On love. Seattle International Film Festival, 2006.
I saw two films about love at SIFF on Saturday. I didn't plan on it being the theme of the day; it just turned out that way. They were very different, but besides love they had one thing, language, in common.
The first film was Three Times, by the director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. The Chinese title is 最 好 的 時 光, which actually translates into something like "The Best Moment." I think each story describes that moment, that passing moment of happiness, that fleeting moment of love that you encounter, that you have for a brief time, and then it is gone. (Or maybe the story continues beyond the edge of the film, the love continues). There are three different stories, centering around two actors, Chang Chen (who has changed so much since I first saw him in Happy Together nearly a decade ago), and Qi Shu, set in Taiwan in 1966 (Kaohsiung), 1911 (I'm not sure where this segment takes place), and 2005 (Taipei). The segments are titled "A Time for Love," "A Time for Freedom," and "A Time for Youth." It is beautifully filmed and leaves you with the feeling of having let something slip through your fingers, a faint sensation of loss. The repeated shots of billiard balls knocking against each other in the first segment seem to set up the underlying theme, that love happens in the brief moments of contact the characters have with each other, before they propel away from each other and that moment is gone. I'm not sure I understood it, but I hope to see it again one day.
The second film was as over-the-top as the first film was subtle. Perhaps Love is a lavish musical extravaganza, that moves between the film-within-a-film, real life, and the past. I must confess that at first I had trouble following what was going on. The three characters - both in "real life" and in the film-within-a-film - are locked a love triangle; in the movie the girl has lost her memory, one man (played by the director) convinces her that she loves him, and the other man is her old lover who she has forgotten, and who is trying to make her remember their love. It parallels the characters off the movie set: the leading lady who is the longtime love of the director, and the former love of her leading man, who has never gotten over her. The actress has tried to forget her past, the director is worried that he is losing her, and the actor is obsessed with making her understand how she broke his heart when she left, with making her acknowledge the past which she is trying to deny, deny that she loved him, deny where she came from. It is about holding on, and letting go, and realizing what you had once walked away from, walked towards, perhaps was love, after all.