robot love

When I wanted to be a video artist, I would go to film festivals in bigger cities and watch four or sometimes even five films a day. I love that moment before the film starts, when you’re still feeling triumphant about having gotten in (if you did), and everyone is negotiating drinks and snacks and coats and who will sit beside whom. How we all slowly settle into the meditative space of viewing, get pulled into the grip of the film, if it’s good or even ok, and drop into that silent but vicious critique mode if its not.

This year I’ve made it to three at the Calgary International Film Festival. The premise of 2046 is great– 2046 is the number of a room in the Oriental Hotel (in late 50s, early 60s Hong Kong) where writer Chow Mo-Wan goes to remember Su Li Zhen, the only woman he has ever loved. (This story is played out in Wong’s earlier In the Mood for Love, which is beautiful.) It is also a year in the future, for which trains leave regularly, a time and place where one can access unchanging memory. Too bad the film itself is such a hairy mess. Wong apparently re-edited the film a few times. It could use another edit or six.

If only he could have kept the Carina Lau segments and ditched the rest. In those, the writer offers to receive mail for the daughter of the hotel owner– mail that comes from a young Japanese man the owner won’t allow his daughter to date. He hates the Japanese because of the war. The passing of the mail becomes an intimate secret. The writer falls in love with the girl, and begins to write a story in which he is the Japanese lover on a train to the future. His only company on the train is a beautiful android with whom he is not allowed to fall in love. Carina Lau plays both the hotel owner’s daughter and the android. Wong is so good at unintended/inadvertant love. Sideways love that never gets definitively returned. The other stuff– cliche, narcissistic, boring.

Hah. There’s half of a one-sided conversation. My grant is done, btw, for those of you following that stream of this hairy narrative. It’s a big relief. I’m off to breakfast.

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