The Moon and the School Teacher II
December 22, 2012
At a very basic level. Every amorous relationship between a Chinese man and woman has to be a sort of ‘wenyi pian’, which is to say it is not so different from the Chinese equivalent of the Western soap opera.
As from first impressions. Both are indentical in narration style, twist and plot and they probably seek to entertain along with providing an emotional outlet for the audience – but where I think the wenyi pian differs from the Western soap opera genre on a basic and fundamental level, is that it has to follow certain fundamental tropes, lietmotifs and themes that are intrinsically Chinese. And one of the most robust themes in the Chinese story telling genre is no matter how outlandish the characters are – what usually forms the main montage of the classic cinematic ending in a wenyi pian is never the Western Hollywood conception where the man and woman kisses passionately and they both walk into the sunset and it all ends happily.
I think this is something that is often lost to both the Western and Asian audience if they are not mindful of the reoccuring themes that’s so often played out in the Chinese story telling genre – as although the characters may spend alot of time gallivanting and flirting with the idea of being unfaithful or committing some sort of intimate act, but in the end – one is never quite sure that they even came to that stage where they actually crossed a line – as one aspect of choreographing a really spectacular ending requires the narrator to structure the plot in such a way where either the man, woman or both of them have managed to come out of this emotional roller coaster by being able to keep their moral integrity intact by surrendering to inescapable sense of duty. And all too often this all has to come at a terrible price of having to bear regrets.
In this sense denial or turning away from a good thing is something that I think is a fundamentally Chinese way of ending a love story that can really only appeal deeply to a Chinese audience – that if you must know is why most Chinese love stories have tragic endings. It really doesn’t matter whether it is a classic like the Butterfly lovers or a modern stylistic film noir like Wong Kar-Wai’s, “in the mood for love.”
And that incidentally is the same reason why when a Chinese woman says to the love of her life that – another man has asked her to marry him. It does not mean that she loves him any less. Or that she really even wants to marry that man at all. Rather what we have here suddenly is the growing realization that what we may actually be witnessing here is a story within a story. A story that is never really narrated. A story that only exist within the pheriphery of the consciousness of the audience – it exist yet it doesn’t. And we see this in the final scene of in the mood for love – where you have Tony Leung recounting a dark secret into a hole. Here the audience is never really sure what he wants to get off his chest. And that I believe is what’s so tremendous captivating and arresting about a quientessential Chinese ending – as the real story is never shared at all. As the man can always be counted to keep it all to himself like some mysterious secret – as that in the wenyi pian, it is never about love or it’s poorer cousin – does he or she love her or him – as it remains the case of a what should be said, but was never quite said, what should have happened, but didn’t quite go through as someone lost their nerve etc - and since all this is frame in this omnipresent continuance where everything is perpetually in motion, time goes by like a giant steam roller crushing everything in it’s path – hopes, dreams, aspirations… except maybe the lingering feeling only endures - it could have ended much better….it could have ended much much better….and there you have in the palm of your hands, the bitter sweet Chinese ending of a love story with just the right combination of regrets, bitterness and shattered dreams of what could have been.
Only this isn’t a love story is it Gentlemen.
(This excerpt of conversation was captured in a secured thread to discuss the falling price of oil palm for the Cerebus 6 / South American / African market – the chronicler does not know how to categorise this entry – so after prolonged discussion, it was decided by the Chronicler to enter this as an adjunct to The Moon and the School Teacher – The Brotherhood Press 2012)