Watched another of Wong Kar Wai’s waking dreams, 2046.
Reminded of a place I’ve never been except in imagined memories, he achieved a perfection. Where the writer is still protagonist even within his own antagonism. A journey by train to a place we all feel exists, though none can report it. The letter and the meaning of romantic escape. Where passions are fragile, like an avalanche. I must have been in the mood, for the depth was mine, was felt, and all irrational.
And oh, the eye contact. The small gestures of the feet and hands.
In the film are mentioned the ‘5 signs of decay of a mortal angel’ in Buddhist lore, which reminds me of Yukio Mishima’s disconcerting book about this overlapping of visionary expectation and the independent, visceral potentials in a human character. The signs are of mortality overlapping radiant existence, the angels disrobed of their celestial dryness bathe in the river of time, robes hanging from a branch and left trailing in the river mud. The signs are rewritten with a secular twist:
When the smile is slow to come.
When tears are delayed until tomorrow.
When eyelids tremble before beauty.
When there is sweat without heat or strain.
When happiness is sought in a place instead of a feeling.
If any of this seems out of place to you, it may be the way you have stored and encapsulated ideas. For most Westerners the ideas displayed in this movie, despite a David Lynch sensibility for color and light, are quite ordinary. Not a drop of blood, no criminality, no aggressive displays of wealth, no super-human abilities, not even a single show of physical overpowering. All the force remains in the feelings and conduct of ordinary lives.
Herein lies the challenge. There are transgressive opportunities to acknowledge here, and the tension will revolve around the Western myth of centrality. Translucent gender roles costumed in glamour in the face of urban scarcity, existential angst, petty materialism, and the clincher – deconstructive, even morbid reflections of the sacrosanct. We still have a challenge, in letting go of our cultural appropriation: our gloss that the beliefs within the temples of other cultures are empty of people just as simple, frail, and ordinary as our own. While the west began a powerful urge towards eastern philosophy in the 60’s, the avant-garde, Asian cinema, and writers like Mishima were engaged in a modern inquiry just as transgressive as our own self-view. In these things, in commonality, lies the dirt that covers the seeds of distinction our intellectuals, looking to other cultures for alternatives, are truly after. Seeds bear the distinct genome of their ultimate flowering, but soil is everywhere and immune to geographic boundaries – it needs only be fertile.
This reminds me of George Battaille’s thoughts about the potential role of the writer embattled in any system… becoming its excess is to be aligned with nature and change. Not seeking the repair of fractures, but to continue to populate the whole with the elements that you would see survive.
Traveling on a long journey back from the time/place where everyone goes, but from where no one returns, where nothing changes. I consider interior places that I have made endless and unchanging, and see where they overlap the mortal and present. I look through my reflection into the landscape of my own heart. To prefer to store away certain feelings in a time vault, rather than bear the feeling of debt, I recognize the universality of such a treasury, and I forgive. At the same time I come to reflect on these stored possessions that I cannot easily loan, because I have already purchased my tickets for the long return journey to the present.