Monday, June 4, 2012

Confucious say: Jennifer Jones is not Chinese

As I mentioned, we are moving in less than a month. Obviously, I feel a great deal of pressure to do things like pack and give things away and all the things one must do in order to prepare for a move. However, I now also have a completely frivolous task to handle as well... emptying the DVR. Well, sheesh, we recorded all those old movies for a reason, right?

So, I'm watching old movies, as I do all the other things I need to do, like sort, and pack, and what have you. Today's feature was "Love is a Many Splendored Thing", starring Jennifer Jones and William Holden. Ok, I'll bite...

Yeah, well, it stars Jennifer Jones as a Chinese girl. What? Of course, she's only half Chinese, she keeps insisting, as people assume she is full on Chinese. "I'm Eurasian", she always says. Only, in case you're wondering, she does not look one part Chinese, so it's a little odd that all these people in Hong Kong are so confused. I mean, you'd think they'd know, right? Except maybe they're confused, because much of her dialogue seems like it came out of fortune cookies.

Anyway, it's a terrible movie. I mean, I'm sorry if it's your favorite movie or whatever, but I'm being honest here. Schmaltzy, syrupy, and full of unintentionally hilarious weirdness. To illustrate, here are my two favorite moments from the movie:

First, William Holden's been pretty relentlessly pursuing demure little Chinese Jennifer Jones, (who is, incidentally, a doctor), for a while now, and she's about to give in... they've just swum across a bay to visit some friends, and then taken a boat rowed by an unacknowledged Chinese peasant. They get back to the beach, and she goes behind a rock. I'm not sure why, as she doesn't change clothes or anything... anyway, he lights up a cigarette and she asks him to bring her one, and so he goes behind the rock too, only so does the camera, so I'm still not sure of the purpose of the rock. They proceed to have dialogue that goes something like this:
    • He: I've never seen you smoke.
    • She: I rarely do.
    • He: You still think we have no destiny together? 
(Ok, let me stop you right there, Bill Holden. Are you implying that smoking together indicates some sort of shared destiny? Because that would mean I shared many a destiny in my early twenties, and I'm really just not buying it. Anyway...)
    • She: I have decided one thing, that humans decide, and you are stronger than I am.
    • He: No, I believe that you are stronger than I am.
    • She: No, because you are gentle, and gentleness is the strongest thing there is. 
Then they lean in, only not for a kiss, but for him to light her cigarette with his, as the music swells and we hear the theme "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" for the umpteenth time in the film. And all I can say is "Wha?" That was the big romantic scene, where they finally get together, after 45 minutes of dancing around it? It ends with a cigarette on the beach? I don't get it. Also, I really enjoy that style of "no, you!" "no, you!" "nah-uh, you are!" "no way, dude, you are!" dialogue. I know you are, but what am I?

My second favorite moment is more practically applicable for everyday life. Chinese Jennifer Jones goes home to China to visit her Chinese family, headed up by Third Uncle and Third Aunt. She goes, because there's some sort of scandal with her little sister and a foreigner, that comes down to her little sister not wanting to be a Communist. Or something. There's a lot of Communist talk in this film, but it doesn't make much sense.

Anyway, Third Uncle, Third Aunt, et al, are trepidacious about her return, because they figure she'll have changed in her time abroad, what with all the medical schooling and all. She reassures them that she's still the same Chinese (Eurasion) girl she's always been, by saying some folksy nonsense about how she feels like a locust that has shed its skin. (I have no idea what that means, in context. I never feel like a skinless locust, no matter which relative I'm visiting.)

But Third Uncle replies with what I believe is the best line of the movie, and I so totally intend to use it when my Middle Child comes home, and then as many times as I work it in afterwards.

"You are home," he says. "We will go inside to drink tea and speak of absurdities."

(Best welcoming line ever.)

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