Sunday, 17 July 2011

Two old films: Passion, and The Other Half and The Other Half

Watched two old Cantonese films. Don't ask me why, I just suddenly felt a bit nostalgic though these are both totally not my generation (as in they're made in the 80s when I was a baby!). :P

Made in 1988, The Other Half and the Other Half (我愛太空人) is about the (common?) marriage problem caused by the emigration trend in Hong Kong following the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, which confirmed the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Hong Kong people were frantic and totally panicky after this, and most middle-class people used whatever means they could find to emigrate to another country and secure a foreign passport. I was born in the 80s, when this happened, and my mum said it's totally because of this that my parents were able to buy their first flat, as property prices plummeted after 1984. 

Back to the film. Two couples who had emigrated to Canada (the most popular destination for Hong Kong people at that time) had to be separated, which was very common at that time because it was hard to find jobs in Canada and many were forced to go back to Hong Kong to find jobs, while the other half had to remain in Canada for their children or fulfil the minimum requirement of stay to get the passport. Many were therefore 'astronauts' - a Cantonese term popular in the 80s and 90s referring to those who had to fly back and forth for their job and passport. In the film, a guy and a woman shared a flat when their other halves were in Canada, and they started an affair. The plot sounds kind of silly in this way, but it is essentially about how the man Sam finds his real self and interest with the woman Jen, while his wife controls how he thinks and acts in every possible way. With Jen, Sam has the freedom and support to do 'impractical' things like being a musician, while his wife only cares about how much money he makes so they can lead a secure life back in Canada. Sam laments how he had never 'played' in his life before - he never had the chance to enjoy himself and allow himself to take his fancy. He realises his real passion lies in music and he falls in love with Jen, who does 'crazy' things with him. However, when the spouses return respectively, they have to choose between love and responsibility, and in the end the two split up - only to find themselves divorced a few years later and back in Hong Kong. 

Through this film I've been reminded (very cliched but true) that if you don't follow your heart and embrace what you really love, in the end you won't be happy, and you won't be able to pull it through. It's just hard to force yourself to do something that's contrary to what you love and believe in, and sooner or later you will have to confront yourself again, or you simply shatter yourself totally in the end. 

.............Which leads me to the other film, which carries the opposite message. 

The theme song of the film Passion (最愛), George Lam's 'Who's your true love' (最愛是誰), is soooo famous I can totally sing it without looking at lyrics and yet, I must stress again it isn't really stuff of my generation! :D It's just looped over and over again throughout the film...a bit annoying actually, haha. The film's about how a girl falls in love with her best friend's fiance and has an affair with him, but she doesn't want to ruin their relationship and chooses to marry someone she doesn't love. Many years later, the two best friends meet again and reminisces about the past, and both of them reveal what actually happened during that time. The plot totally reminds me of Edith Wharton's short story 'Roman Fever', only that the endings are different - we are left with an indefinite ending in Wharton's story, when Mrs Ansley reveals in the last sentence of the story, 'I have Barbara.', while in the film, the two friends bury the hatchet after revealing what happened, and one of them (Chang's character) says, 'What's important is we have to be content with what we have, or we won't be happy.' 

Is it enough to be content with what we have? In the context of the film it also means 'you can't have it all, you just have to accept regrets in your life and live with them'. Without a doubt many would say this is not the attitude to have, as you should always strive for what you really want or you won't have it, and regret is the most stupid thing of all. But sometimes I would say, perhaps there is this beauty in regret, and in some situations, letting go is more beautiful than striving for what you think you deserve? 


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