March 5, 2004

Was The Tragedy In Loving You?

With the continuing controversy over the issuing of marriage licenses to gay couples (a valiant fight for civil rights, by the way), it's fitting that Cinecultist watched recently on DVD Stanley Kwan's Lan Yu (2001), a story about a love affair that should have been a one-night stand but became more. Beijing business man Chen Handong (Hu Jun) is quite the playa, and he thinks when he takes home Lan Yu (Liu Ye), a young architecture student who's looking to earn a little money, that there will be the simple exchange of cash for sex. But a bond develops between the men despite Handong distancing assurance to Lan Yu that "when people get to know each other too well, inevitably they part."

In many ways similar to Wong Kar Wai's gorgeous Happy Together, this tragic love does not end happily, though its poignant conclusion is beautiful in its own way. The lingering final shot of movement -- Happy Together's train window view and Lan Yu's gaze out a car window at a blurring construction site -- generates that real feeling of loss in the viewer. Intriguing that both directors would connect that loss to a view of modern detritus, as though our automated lives keep us from experiencing emotion so viscerally except in these special circumstances. If you live on the wind swept steps of Russia and you wear fur hats and look like Julie Christie or Omar Sharif, then sure, it makes sense your love life would be tragic. But really these visionary directors, Wong and Kwan, bring out the humanness of love affairs even in the far reaches of modern Asian of South American cities, even between two some might call unlikely lovers.

Posted by karen at March 5, 2004 8:14 AM