Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Male gaze and body on " I don't want to sleep alone"

Tsai Ming-Liang’s 14th movie “I don’t want to sleep alone” following the “anti-hetero sex” The Wayward Cloud, he goes further examining the relationship between gender and body. Or, we, as the reader, examine what his perception of heterosexual relationship, body and sex. Maybe Director Tsai is cruel, but I just found another much crueler Taiwanese film critics Lee “李幼鸚鵡鵪鶉” talking that “a boy with penis ” doesn’t necessary mean “the penis of a boy”

The Original texts from POTs in Chinese;

My translation:

Boys with penises often distracted me. Some may be disturbed by my unnecessarily redundant description. ( Boy, in male gender, of course have penises) Besides, it is certainly nasty to put emphasis on “penises.” Some may misunderstand that I am checking out boys’ penises; honestly, what really interests me is boys’ eye, not their penises. I just can’t stand the carnal hypocrisy. The word “male” does actually examine his physical body and explicitly inspect his gender. If the word “penis” is erotic and filthy, then the word “male” would not be anything better as well. Since people are so hypocritical to de-sexualize the term “male ”; the only thing I can do is to supplement the word “penises ” to bring the sexual part back. “Gazing at a boy with penis” doesn’t equal to “gazing at a boy’s penis”, just like Fellini said about his movie La dolce vita, entitled ” the sweetness in life”, cannot be misunderstood as “sweet life”. Thus “a boy with penis” is a perfect analogy of Tsai’s movie. He doesn’t show you penis, yet penis is ubiquitous in his film. The conventional, orthodox, or narrow-minded people may think his film displays “penis” and obscenity; then they missed his profound connotation within.

As Tsai’s previous works, “I don’t want to sleep alone” also echoed Michelangelo Antonioni’s magnetism, but this time I think he is communicating with Renais and Fellini. In “ I don’t want to sleep alone”, only the Malaysian worker Rawang’s (played by Norman Atun) name being mentioned, but not the names of other protagonists. That resembles Renais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and L'année dernière à Marienbad (1961). Lacking the knowledge of protagonists name, the audience may feel troubled to describe them, eventually they would remember the characters more clearly. Name is handy for people to remember, yet simplifies the multi-dimensions of individual character.

If there is not a crystal-shinning pool in the construction site, “I don’t want to sleep alone” would diminish its enigma, sharpness and beauty. Without the shabby construction site, the whole story has no certain territory to be displayed. ( so maybe the construction site is actually the true leading character.) That also reminds me of the labyrinth-like garden and castle in Renais’ L'année dernière à Marienbad.

Lee Kang-sheng played two roles as a bald vegetative and a hairy tramp, both appearance are well-organized in contrast and complement. The vegetative is manipulated in the girl’s masturbation (played by Chen Shiang-chyi) yet the girl was semi-forced to masturbate the vegetative by the lady boss (played by Tsai Pearlly Chua). Even The sex pleasure is tightly interlocking in chain involvements. The tramp is bullied in the fraud ring, yet he is far more welcomed in both homo and hetero sex field; a scent of Fellini’s Satyricon (duality of chasteness and licentiousness) or Renai’s Murie (duality of virtue and evil). Are the two roles Lee Kang-sheng played actually two dimensions of one individual? Mozart’s Magic Flute is high-class palace music; while “ TaoHuaJian” (literally translated: peach flower river) composed by Yao Min is folk music. But the song “ Hen Bu Shian Fong Wei Jia Shi” ( literally translated: I hate we didn’t meet before marriage) sung by the extraordinary vocalist Lee Xianlan blurred the demarcation of art and pop culture. Further, Lee Xianlan is the Chinese alias of Japanese movie star Yamaguchi Yoshiko. Is her identity struggle between Japanese and Chinese parallel to the self-narration of Tsai’s struggle in homeland Malaysia and Taiwan?

A window could function as a mirror, so does the surface of water. All scenes of bathing, urinating, drinking, cooling fever head, etc., present that water is ubiquitous and connect people as well as affairs. The plights of Malaysia foreign workers are identical with Taiwan foreign workers. In Tsai’s movie, Taiwanese audience can not only appreciate the exotic “difference” in Malaysia, but also acknowledge the transnational “sameness” across boundaries, and even transcend the one-one heterosexual frame to comprehend and sympathize with the lust in mutli-dimensions.