Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Observations on language

JuanaMachine lent me Kar Wai Wong's 2046. It's a cinematographic gem; an amorously atmospheric masterpiece (if a bit weak in narrative structure - what structure? - and gets to be monotonous by the midway point).

It's funny. Internationally released Chinese fair always - ALWAYS - contains conversations with two dialects in dialogue. In reality, these people would be struggling to mime even simple phrases. It's the equivalent of having Shrek speak to Donkey in English and Donkey replying in French and passing off the movie as "American" in an Asian market because they share the same alphabet. I saw this in Time & Tide too. To audiences fluent in only one of the languages, whatever's on screen might come off sounding like a broken CP radio. I think this might be why even Chinese movies have Chinese subtitles. (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an exception. It went for authenticity by being filmed completely in Mandarin. Although to a tuned ear, Chow Yun Fat's Cantonese lilt is as clear as Michelle Yeoh's mother Malay.)

(Actually, I can speak from personal experience of the headaches that come with juggling tongues. There are certain expressions best described in certain languages. So introspection and outrospection feels limited when I'm stuck communicating with one. I think we lose sight of exactly how big a role words play in developing our thoughts. Can we still have them without the tools to express them? To interpret them? To absorb what we are seeing?)

***

M. Biologique crushed my boobs. We made our way down the ascending escalator and just as I got to the bottom, he rode back up again. So I waved him off and went searching for my metro pass by the gates. It was awhile before he came running back down the stairs and grabbed me from behind, swinging my limp body around and around.

"Awww!" I cried out, collapsing dramatically. "My boobies! I'm gonna wake up with mangoes!"

He held me in his arms a bit longer and I punched him.

"Well, goodnight," he said, finally. "Don't, ya know, get lost in these ... er, dark tunnels now ... um, yeah."

I stared at him blankly. "Security!" I shouted, pointing a finger at him. "Is there security around?" to the amusement of onlookers.

He's been acting strange lately. I can't quite put my finger on it. Whenever I ring him up, he'd make plans to see me. But when we hang out, I'd discover his secret visits to my apartment he decides against telling me at the time, or he'd mention a dream he had about me before changing the topic to organic farming. It's like his mind is constantly elsewhere, trying to string together a perfect sequence of words only to hear it crumble from his lips. I'd expect this behavior from someone suffering from nervousness but not from this hyperactive monstrosity, who took the Chinese food I bought and stuffed it in a plastic cup to feed an old homeless guy who hassled us before we entered the restaurant.

It's all just a bit disconcerting. I thought he understood our boundaries? It was his idea to put them up! But I adore this man and that sort of ... sucks.

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