Shoveling Snow in Dance Dance Dance and Ploy October 9, 2007Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemanila, Essay, Literature.
A hallucinatory take on Haruki Murakami’s startling early masterpiece and Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s stunning latest work — pieces of a lost puzzle — picked up, and magnified
The most important facet of film viewing, often shared in public discussions, is its gift of intertextuality — the correlation of emotions to a network of meanings, images, and perceptions that we derive from other forms of art, thus evoking a bullet of memories and shoveling those crystallized fossils in the dark pits of our minds.
FILM A —–> FILM B ——> FILM C ——>FILM D ——> FILM E ………. ——–> FILM Z
One film always reminds us of another, it is inevitable, even in the most obscure reasons. The concept of “who benefits or harms whom” is highly subjective, debatable, and painstakingly difficult to start with.
Two months. Two rainy months. It never crossed my mind. It took a while before the idea sank in (in fact, it’s not even my idea): a worthy similarity, a realisation tempting to be conclusive, with lines that never intersect and yet a parallelism so transparent.
Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Ploy bears striking resemblance to Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance.
In the film, Ploy waits for her mother to arrive from Sweden inside a hotel bar. Wit, a returning businessman from the States who came with his wife to attend a funeral, befriends and asks her to stay in their hotel room, a few more hours before her mother’s supposed arrival. The introduction of Ploy to the couple, to Wit’s wife particularly, marks a turning point: suspicion arises and breaks evenly, surmounted by the nimbus of emotions and unresolved past between the two. Something to ponder on, the fact that she plays the title role, why is Ploy the most passive character in the film? By doing practically nothing, the relationship of the people she has just met falls apart, in a bloody shambles. Provoked self destruction can be considered valid. Ploy is nineteen.
In the novel, Yuki waits for her mother inside the hotel’s restaurant, Walkman stuck in her ears (it might be the Talking Heads or Echo and the Bunnymen playing), and while her role to the protagonist’s search is vaguely presented, her characterisation alone is indeed memorable. Her clairvoyance is puzzling yet believable, and though Murakami is at his peak in having us manipulated in this web of urban mysteries and metaphysics, its thrilling nature leaves a feeling of enchantment. While Yuki seems to agree that “rock and roll is the greatest thing in the world,” Ploy indulges herself in reggae and shares an earphone with Wit, surprised at the world that this young lady exposes herself into. Yuki is thirteen.
That Ploy and Yuki are perhaps the same person — the rebellious teen waiting for Godot — of different age and on different time and worlds, is a product of a young mind’s “extreme indulgence.” But as playful as the dragonflies of the field, we really never know.
The film’s lethargic pacing and the novel’s shifting realities seem to share a world of their own, a universe wherein lucidity is beyond grasp, and upon experiencing them, we don’t care — they are just beautiful. On their peripheries are the -isms we would rather neglect: capitalism, modernism, materialism, urbanism, et al, but we are confronted by them, probably on our way home after seeing the film or finishing a chapter of the book, in a way different than other people. A profound delusion, its eeriness and ethereal charm infect us with the feeling that we all share a piece of this mad, fleeting world.
The narrator’s mobility in Dance Dance Dance is apparent. From house to market, car to train, work to rendezvous, Shibuya to Aoyama, Japan to Hawaii, he is restless. Murakami’s plot twists and endless possibilities work effectively with his setting and the disjointed, meandering life of his protagonist. While Ploy is rather seen as a stationary film whose sequences are mostly inside a luxurious hotel, the tension presented, mediated by Ratanaruang’s admirable affection to details, makes it look, and feel, otherwise. The possibilities are surreal. When Dang accuses Wit of infidelity, her unyielding insecurity dwells on her subconscious. In a stunning sequence, Dang kills Ploy using a pillow to suffocate her. Someone knocks on the door. As if it triggers her to think rationally, she pulls her into the bathroom, turns the shower on, and opens the door. Surprise.
The observation may be a bit crude, haphazard, manipulative, and too tied-up, but the hotel in Ploy resonates the claustrophobic atmosphere of Dolphin Hotel — the emptiness, the longing, the deprivation, the notion of abstract itself — and the memories created, and lost, in that place. The room where the Sheep Man stays, a deceptive mind would rather think, is where the bartender and the chambermaid are having their greatest resort to boredom, their strangest pleasure ever, proving words aren’t enough to express one’s feelings. The “monotonous rush” in the Sheep Man’s words reminds me of that silence, albeit their passionate intercourse.
The women in these works — wife, child, stranger, poet, and all the lost women — represent vitality, the struggling force of living, or being alive, and to them where all the overwhelming power of Ploy and Dance Dance Dance owe their brilliance. In a period of unsettling wakefulness, ironically, men created them.
*Thank you very much to Maritess Cruz and Dodo Dayao for the memory support.