Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

There’s nothing wrong with simplicity

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In a world where we know exactly what our neighbors are doing (some examples of Facebook updates/Tweets I’ve actually seen – Woke up today.  Yay, I just took a shower.  Hahaha, leaving my apartment now!), we have somehow cornered ourselves into this place where we’re bombarded with sensory and information overload.

Tonight, I watched two movies at the Kabuki – two that could not have been more different from one another.  The first I watched because I read its description on the SF Int’l Film Festival site, and the director’s statement resonated with me.  It’s an observation of a new relationship that leaves you questioning how long the lovers have known each other and what it is that keeps their union intact.   While some of the intimate moments and characters’ sentiments may seem familiar to you, it was difficult to genuinely feel sympathy for them.  I walked out feeling like I didn’t even want to empathize with either character.  She, too needy and impulsive because of her insecurities.  He, subconsciously dependent on success and acceptance by others, but lacking real confidence, resulting in the mistreatment of her and their relationship altogether.  It’s not the type of movie you want to see with a date (something I should have emphasized more when Aaron offered to accompany me).  That’s two hours he’ll never get back.  Sorry, Aaron.

The second, and not just by comparison, was a complete breath of fresh air.  Through luck (and being late for my shift as a festival volunteer), I was placed as an usher for the screening of Constantin and Elena.  The young Romanian man who walked in on crutches (an injury due to partying at a post-festival event in another country) introduced us to the film with a humble demeanor that only a first-time, feature length documentary filmmaker could exemplify.  He spoke of how he had hours of footage of his grandparents at their countryside home in a small Romanian village and how he’d never thought about turning it into an actual film until the footage was viewed by his mentor, Walter Murch.  Murch convinced him that this was a project worth pursuing, and the editor-turned-director decided to work solely on it until late 2008 when he shopped it around the international festival circuit and received critical acclaim.  A particular way to describe the film would be – Small events, large themes.  A patient look into the daily lives of an elderly Romanian couple (who happens to be the director’s grandparents) will leave you with a lingering sense of hope.  They’re in their 80s, fill their days with farm and needle work, revel in delight over grandchildren who visit, sing songs of their youth, declare simple truths, loyally attend religious gatherings and community events, practice vanishing traditions, and make being together and just getting along look easy.  As a director wearing multiple hats, Andrei Dascalescu demonstrates effective intuition by using static camera positions in different locations of his grandparents’ home.  There’s no musical score, except for the occasional sound of church music in the background and the heart warming singing of the two individuals portrayed.  The audience is awarded an honest, no-frills view of idyllic (but economically challenging) life in a slow paced village.

What struck me was how much these two people reminded me of my own grandparents who still live in Hong Kong.  In their tiny apartment in Oi Man Tsuen, they wake up each morning (bright and much too early), walk down to share a meal of dim sum, buy groceries for that night’s dinner (walking a number of additional blocks just to get a better deal on produce), shuffle around their apartment re-arranging things/looking for things, turn on the TV to watch a mid-day soap opera or the local news, misplace things, blame each other for misplacing things, and so on…As I watched Constantin and Elena go through their daily chores, I couldn’t help but feel a strong desire to walk out of the theater to call my grandparents and just check in on them.  What’s worse is, I have a grandmother who lives in the same city that I only make an effort to see once or twice a month.  The joy in their eyes when they’re visited by grandchildren is always transparent, which is why I’m ashamed that it takes an outside source to get me to see that.  A simple phone call, a brief visit, even a handwritten note in the mail – these gestures mean so much to them, yet we don’t do it enough.  And I’m not just talking about grandparents.

The director stayed for a Q&A and noted that this film, although unintentional, is a legacy that his grandparents are leaving behind.  Just like the rugs that Elena works on continuously throughout the film, people who see this are going to remember them for being themselves while the cameras were rolling.  And really, what lovely selves they seem to be.

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Written by winniewongsf

April 28, 2010 at 1:17 am

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