On Watching Art & Reading Films

I hesitated to screen Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love for my CW class last week despite the fact that I had already shown the flick on two previous occasions. My anxiety was rooted from two new components: that I was about to show the movie in one go (since earlier viewings were usually cut in two sessions), and the screening was set at 3PM on Saturday in an air-conditioned room. I was afraid that it was going to be a snooze fest.

I was surprised, however, when my students discreetly reacted to some parts of the flick. On my previous screenings, most of my students had been quite silent during the whole viewing experience, and somehow I couldn’t “read” what they were thinking. This time I could hear whispers at the back — as some were trying to clarify with their seatmates the slightly confusing scenes — and some spots of giggles on lighter parts were heard (though Ahj caught some nervous chuckles during critical moments–she explained that it was a way for some to “cope” with stressful situations).

All-in-all my students were able to appreciate the flick (thank god) despite technical difficulties: the LCD’s colors were off and so I had to adjust the picture for the first five minutes, and my iPad crashed twice (perhaps it couldn’t handle the infidelity happening among characters).

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After the “kilig” (approximately translated as “giddy” [in the romantic sense]) moment– what happens next? I think our mainstream flicks, both local and international, still can’t get around the question and are even too afraid to answer it.

The local romcoms have conditioned the youth to set twisted expectations on relationships. Adding to the problem is the blurring of the line between real and reel. Just recently a reel love team have shown their leveled-up status as real-life couples, and I find the public announcement suspect. They’ve just diminished the authenticity of their intimacy.

Beyond the “kilig” lies the true challenge[s]. That’s the part where the real story unravels.

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I believe we could still educate our students in ‘reading’ films. In an age where the youth passively consume art, there’s the need to teach them several alternative ways of absorbing a flick. Empowering them with distinct, critical ‘lenses’ heightens their viewing experience — red will be more than just a color, and the empty hallway will become more than just a setting. We need to [re]introduce this unseen depth which anyone can reflect upon. We start to once again appreciate the [trans]formative power of movies.

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