“I remember what should be remembered.”
In the opening scene of Days of Being Wild:
He comes in for the third time, after he’s told her that she will see him in her dreams, and asks her why her ears are red? I think: why is this whole movie red? And green. Green tinted (made green) and truly green (the jungle, the trees). Green like Robert Bresson’s Lancelot du lac and Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Red like Marnie. But parts of it are shot like The Third Man, only all the shadows on the narrow streets are green. Outside, the angles belong to that noir. It’s overwhelming to see these two colors together like this in one movie after everything they have meant to me the past few months. Maybe always.
She’s embarrassed. Embarrassed because she is excited, so she can’t look at him. I like people, no, love people, who take looking and being looked at (being excited) that seriously.
He tells her: “Look at my watch.”
He is standing so close to her.
She says: “Why should I?”
At the party up in the mountains, out of sheer frustration I took your (X.) watch and put it on my wrist and you took my watch and put it on yours. All we could do was wear each other’s time. You were so callous that night. You actually looked pissed off when I walked in. It was late and I showed up with another man. At some point, you asked if you could try on my watch. Actually, no one asked. It was more like we both just suggested it at the exact same time and all of the sudden we were both taking our watches (not our clothes) off and putting each other’s watches on. Why? To see how they would look? A watch is a weird thing to borrow and time is a weird thing to trade. But that’s what we did: we handed each other’s watches over to one another and wore each other’s time in front of everyone like wedding bands. Even though we weren’t together. Even though we weren’t even talking.
He says: “Just for a minute, okay?”
She looks at his watch.
We can hear the big clock on the wall ticking. Beating. But it’s the time around his wrist that changes everything.
He moves closer to her. It is 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It was 3 o’clock the first time, too.
She says: “Time’s up. What now?”
He asks: “What’s today’s date?”
She says: “The 16th.”
He says: “Yeah, April 16th, 1960. One minute before 3. We were here together. I’ll always remember that minute because of you. From now on, we’re one-minute friends. It’s a fact. You can’t deny it. It’s already happened.”
He stares at her and tells her: “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
It always looks like he’s about to kiss her, but that’s because he already is. Because their desire for each other is already in motion, the kiss is already there between them, all along.
In voice-over, she asks:
“Would he remember that minute because of me? I don’t know. But I remembered him. He came back every day after that. We started as one-minute friends, then 2 minutes. Soon we were spending an hour a day together.”
Clocks hanging on walls. Cleaning clocks. Their tick-tock. Watching time. Telling time. Sharing time. Counting the minutes, the days, the women. Is she really the only one as far as time is concerned? When she asks him, he tells her he won’t know which woman mattered to him the most until his life is over.
But some people don’t need to wait until the very end to know who or what matters to them most. Some people don’t need time. Some people know all along. When I told a friend about how you (X.) couldn’t let go of someone you once loved, and still claim to, she said knowing that should make me “sick.” “It means he doesn’t know how to let go,” she said.
Why isn’t loss allowed to feel like loss anymore? Why does everyone want to let go and be let go of so badly?
When the policeman in Days of Being Wild tells Maggie Cheung to forget about Leslie Cheung “starting this very minute.” She screams: “Don’t mention ‘this very minute!” And then a giant clock strikes midnight.
Afterwards, she watches the clock and calmly remarks:
“I used to think a minute could pass so quickly. But actually it can take forever. One day a guy pointed at his watch and told me he’d remember me forever because of that minute. That sounded so sweet. But now when I look at that clock, I tell myself I have to forget that guy starting this very minute.”
In her film ENVOI, Elaine Castillo splices Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together with Days of Being Wild; looping one scene from each movie, and then the two scenes, from the two films, creating a diegesis of loss that recalls “The Other’s Body” from Roland Barthes A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments:
“1.The Other’s body was divided: on one side, the body proper—skin, eyes—tender, warm; and on the the other side, the voice—abrupt, reserved, subject to fits of remoteness, a voice which did not give what the body gave. Or further: on one side, the soft, warm, downy, adorable body, and on the other, the ringing, well-formed, worldly voice—always the voice.”
Happy Together is almost entirely about the other’s Body and the other’s Voice. In ENVOI Elaine Castillo blows the voice and the body up like a still photograph. Tony Leung dispatches his voice (grief) into Chen Chang’s tape recorder in order to compensate for the remote, reserved body (Leslie Cheung) he’s lost. A voice—“always the voice”—that Leung inscribes into Chang’s warm, tender body. A disembodied voice. A voice with no body and a body with no voice. We can’t hear what Tony Leung is actually saying into the Chang’s tape recorder—if he’s able to say anything at all. It’s more like he’s wrapping his mouth around the tape recorder, using his mouth as an ear. Instead of using his mouth to say something, to talk, Leung is trying to take the voice in the tape recorder in through his mouth. Putting the voice in his voice and the voice in the mouth. Maybe Leung is only able to dedicate his voice to Chang, who will carry these tapes with him til the end of the earth, by using it symbolically. By being voiceless.
In “Dedication,” Barthes writes:
“1. The amorous gift is a solemn one; swept away by the devouring metonymy which governs the life of the imagination, I transfer myself inside it altogether…5. Powerless to utter itself, powerless to speak, love nonetheless wants to proclaim itself, to exclaim, to write itself everywhere.”
When I tell Elaine how incredible Leslie Cheung is in the first minutes of Days of Being Wild, she writes: “How he comes in close and then goes away. Every person whose heart he breaks, he breaks just like that. By coming in close—unbearably close—and then going away.” And that’s exactly how Days of Being Wild begins: with Cheung up close, and later with Cheung in slow motion, walking away from his mother’s house in the Philippines. His hands clenched into fists. An inversion of that unbearably close proximity.
The color green works that way too in the film—it is behind the characters as well as in front of them. Up close and far away. Intimate and remote.
Green light. Green curtains. Green trees. Green walls. Green gate. Green dress. Green tea cup. Green jungle. Green sorrow. Green time. Green loss.
“Sometimes an idea occurs to me. I catch myself carefully scrutinizing the loved body…To scrutinize means to search: I am searching the other’s body, as if I wanted to see what was inside it, as if the mechanical cause of my desire were in the adverse body (I am like those children who take a clock apart in order to find out what time is).”
I remember what should be remembered.