/objectivity' distinctive to historicism. Historical Materialists have to eliminate the epical aspect of a history. History is the object to be reconstructed for historical materialists, but the project space is not a vacant timeline, but it is forming a definitive period, a definite life, and a definitive piece of work. Historical materialists abstract a time period by blowing up a "historical sequency" in a material world, and by doing so, they abstract a life from a time period, and a piece of work from a lifelong work. However, the accomplishment of this reconstruction is achieved only when a lifelong work is held within a piece of work, a time period is held within a lifelong work, a course of history is held in a time period."
Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

What I have been trying to say is concentrated in this short paragraph. The architecture of "monogatari=mono+gatari" by Libeskind's projects, (a japanese word "monogatari" is made up of two chinese characters, mono=an object and ga(ka)tari=telling a story--here I am making up a new word with a new meaning, "a story telling through an object) or the hidden matters under the shadow of "ruins," and the "reproduction of a story and a matter" by the reconstructing, reproducting, reassembling fragment of time periods through a film media--these are all the results of recollecting the notion of "connection" and "relationship" through imagining, reconstructing, and reassembling with your own spirit. In other words, it is to get out from the viewpoint of a bystander. Only by experiencing the difficulty and the pain of reproducing through your spirit, the process and the activities "connect" the people, the past, today, and the future get "related" to become a culture that communicates and carry down even the intangible material. I hope to believe that such culture has a broad range of continuous flow to accept us all. And I imagine that we can find the place to return and sail off.


There is a movie by Kieslowski, titled as "Double life of Veronique." I read a criticism about this movie saying "a preposterous fantasy," without seeing the depth and the meaning of details, which actually made me think further about this movie, about Kieslowski, about Poland, about culture, etc.

It is a story about two "Veronique" who were both born on the same day in different places, who were named the same, who look almost exactlly the same, who live in Paris and Warsaw now. Although they were born in different places with completely different background, they have similarities and somehow they believe in the existence of other self. As they grow up, they begin to feel the existence of other self, and after an accidental rendezvous with each other, the lives of two begin to dramatically change--it is an allegorical story.

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The movie presents the calmness of traditional Europe, with some fantastical scenes. Veronique in Poland has some problem in her health, but she has a beautiful singing voice. She belongs to a female choir, and she is selected as a solo vocal to perform in a concert with an orchestra.
Velonique in Paris teaches music in an elementally school but she always feels somewhat empty. One day, she meets with a mysterious man who performed a puppet play at school. He is a creator of an illustrated book, and also a puppet artisan who creates a puppet for his own puppet play.
I stop here about the story and the background....This movie makes me feel that something important is being lost, but at the same time that something eixists quietly in the atmospher, like an invisible air. Both sensations seem to be mixed and coexisting.

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In Warsaw--Veronique is in a train car. She noticed that the passing outside scenery is distorted at the uneven surface of the window. An old cathedral in a distance is slowly crossing in her view with that distortion effect. Then she turns her eyes to the side of a camera, as if she realized with a gaze of someone--it might suggests that she knows the existence of other self in a different world.
She takes out a sphere plastic ball and look through the scenery. A town view looks upside-down in the ball, distorted by the sphere as if it is captured into the ball. This scene makes me feel that the long history of Europe reappear in my eyes like a scroll picture, and the townscape hiding such history behind seemed to be realized inside of my mind. Or, the world seen through and captured in the sphere is the metaphor of the different world where the other Veronique lives, and the sphere connects the two different world of Veroniques'.

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The cinematographer of this movie creating the warm, fantastical, beautiful visual images is Slawomir Idziak who often worked together with Kieslowski. He also shot "Short film about killing" with Kieslowski. The lighting of those two movies are controlled dramatically with filters, but he produced a warm, sepia space in "Double life~," and a harshly contrasting shadowy lighting that is overcasting the space in "Short film~," which are completely different. He later shot "Blackhawk Down" with Ridly Scott, with the popular washed off silver finish with satulated colors and strong contrast--his cinematography might have influence to produce such visual.

And the scene that those two accidentally meet. The movie is set up in 1968, when the storm of student movement is active also in Poland. An open square is filled with rioting young people--within the uproaring atmosphere, Veronique of Poland found Veronique of Paris in a car, as Veronique of Paris was visiting Warsaw. Veronique of Paris is taking photos of this square filled with students and does not notice with another Veronique.
The scene captures the dramatic moment of the period like a documentally film, as Kieslowski inserted the accidental (or not) encounter of the two. The quiet flow of time over the depth of European history suddenly crosses with the dramatic condition of today's society--this is a very keen illustration of what Europe is.
Veronique of Paris later finds somebody in photos, who looks very alike, or who is identical to her.

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In Kieslowski movies, something seemingly accidental or something seemingly detached but actually connected--relates each other to tell a whole story. It is required to keep connecting the gap between the viewpoint of the camera and the object/subject, and to to do so, editing and reconstructing the bits and pieces of stories and images has to be done carefully. That is not just for the creator, but it is also asked for the audience's side. As I have been always saying, what it means to see, feel, think, recognize, has to be reinterpreted by the audience to elevate it to your own experience, as a media like movie often tends to prevent from feeling and thinking by a overtalking, crafty story line.
The way someone dealt with this movie through the words "a preposterous fantasy" might have come from the mind that looks down upon this movie by staying securely at the position of a bystander. This is not just for watching a movie, but what we can see in this attitude is the lack of imagination to relate what we see and what the subject really is. What Banjamin tried to describ by the words 'externality' or 'objectivity' can be reinterpreted that being in and keeping such secure position reflects the luck of initiative and voluntary involvement by passively receiving what is presented. A word 'fantasy' suggests the mind that settles for his narrowed standard of judgement, or a denial to understand something beyond his awareness standard---this reveals the "obviation principle."
What was the actual reason for wanting to create a film, or to watch a movie? Is a movie media getting more like an automatic and stereotyped stimulant, just allowing the passive acceptance of a ready-made products with a priscription of "how to enjoy this movie?"

I want to mention a theme that Kieslowski repeatedly used throughout his movies.
There is a repeated scene that an old lady is walking on the street in shaky feet, and a camera (the viewpoint of the audience) follows her from distance. In "Double life of Veronique," Veronique found an old lady carrying a heavy bags full of daily on the street visible from her room. That old lady and Veronique has nothing to do with each other as a stranger, and the distance of two seems to be so very far away. Veronique calls on her that she would help from the window, but that lady doesn't hear and notice.
There is a similar scene in "Rouge" of the series "Tricolor," (acted also by Irene Jacob) that an old lady is trying to push an empty bottle into a litter box, which is too high for elders. Those old ladies are described as socially vulnerable people who are often overlooked, or left without help. In this case in "Rouge," Valentine ( main character performed by Jacob) helps that old lady. The bystander viewpoint of the camera suddenly nears to that lady by shifting to the mind of Valentine, and the distance is voluntary narrowed with a new connection and relationship.
By weaving those small scenes, those scattered pieces gradually form a whole picture of this world knitted by a universal humane theme. Or in other worlds, we should naturally realize this world is the gathering of each individual piece of an invisible and consequential story produced by each of us.

The posthumous work of Kieslowski, three series movies of "Tricolor," are also the stories of people who are connected by a subtle bonds. Beyond the time and places, various relationships begin to get realized and colored by stories. (I would write about these movies later)
At the end of the last movie of the three, "Rouge," all the main characters of "Tricolor" series get together in a fateful consequence. It is easy to call it as a play of a movie making--but I want to think this scene is the farewell message by Kieslowski who decide to end his film career with this series, speaking about his anchanged idea for the consequence of our existence in this world. Spiritual relief and rejoice--in Rouge, an aged man tired for life is relieved and saved by fiinding a joy in his mind once again as he noticed with a connection to outside world. He sheds tears for himself, and for someone, which he had forgotten to do. And that tears, are exactly the tears of Kieslowski himself. The last quiet tears for the life and this world--I also wanted to accept it in my own rejoice to this world.
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movie

Poland, of Wajda and Kieslowski

On March 13, 1996, one of the most prominent Polish film directer Krzysztof Kieslowski died--it has been just 10 years since then. He tried to see the reality of Poland, its culture, its history through those ordinally people with ordinally lives--and made us relize with the universal reason for life and our existence. Yet, the particular history of Poland made me think of someone like Kieslowski, or Andrzej Wajda who produced those films that tell us what Poland really is.

--I've learned that "Poland" means a "flat land." In the long history of Europe, this small country has been destined to go through harsh histories, as the naturally defenseless flat land had allowed other countries to invade the land. In that sense, Poland reflects the virtuality of the concept of borders. In 19th century, this country was divided into pieces by the interference of those powering European countries Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Once again, Poland dissapeared from the map of Europe, and it existed only through an ethnic identity with an intangible cultures and language without a homeland.

In "Ashes and Diamonds," filmed by a Polish film directer Andrzej Wajda, there is a scene that Polish people dance "Military Polonaise" of Chopin on the day when Poland was freed from Nazi dominance. This is a memorable scene to reflect the suffering of Poland throughout its history and longing for the independence and freedom.

I would start from Chopin, then.
Frederic Chopin was born in a small town ?elazowa Wola, Poland in 1810. In 1830 when he was 20 years old, he left to Vienna for concert tour, but just one month after he had left, the historical "November Uprise" against the dominance of Russia in Warsaw. It failed to succeed and the opportunity to achieve independence was lost completely. It is famous that Chopin seeded to compose "Revolution Etude" (Etude No.12 in c minor, Op.10) after hearing this tragic news. He could no longer be able to return to his home country, and he never did until his death at 39--his sorrow and loneliness is strongly reflected in his life and music.

Poland was freed to be independent again by the defeat of Germany in World War I and Russian Revolution, but it was once again invaded by Germany and Soviet Union after the beginning of Word War II. Under the Nazi control, Polish government exiled to London, and the Polish culture was suppressed and destroyed. Of course, the symbol of Polish culture, Polonaise--a nobility dance--was not allowed to be played and danced.

Nazi and Soviet executed to erase their ethic identity, too, with Holocaust, Auschwitz, Majdanek, (Poland was a country with multiple ethnic races at that time--people were forced to eliminate each other race during the war--even harsher to kill your neighbor) and Zbrodnia katy?ska (4000 Polish army officers were found dead at katy?ska, Russia in 1943--it was unclear whether that was executed by Nazi or Soviet Union, but after the Cold War, the investigation found it was done by Soviet with more than 25,000 executions without trials, and more incidents similar to this were found--over 50,000 polish army captives were shot to death) The Warsaw uprise at the end of the war in August, 1944 lasted 63 days with the loss of 200,000 lives. (filmed by Wajda as "Kanal") The population of Warsaw was decreased to 150,000 from 1,500,000 before the war.


To be honest, it is too overwhelming to really imagine the severity and harshness of such history beyond my ability to imagine. What I can do is to make myself aware of the various emotions film at the scene of the Polonaise dance. Yet, the power of a culture accumulated till this moment---here it is the music of Chopin, Polonaise dance, and this media of film and movie--is bold and strong to be shared by all of us human beings. People in the scene danced the noble and graceful Polonaise that symbolized the pride of their identity and culture, with the lost souls of resistance against the absurdity.
It tells us that "Poland" was the invisible tie of shared culture and people, and although it kept going through the tough time under the influence of Soviet Union, Poland gradually united tighter and stronger, as described by the activities of Mi?dzyzak?adowy Komitet Strajkowy, the Strike Coordination Committee.

Kieslowski and Wajda continued to capture the reality of Poland under communism frame. The film by Kieslowski that I introduced earlier, "A short film about killing," describes that a mind of a youth is distorted by a society, and the society eliminates the distortion in the name of justice.

However, what they really and always wanted to show is the meaning of the existence of ourselves, and the meaning of our relationship, the connection to the world and people. The invisible tie among us reappears with a coincidence and consequence of an encounter, which becomes the reason for our existence. (In Chinese character, the words "human beings" are written in two characters, "man" and "between") That is the foundation of a culture, a nation, an ideology, an identity---and the various stories of each of us. Poland was their field and background of their own stories, and they kept capturing those through their films.

I wanted to write more about Kieslowski, but I will continue in next entry. I want to mention other past entries, especially the one I wrote about an architect, Daniel Libeskind.

movie

Ghost in the Shell series

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今では世界中でカルト的人気を誇るようになった映画監督押井守が、漫画家士郎正宗のコミック作品をもとにすでに2作のアニメ映画を作った。アメリカでもビデオ売り上げ1位を記録し、多くのフォロワーを生み出してきた。今回は「攻殻機動隊~Ghost in the Shell」コミック版、テレビシリーズ、映画版、そして映画版2作目の「イノセンス」をもとに書いてみようと思う。

コミック作者の士郎正宗は、エンターテイメントとしての枠を保ちながら、人間の精神活動を抽象的な存在としてではなく、様々な形で具象化することを試みている。近未来に訪れるであろう身体のサイボーグ化と、それに伴う精神と肉体のさらなる乖離を描くことで、普遍的な問いである人間の精神と肉体の関係がいったん解体され、問いとともに組み直される。

 主人公は高度な身体能力を得るために、自らの脳以外の全身をサイボーグ化(義体化)する。それを可能にするのは、すべての精神活動の仕組みが科学的(化学的)に解明され、デジタル化されることによる。デジタルデータ化/コンテンツ化された精神活動ーー思考や夢、記憶、欲求などーーは、コピーすることもできるし、模倣したり新たに作り出すこともできる。現在我々が「ヴァーチャル」といって区別できる仮想世界は、高度化すればするほど、我々人間はそれを「現実」と認識し始めるだろう。現代でも、音楽のCDによる再生や、ホームシアターのサラウンド再生など、かなりのレベルの仮想経験が体験できるようになった。「アナログ」という概念も、人の認識の上でのものでしかないのかも知れず、身体による知覚とその認識のプロセスが、電子デバイスによる状況情報の高度なデジタル化と違うのかどうかーーもしデジタル化の精度が人間の身体能力の限界を超えたとき、その差異は定かではなくなるかもしれない。
 0と1というデジタルの基準は確かに抽象的だ。しかし、例えば音を例にとってみれば、それをアナログであると定義する空気振動にしても物理現象としてはサイン波、コサイン波といったデジタル的な波動の変形の結果である。それを受け止める人間の耳はそのデジタル的な波動を受け止めたのちデジタルな電気信号に変換して脳に送り、その電気信号が音として認識される。それを純粋にアナログ的プロセスと定義できるのかどうか。
 人間脳の活動が基本的には電気的パルス以外の何ものでもない、人間の精神活動もパルスの伝達とその記録保存に「すぎない」と言い切ってしまうことに従来の哲学感では倫理的な問題を感じてきた。しかし科学的見地に立てば、パルス伝達そのものの構造や伝導プロセスに人間の能力としての存在意義を見いすことができる。実際現代科学が解明する人間の、あるいは我々を取り巻く自然の能力は計り知れないし、それを目の当たりにすることは神秘的ですらある。その上で、我々人間は持てる技術によって、その能力をさらに拡大する方向に向かうかもしれない。近い未来、我々はその行為に対する倫理問題に再び立ち会うことになるだろう。

そういった意味で、このシリーズのテーマである「義体化」のまず最初のポイントは「知覚」におかれる。知覚という時点で既に、入力情報は電気パルスとして伝達され、それを認知し記録するのは「脳細胞ネットワーク」でできた「インターフェイスの構造」である。「攻殻機動隊」ではそれら一式を組み込み納める身体とその活動を「個人/ゴースト」とするわけだ。だから、高度なサイボーグ社会では、個人もさらに大きなインターフェイス構造に直結することで、個人という限界を超えるインフラが近未来に整備されることはインターネットの普及を見ても容易に想像できる。
「攻殻機動隊」によく出てくる、有線による外部ネットワークへのアクセスもその「構造」と階層化の概念化をわかりやすく説明する。「外部ネットワーク」へのアクセス自体が、自分の中で物事を認識するための「脳構造」へのアクセスと、システムとしては同列になっていくのだ。シリーズを通して出てくる、アクセス制限を超えて侵入してくる悪意のある侵入者に制裁を加える「攻性防壁」も、ネットワーク構造間での障壁と構造自体のどちらが上位性を主張するかという問題を喚起していて面白いし、TVの2ndシリーズのテーマである、「ネットワークの集積化=外部記憶の集中化」を移民問題などのタイムリーな社会問題と絡めて考えた時、新たなカリスマ性や求心力の生まれ得る状況として注目している点が面白い。

その上で、「攻殻機動隊」がユニークなのは、そういった高度構造体がネットワークで膨大な外部記憶情報の海の中から新たな独立した存在を生み出すかもしれないし、それが生命の定義を根底から覆すかもしれない、というようなパンクな提案をしているところだ。宗教世界とは実はそんな高度ネットワークの上位体であり、その上位体へのチャネリング(...)による宗教体験が一部で経験されてきたのが宗教ではないかなどといろいろエンターテイメントな提案を作者はしている。サイバーパンクの到達点として、そこは過去のパターンを突き抜けていて面白い。

 「個人」の集まりでない、高度な知覚/記憶インターフェイスを持つ人工的な外部ネットワーク/外部記憶が実現した時、言い換えれば自発的に機能するAIのような存在となった時、では人間の「精神」と呼ばれるもののAIに対する優位や差異はあるのだろうか? バーチャルという疑似体験の真偽が今後ますますあいまいになっていく中で、記憶の意味とはなにか? そして「記憶」と「記録」の差異は残るのだろうか?
 ロボットやAIの人間への隷属化は、よくSF映画のテーマとなることからもわかるように起ることが予想できる問題だし、彼らが人間の欲望や利己主義の受け皿としての存在になることは想像に難くない。「イノセンス」では、人型タイプのロボットは、人が新しい関係を持つためものとして作り出すロボットが人の形に似せて作られることの意味を問うものとして用いられている。人間が自身の存在を「ゴースト」という精神活動の源となる神秘的存在によって実存を定義するもの、という考え方が倫理的立場からなくなることはないだろうことを考えると、ロボットやAIはその点に固執することで差異化、言い換えれば差別化される。「イノセンス」では、ロボットが「ヒトに似ている」と認識できるレベルに形態がとどめられ、完全に人型であることを意図的に避ける人間の利己的な一面を見せる一方で、義体化を押し進め、疑似体験に埋もれるヒトは、自己を確立する定義や現実の欠如につねにさらされることを描き、人間存在定義そのもののあいまいさをあぶり出す。
 「イノセンス」の中で、登場人物(バトーとトグサ)が何かと啓句や詩句を口にするのは、「外部記憶」に瞬時にアクセスして引用するようになることで我々人間が思考ではなく情報を蓄積/記録し、それをピックアップするだけの思考停止状態へ陥るという既に現実となりつつある現実を示しているのではないだろうか。百科事典的な記録へ人間が従属することになるというのはアレキサンダー大王の太古から言われてきたこととはいえ、インターネットは万人に外部記憶化を促す最大のきっかけとなったことは疑いがない。それ故に、ブログという新しいツールが、忘備録的側面だけでなく、つながりの連鎖、人と人との間をつなぐものになることを願いたい。

 「攻殻機動隊」が描き出す世界は、ある意味既に現実化してきている状況だ。「我思う、故に我あり」とは、現代においては警句であるのかも知れない。最後に、いくつかの啓句で締めくくりたい。これも、百科事典的「引用」に過ぎないのだけれども。

"To be is to do."  ソクラテス
”To do is to be."   サルトル
”Do be do be do" フランク・シナトラ

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Durian Durian~transformation of China

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Durian, Durian. Directer: Fruit Chan. Hong Kong, 2000

The movie starts out with the introduction of a young girl Yan--she was from the northern city of mainland China, Mudanjiang to the special economic zone Shen Zhen as an emigrant worker. Now she came to Hong Kong with a visitors visa effective for just three weeks even without telling her family, to save a large sum of money--she is working as a prostitute.

The movie doesn't depict the stereotypical scenery of Hong Kong by comparing the super modern skyscrapers and the crowded market on the street. Yan's field of activities is restricted to her apartment where she waits for the call from brokers, and the hotel rooms she spends some time. The energy and time to visit those busy downtown street filled with young people of her age is not left for Yan.
Camera follows Yan without getting too involved with who she is and what she is thinking. Yan with full of youth just eats and wash men's body and sleeps with them and falling asleep right after coming home. Without the space for the audience to get emotionally involved, the backstreet of Hong Kong is so complete as the world of itself.

On this backstreet house, a family that also came from Shen Zhen is living. Although the father of this family has a problem and disability in his leg, he already saved up some money and he even bought a house in Shen Zhen, but he came back to Hong Kong illegally for easier life by taking whole family with him. A young daughter Fhan, her mother and her younger brother wash dishes to receive small money for living.

Fhan sometimes see Yan going home, always with a broker following her to supervise. For Fhan, who is also restricted to stay within the dark backstreet for hiding from police investigation for illegal stay, Yan and the broker are the few connection to the outside world. One day when police came for the investigation, Yan and Fhan hid behind a wall together, and after the police left, they talk each other for the first time. For Yan, Fhan is like a small young sister--in the busy life of working, knowing someone innocent like Fhan might be the only rest Yan might have received.

After the expiration of her visa in Hong Kong, she went back to her hometown in mainland. She cut her hair that she dyed for her job in Hong Kong--which completely transformed her to another person from the prostitute in Hong Kong, and now she blends into the atmospher of the quiet hometown.
She is looking for a new apartment with her fiance Xiao-min. The apartment is not fancy, but it is quiet and decent to build a life, unlike the jumble of Hong Kong apartment just for sleeping. Within the new life after coming home, the untold mind of Yan is gradually revealed.


In Hong Kong, even if the living environment was horifying, she could earn so much more than her in her hometown. However, everyone has a decent average life even without such big money--the life level itself is quite stable and wealthy. Yan begins to think about building a normal life--she thinks about starting her own business, or she remembers the memories of studying at a theater school in town.
But Yan had already earned and saved up too much money for living here--it is useless to run business here for such a little income. Of course, she wants to do a business for finding a place her mind rather than for living, but there is nothing interesting enough to push her. Looking at the big money in her bank note, she was afraid of not knowing what to do for the future. After overcoming the economic hardship, she realized with the neccessity to think about herself for the reason to live. The uncertainty of herself put her into moratorium--this keenly captured the mind of those younger Chinese generation who receives the economical affluence. This is also the problem that swallowed young people in Japan.

I was suprised to see the transformation of Yan from Hong Kon days to the Yan in her hometown. It might be the intention of the directer, and the delicate construction of this movie eliminates the stereotypical depiction of a tough people in mainland China living in a quiet life and the energy of Hong Kong at the bottom level.

I remember those young teenage girls just hanging around everywhere in the city--in the shopping mall, empty cafe, souvenir store without visitors--without the place to visit and play around for young people. (2/3 of the population in Shen Zhen were female, and the average age was 17 years old in 2003) They were taken from the surrounding countryside to this special economic zone, and sitting in the ground floor of an empty building. They will never become the consumer--they might get consumed as products like Yan was so they are just waiting--or they won't even have such chance and opportunity. The low temperature of their mind as they were thrown off into such void and emptiness---I can not argue about the energy of youth, the energy of growth by seeing them as a third person from outside of the issues.

At home, Yan doesn't speak about the life in Hong Kong. One day, she was told from her aunt that Yan's younger cousin wants to study dance in Hong Kong so she wants Yan to take her and live there together. Yan can not honestly support that idea. Yan also receives phone calls from her colleagues in Hong Kong telling her to come back for the job, but she no longer wants to go back and do the same. Her insecurity begins to affects the life arround her--she soon gets divorced with Xiao-min. The stoies and descriptions illustrated around these scenes migh be telling that the sense of values about a family, the relationship between parents and chilcren, begin to shift or change even in the countryside of China.

Of course, seeing her close friends of the same generation makes her feel at home even if there are inevitable differences in the ways they think today. There is a scene, that they sing a folky song going outside of the town along with a railroad. The song is very generous hearted for the mind of today's, telling the open and natural daily life and the humorous relationship of the past people. Yan playfully sings that song by herself to the wide open field---a steam locomotive passes by--what a different scenery from the crowded Hong Kong street! The way she sings that song looks like she wants to laugh at the past and forget, or she is trying to cover up the feeling of emptiness for what she did and the money she saved up.

It is also true that for someone lie Yan, who once lived inside of the shadow of a modern city, might harshly experience the light and dark of the civilization and see the vanity side of it. The way she handled those man (more like a sport) was not the depiction of such stereotypical "hardiness=the energy of a city, Hong Kong," but the ironic illustration of an urban reality--a cheap gambling of lives and their container as a city, behind its seemingly flamboyant but skin-deep appearance. Yan took hundreds of men as customers, waves and waves of emptiness--she just brushed off one by one without much thought. The life behind the skin-deep....it was a quite dry humor.

In this movie, there are many metapholic plots--Durian in the movie title might be the metaphor of some important theme. Durian is a popular fruit produced in south eastern Asia, with a thick, spiny shell--it is very hard to open up the shell, and the inside of the shell has a quite strong smell.
In one scene at Hong Kong, Fhan's father brought one Durian home for his family telling he really liked when he had one. But he had hard time opening the fruit, and even though he succeeded, that smell was unpopular among his family members.

Durian is called "the king of a fruit." People know its name. But not many people have experience of actually eating it. It has such a unique appearance unlike other fruit, and facing to that large spiny looks, people will wonder what it is, and how to eat--it is even courageous to say in front of the hard shell, "let's open it" or with that strong, intense smell, "let's eat it." (actually, I never had one)
Yan received a boxed Durian from Fhan as a gift, a nice and warm surprise for Yan. She tries to share it with her family and her friends, but nobody has experience of eating it, so nobody even knows how to eat it. A friend succeeded to open it, but the smell prevented them from eating it. This sounds like a metaphor that something seemingly nice and new is brought in, but nobody knows how to deal with it until it's niceness is discovered--the metaphoric depiction of the relationship between the modern Hong Kong, and the countryside China.

It reminded me of a Chinese aphoristic story. There is a wise sage who has knowledge but he keeps sielnt and doesn't act, and an ordinally who just takes things in front of him without questioning. But there is also a fool, who breakes the established rules and start acting. In front of Durian, we are asked to become one of them--Durian is like a touchstone to wait for some fool to show up. The scene of Yan or her relavites having hard time dealing with Durin might be reflecting the confusing and difficult future of China and its people.


There was another metaphoric episode of Yan---as she was working in Hong Kong, she washes the body of men, so the skin of her hands keep peeling off. One customer, a young punk with a tatoo on his back, talks about the tatoo to Yan. "It wasn't that difficult to get the tatoo--it was painful when it is carved, but that's only when it is painful." This seems like that the punk, an image of a cheesy reality of Hong Kong, got something cheap for his cheap brain, but he is now unescapable from such limited and restricted world by what he got--while Yan, with her youth and energy, the damaged skin just peels off and it is recovered, the new life can begin.

The ending of this movie is the scene of a classical Chinese opera on an outdoor stage in Mudanjiang. It seems that the dancer is Yan, as she might have decided to return to her root. It is not something that we can say that is a happy ending or not--this movie itself was not very "movie" like with straightforward story line and well composited pieces of episodes, and the ending suggests the confusing condition itself of China and its people. The road of a trial and error that they have to take is suggested through this movie.


Those Chinese movies before were typical to present a happy ending or a tragic ending, which is to summarize the movie as a complete story. That enables the audience to easily define the relationship between the story and ourself--for example, the epic story of the past with a tragic ending gives you a catharsis of emotion through nostalgy. That is that and is enjoyable but there is now a new generation who realized that such method of movie making can not describe the reality of today.


Among other Hong Kong based film maker, Won Ka-wai illustrates the dry, inward depression and ennui suddenly outpour with agression, while he elevates its keeness by stylized visual image and editing.
On the contrary, Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-Hsien looks at the characters with such dryness or depression in their mind from outside with a distance. Sometimes the eyes of the camera is steel cold, but the distance itself can become cold or transparent, or warm and close depending on how each audience approachs to the characters.
Judging from the change in Asian film making, a stereotypical illustration of Asian cities can no longer describe what the today's Asia is. What do you say, my asian friends?

P.S. Later I learned this movie is a series of three movies by Fruit Chan. I watched others, too so wait for another review.

movie

Talk to her/ Body and mind

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The director of this movie, Pedro Almod?var, keeps a constant theme throughout his movies.

In his movie, such social "taboo" in a society or those people who are outside of the social standard are place in the center. It is the foundation to build up stories that those peopel living in a shadow of the society are the weaks dealt harshly and absurdry. That might be one reason that he picks up the characters such as gays, transsexual, transvestite at its extreme, but at the same level, he deals with a sexual abuse by a Catholic Father, or a single mother who divorced herself. (Bad Education, All about my mother

However, the reason that he pays closer attention to gays, transsexual, or gender identity disorder, seems to be more fundamental to human nature. His movie has colorful and interesting stories, so that his movies have some danger to highlight and appeal only the aspect of such sgrangeness and its friction with others to keep going the interesting storyline. We can appreciate his movie as a drama of those people and their lives living at the edge of social taboos, but I often felt that he is trying to ask more existential issue of human being--the relationship between a body and a spirit under the skin of such dramas.

A Body as a container of a spirit often defines the position and the status in a society or in a daily life. The simplest distinction between a man and a woman is however the clearest but the most essential, important one. Then, for those who have more complicated background such as gay and transsexual, or more complicated transvestite, what does "a body" mean for his/her (.....very complicated!) spirit?

In Talk to her, the movie illustrates the relationship among those characters who make us think over that question of a body and a spirit. For example, the movie begins with a dance scene choreographed and performed by Pina Bausch, the choreographer of Tanztheater Wuppertal, Germany. The scene describes the body of Pina Bausch as a mirror to reflect and represent the spiritual space.

Her body movement constantly transform the materiality of the performing space--those chairs, placed like obstacles, are influenced by her movement as if the space is transformed by the movement of her body and her spirit. (Another man seems to receive the spiritual pulse from her and predict the possibilities of transformation--he pushes away those chairs in front of her) Another female dancer also follows the spiritual wave filled with the space.
The scene also affects an audience, one of the characters of this movie, Marco, and he quietly shed tears.

Marco can not cut off his feeling toward a woman in the past relationship. Even though the memories occupy a large space in his heart, the absence of her body creates an unreachable gap between them.

One day, Marco meets a female torero, Lydia as he interviewed about "lidia." (Bullfight is sometimes called lidia) Both have been trying to escape from their past, and by an accident they gradually get closer.
Lydia is living in the bullfight, which is normally the field of men. However, within the ceremonial space of a bullfight in the face of death, the notion of gender, being man or a woman, looses its meaning. A scene captures the moment to wear and equip with the ceremonial attire that transforms a person, a woman, to "lidia." It might contain the ciriticism toward the absurd prejudice and surface stereotype by a general public against transsexuals or transvestie.

By an accident in the fight, she fell into a coma. Marco was devastated--he knows that he is in an extreme grief as her mind and spirit might have been destroyed, but at the same time he is troubled to understand the fact that her body is still remained and the basic function of her body is still working. Marco can not accept the body with a lost spirit as Lydia.

In the same clinic Lydia is admitted, there is another young woman in a coma called Alicia, who also once was a ballet dancer, and Benigno, who nurses and cares Alicia. Benigno was in love with Alicia before she fell in a coma, and now he nurses Alicia with his all heart. Marco and Benigno understand each other for both having her lovers lost in a coma, and the friendship becomes the next core of the story.

Even though Alicia is in an anawakened sleep, her body stil keeps its youth and beauty. Benigno keeps talking to the sleeping Alicia--he tells all the story of himself, his experiences and his life, his heart for Alicia, and as the sign of his love, he cares Alicia with all of his heart. Often his cares to clean or massage her body look very sexual for others--however, the fact that he is a nurse, and Alicia is in a coma, and also his lie that he told to his colleagues as he is a gay does not ask and question his affectionate caring more than his passion for his job.
This scene illustrates how we are tied in an uncertain and vague relationship based on a thin lines of balance. It also asks the audience whether the relationship between Alicia, who is in a coma without the ability to escape from the unwilling relationship, and Benigno, who believes his behavior is the result of a platonic love, is abnormal or pure human relationship. Where does that judgement come from, whehter it is from your own emotional reaction, or from the common sense we learn by living inside of a society--?

One short silent film inserted with this movie also represented the detachment of a body and spirit world. A couple faces an absurd problem, as a man begins to shrink in its physical size. Even if the spirit and feeling does not dissapear, her body might crush him on a bed, and he was devastated that he lost the way to physically love and keep the relationship.

Finally Benigno crosses a line--he was jailed after the fact was uncovered that Alicia is pregnant.
Marco visits Benigno imprisoned in a white, clean bright prison--like a hospital and a nursery. Even though it is a prison, those jailed prisoners are not called prisonars for human rights reason--the insertion of this scene might be a cynicism of Armodvar. The condition of Alicia who was imprisoned by her condition now is turned around, that Benigno's body can no longer escape even if he has a spirit to still imagine Alicia. Benigno's spirit lost the world to reside by his body gets caught up in a prison and loose the chance to see Alicia any longer, he commits suicide.

Our body and spirit has an unseparable connection between each other. At the same time, the space and a realtiy of a spirit, and the space and reality of a body also have the place that never overlaps. Although we can recognize the gap, it can not be solved. The biggest paradox of human nature--those social taboos of our body and spirit have been surfacing by facing such paradox.
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