Saturday, October 25, 2008

Comrades, Almost a Love Story




In viewing Comrades, Almost a Love Story, I was reminded of the 1984 film directed by Sergio Leone entitled Once Upon a Time in America, or C'era una volta in America. Perhaps this seems a strange connection to make, as Leone’s film gets stamped with the label of “crime film”, while the somewhat lighter Comrades has marked melodramatic elements- not to mention the fact that the films explore different cultures. In addition to this, the two films are strikingly different in regard to their content and mood. In terms of their similarities, both films tell the story of immigrants living in countries known for promising economic security- America in the case of Once Upon a Time in America, and Hong Kong and later America in Comrades. Perhaps it was the American Dream quality I found in Comrades, one I had never before associated with Hong Kong, which led me to my comparison with Leone’s film.

Following the viewing, one of our topics for class discussion was “Does Comrades feel like a Chinese film?”- This question of Chineseness has maintained a central position in our class discussions since this time. Although this was the first film we watched in the course, I took the stance that Comrades does not feel like a Chinese film, but rather an American film. Now, after having viewed a variety of Chinese language films, I no longer feel that the film has an American quality, but one that expresses trans-nationalism.

In the world we live in, one of increasing globalization, cultural isolation is becoming an impossibility- I believe this can be easily understood through viewing films by directors such as Peter Chan- the director of Comrades . Chan is the child of two Chinese nationals, but was born in Bangkok, Thailand, spent his teenage years in Singapore, and later attended film school at UCLA. He seems to cross international borders without reservation, not unlike his protagonists in Comrades; these characters live in a world that appears to be undergoing rapid change. Perhaps Chan’s film is one predicting such transnational films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which have further complicated the question, “Does this film feel Chinese?”

--Alecs Mickunas

(Comrades, Almost a Love Story 甜蜜蜜, dir. Peter Chan 陳可辛, 1996)

9 comments:

Robane said...

you have some good points on "what is a Chinese film?" what is nessasarly considered Chineseness to one person may not fit all or even most predetermined peramiters to fallow. this gets even more prevelant when you consider other movies paid for by one group, the crew of a different group, all while shooting in a different country than the first two.R

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's a good thing that you waited a while to compose this entry on "Comrades"--our discussions of other films seem to have added to your insights on this one. How would you compare "Comrades" with a film such as "Song of the Exile" which is similarly transnational?

Anonymous said...

P.S. The above comment was written by me, Jennifer.

Gillian Adler said...

This film sort of represents the new notion that films from other countries should not be categorized as foreign. With the many ideas and genres running through this film, I think it is accurate to call it both foreign and familiar. Foreign in the role of mainland vs. Hong Kong lifestyles. It is hard to understand this difference if you did not that Hong Kong and the mainland not only spoke different languages, but also that Hong Kong is literally an island leased to Great Britain. It is familiar, because of the genres of romance and drama that it tackles.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree, It's difficult to categorize whether a film is more Hong Kong or Mainland based on the language spoken. The Comrades is considered a transnational film because it possessed both the western and eastern quality.

Thien

Anonymous said...

In response to the question you pose Jennifer, I think that Comrades is more focused on the socio-economic development through the characters' capitalist maturation. Song of the Exile felt more like a historiography of the characters trying to reconcile an uncertain present with a complicated past. In Comrades characters are climbing the proverbial ladder up through different economic tiers, the mainland, Hong Kong, and America. I think it's a rather progressive film, perhaps drawing from the excitement of the economic reforms occuring in the 90s.

-Cody

Anonymous said...

I think this film shows that it ultimately isn't important in most cases to determine if a film is from China-mainland, HK, or Taiwan- because like Comrades many films have a mixture of multiple cultures. All the varying cultures should be embraced and analyzed as It accomplishes nothing to strictly qualify a film under one nation or another.
C.McChane

Jon said...

Comrades felt like a Chinese film to me. Chinese languages, Chinese people, Chinese diaspora..
Song of the Exile dealt with considerably more transnationality in the way of news from outside the country, plot events more directly affecting the characters and even foreign ancestry.
The China of comrades isn't as quaint or vivid as the China of Crouching Tiger, but the film couldn't have been set anywhere else and still retained the same quality or tone.

Kim said...

This film sort of represents the new notion that films from other countries should not be categorized as foreign. With the many ideas and genres running through this film, I think it is accurate to call it both foreign and familiar. Foreign in the role of mainland vs. Hong Kong lifestyles. It is hard to understand this difference if you did not that Hong Kong and the mainland not only spoke different languages, but also that Hong Kong is literally an island leased to Great Britain. It is familiar, because of the genres of romance and drama that it tackles.