The Restless Rearranging of Modern Man
| In Hong Kong cinema, the country bumpkin characters in older Chinese
movies are replaced with mainlanders. Xiao-jun personifies this in his carefree
ways at the beginning of Comrades, Almost a Love Story, happy on his bicycle
in the middle of a busy Hong Kong street. He has simple dreams and aspirations:
to make enough money to bring his girlfriend to HK and marry her. He meets
Li Qiao who also has simple dreams of a calm life, married to a rich HK
man amidst the chaos of the city. But one cannot have the complicated modern
city and retain their simple goals. Modernity, in this film, obscures things,
to a point where life itself must modernize and shift from the traditional
conceptions of happiness. It is only when the two main characters let go
of their simple goals that they can find each other.
The city taught them how to cheat. Xiao-jun, likable and kind, cheats on his girlfriend with Li Qiao. Li Qiao is also involved in her own schemes of the stock market, instead of getting rich the old fashioned way, by steady work. Both of these allowances, in the end, screw up their plans. Xiao-jun cannot maintain his marriage because of his love for Li Qiao, and Li Qiao goes broke. However, both of them work through these setbacks in their lives and keep on moving, because the city, whether it is going forward or backwards or sideways, has one rule: movement.
All of their constant movement brings them good fortune as Li Qiao is successful in her job and Xiao-jun becomes a head chef. The destruction of their relationships and personal lives have them each separately moving to New York City. Once there, they eventually find each other again as the last of their simplicities die with the death of mainland pop singer Teresa Tang.
Some might say that this shows the tendency of modernity to corrupt and disrupt traditional lives; that Xiao-jun could have married and been happy had he stayed at home, and Li Qiao, at home would be successful in selling Teresa Tang CDs and living out her days. But there was some unexplained force that brought them to the city, brought them to modernity. And, had they stayed on the mainland, perhaps this force would be constantly in their hearts, preventing them from happiness. Modernity is a restless freedom, and I have a feeling that they would have not been happy had it been any other way.
Comrades, and the Choices They Make
|Hong Kong is a city where people are many different things, but there
are two main categories for Chinese people in Hong Kong. They are: 1) the
Hong Kong-ese and 2) Mainlanders, who know nothing of Hong Kong. In the
movie Comrades, Almost a Love Story we see the two main characters (Li Xiao-jun
and Li Qiao) playing the Mainland country bumpkin and the savvy Hong Kong-ese
respectively. The interesting part about this is that, in reality, they
are both Mainland country bumpkins, but Li Qiao has worked hard to become
the true Hong Kong-ese. She speaks fluent Cantonese, and can even speak
some English; she works very hard, and has quite a few jobs, and makes a
lot of money. Li Xiao-jun, on the other hand is very much the Mainland bumpkin
come into the city to work. These two parallel the choice that all Chinese
have to make upon deciding to live in Hong Kong; the choice to abandon their
past and fully become residents of Hong Kong, or to retain their past and
stand out in the crowd as being from the Mainland.
Many people can't decide what they want to be, as shown by Li Xiao-jun's inability to choose between the girl in Hong Kong (Li Qiao) and his girl on the Mainland (Fang Xiao-ting) when he buys them both identical bracelets as gifts. The fact that Li Xiao-jun has a girlfriend both in Hong Kong and on the Mainland shows that he is still attached to and has a life in both places, which slows him down when he tries to integrate into Hong Kong. Li Qiao does not have a boyfriend on the Mainland, and she really doesn't have any friends (other than Xiao-jun) in Hong Kong. This is representative of her willingness to completely sever herself from her former life on the Mainland and fully adapt to the Hong Kong way of life. That is also seen in her success at blending in and integrating with the people and customs of Hong Kong. This is also paralleled in their choice of jobs once they get to NYC. Xiao-jun works as a cook in a Chinese restaurant while Li Qiao works as a tour guide, for Chinese and English. Once again, this shows their attachment/detachment for the country they both left behind.
It almost seems that Peter Chan is really trying to stress to the presence of ��fate�� or of incredible luck, and coincidence. (Extreme serendipity) The characters had met and crossed paths almost more times than can be counted in the movie. Even before they met they were sleeping against each other, and it was Li Qiao's getting up that jostled Xiao-jun's head and caused him to wake up upon arrival at Hong Kong. And again after they both left Hong Kong, and went to NYC (Both for different reasons, and neither knowing the other had gone). They again crossed paths at exactly the right moment. Just after her husband Pao died, and right before she was being deported.
This movie shows how people can chose what they become when they move to a new city, (Hong Kong, NYC) and how that choice can affect the way they live their lives.
One Train Ticket to Fate, Please!
|��Comrades, Almost a Love Story��, directed by Peter Chan, explores fate. In the global market, everything is exchangeable. So do people, it seems, for a large portion of this movie. At the beginning, the viewer sees the starting point of two journeys. As soon as both main characters, Li Xiao-Jun and Li Qiao, as soon as the train wheels stop moving, Chan's story begins to turn the wheels of fate. Although they sleep resting against each other, they don't notice each others presence. The viewer is led to believe they are no more than strangers. This opening train scene signifies that fate is blind. Li Xiao-Jun and Li Qiao sit by one another and exit the train car at nearly the same time, yet they remain oblivious to each other's presence. When they settle in Hong Kong, Li Qiao takes on numerous jobs and the less money-driven Li Xiao-Jun works one job delivering food. By chance, they meet at McDonald's, one of the places where Li Qiao works. Chan from this point on in the movie, as in the McDonald's scene, uses coincidence as a vehicle for discussing fate. Furthermore, the title, ��Comrades, Almost a Love Story,��coupled with Li Qiao and Li Xiao-Jun referring to each other as comrades signifies their bond. Comrades, a term of belonging, used in the Soviet Union and later adopted in China, suggests their connection of being Chinese. However, their strong friendship suggests that a comrade, for the purpose of this movie, denotes a more general type of bond. Chan introduces it to suggest the sameness of their destiny. Various obstacles then arise, challenging their love and passion towards one another. After many days and nights spent with each other, Li Qiao and Li Xiao-Jun's relationship seemed unbreakable. Then, however, Li Qiao started dating a gangster for his money, and Li Xiao-Jun married his mainland fiancee, Fang Xiao-ting. At this point, Chan appears to be sadistically toying with the viewer, presenting this picturesque love story, and then letting the viewer watch it vanish before their eyes. This instead is an exercise demonstrating, that no matter how hard one tries to escape their destiny, it will be futile. If fate dictates they should be together, it will happen, even if it happens across the world. So it was, in spite of these separations, the two comrades are unable to escape each other. As the movie draws to a close, Li Qiao moves to New York and her gangster boyfriend turned husband is killed. Li Xiao-Jun, as perhaps dictated by fate, also moves to New York. Toward the end of the movie, Li Qiao sees Li Xiao-Jun on the busy streets of New York and runs after him trying to catch him. At the end of the movie, the opening Hong Kong arrival scene is replayed. As Chan jabs the prospect of predestiny once more in the viewer's side, the question must be asked: Are we all comrades, running against the wheels of the train that is fate?|
Hong Kong, Almost A Paradise
|Peter Chan's Comrades, Almost a Love Story (1996) is a wonderful movie
that deals with displacement and diaspora that has always been a problem
associated with Hong Kong. Colonized by the British, Hong Kong has always
been viewed as a haven by the Chinese people. However, Hong Kong is no different
from any other place and by idealizing it the Chinese have only set themselves
up for disappointment.
The movie begins with Xiao-jun arriving at Hong Kong with many other ��mainlanders�� and we see them go up an escalator that opens up into light, almost as though the entrance of heaven lay at one end. Hong Kong has always been a dream land of economic prosperity for the mainlanders. A lot of this dream is self constructed, just as Xiao-jun in his letters to his girlfriend Xiao-ting he exoticizes his life in Hong Kong. His primitive and simple nature is seen as he gambols around the city. However, the letters to his girlfriend indicate a strong attachment to his homeland. Contrastingly, Li Qiao tries very hard to let no one know that she is a mainlander. Definitely more goal oriented she wants to make use of every single opportunity Hong Kong can provide. Deep inside Qiao misses the mainland a lot and her relationship with ��comrade�� Xiao-jun is indicative of this void. Another sign of this love with mainland is seen when she loses a lot of money trying to sell songs of Teresa Tang in Hong Kong.
The fascination with western values is seen as Xiao-jun embarks on what he considers to be an important adventure - eating at McDonalds. Apart from him his aunt Rosie is also obsessed with the one night stand she had with her American lover William Holden. This is deeply allegorical, possibly pointing towards Hong Kong's quick affair with the English that is about to end in another year. Moving to New York City is another important event in the movie, as it highlights the complete transition from East to West, or more importantly rural to urban. No matter where the characters of the movie end up no place is ever the paradise that they think it is. If one day Li Qiao has 30,000 Hong Kong dollars in her bank account, then the next day she has 83 dollars.
Peter Chan also shows how goals and lives are changed as the characters become more and more integrated to the city. People arrive in both Hong Kong and New York with certain dreams and hopes none of which is ever realized, or by the time that they are realized it is no longer what the person wants. Xiao-jun's original goal was to find a better life so that he could bring his girlfriend over from the mainland. Even though he does eventually marry her that is not what he wants, just as Li Qiao marries Mr. Pao due to circumstances even though she really loves Xiao-jun.
Comrades, Almost a Love Story is a movie that aims at dispelling many myths associated with Hong Kong. Made in the year just before the handover, the movie tries to reassure people that Hong Kong will endure even after the British leave because even with the British there Hong Kong is no different from the mainland, no different from New York City in terms of how life will play itself out as it needs to regardless of people's individual expectations.
|In Comrades, Peter Chan displays a staggering level of diaspora, and,
inevitably, as is the case with any great tale of globe-trotting displacement,
we are faced with the issues of cultural identity, and ��home.�� Chan, however,
expands the understanding of home beyond the material location of one��s
ancestors, and connects it, instead with a more malleable sense of ��belonging��
and stability. Under these terms, he is able, throughout the film, to alter
the literal region of ��home�� and one's ��family�� therein, without necessarily
compromising the original aspects which compelled one to seek it.
Throughout the film, one observes Xiao-jun and Li Qiao, two mainlanders who relocated to Hong Kong to make money. It can be fairly assumed that they were both relatively destitute, and in this manner, without ��home.�� Again and again, we watch them starting over, searching in new cities and countries for the sense of belonging they had either lost, or sought but never possessed. As they progress through the years and alter their living spaces, the viewer is never really allowed to connect with any single location as a ��home,�� aside from Rosie's apartment, which, perhaps symbolically, becomes cold and empty the moment she dies.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this individual quest for ��home�� is that it actually works, at times, counterproductively to the love-story which acts as a surface plot (this, of course, is furthered by the extended title of the film Almost a Love Story). At the time of Pao��s escape from Hong Kong, Li Qiao had developed a level of stability with him which she knew to be inferior to what she might hope for with Xiao-jun. For apparently this reason, she chooses to leave Hong Kong with Pao, entirely undermining any fanciful ��true love�� narrative between her and Xiao-jun. It can be reasonably assumed that, had Pao lived, Li Qiao never would have sought reuniting and reconciling with Xiao-jun. He was merely a representation of the ��home�� and belonging she had lost.
Comrades of Modernity
| Peter Chan's 1996 Hong King Film, Comrades, Almost a Love Story, is addresses
the tension of the collision of more primitive mainland China and Hong Kong,
one of China's leading economic cities. Among others, the film follows the
stories of Li Xiao-jun (a mainlander who arrives in Hong Kong in search
of a better life, and works as a take out delivery boy), and Li Qiao (also
a mainlander who works at a McDonalds restaurant). As we view these characters,
we see their repulsion for their mainland, primitive roots, and their absolute
enthrallment in the idea of Chinese modernity. And it is through watching
these characters, while they struggle to define an identity beyond their
mainland roots that we see that the only identity that they wish to achieve
Close examination of the characters of both Li Qiao and Li Xiao-jun will enable us to understand this seemingly unquenchable desire for modernity. When Li Qiao first comes to Hong Kong, she quickly moves to eradicate any notion of her mainland roots but refusing to speak her native language of Mandarin. Instead, she consents to speak only Cantonese (the dominate language of Hong Kong), and English. And Li Xiao-jun, a young man with idealistic dreams of city life, also quickly allows the wealth and modernity of the city dazzle him away from his origin in northern China.
With Li Xiao-jun and Li Qiao's intense need for modernity, we can see China's national quest for modernization and the institution of modernity as the new national identity. The daily exchange ��comrade�� has been replaced with a string McDonalds and sky-scrappers. The people have abandoned their patriotic ideas of Communism and comradeship for the western ideas of capitalism and ��modern�� living. Like Li Qiao and Li Xiao-jun, China is seeking to destroy its history of underdeveloped, ��primitizistic�� villages and to embrace this modern world that Hong Kong offers. Li Qiao, Li Xiao-jun and China herself have become comrades only of modernity.
Fateful Love If Not Faithful Love
| Xiao-jun steps off the train into Hong Kong, and he has no idea that
he will never be satisfied again until he can only be with Li Qiao, another
exile in Hong Kong. Xiao-jun departs from his hometown leaving his childhood
girlfriend behind, and he enters the foreign world of Hong Kong and all
its intricacies. His plans are to succeed there, and be reunited with his
faraway "love". Hong Kong is a brilliant town, and he is fascinated
by this place, yet also confused. Xiao-jun feels lonely and alienated because
of his inability to speak the Cantonese or English found in Hong Kong's
street. His ignorance leads him to be exploited by the quick-witted Li Qiao,
as she sells him on an English course for a commission and demands his help
in delivering flowers for her own means. Despite little time between their
respective jobs and her constant demands, they become each others only friends.
Xiao-jun and Li Qiao understand the feelings of loneliness the other holds,
and are both stirred by songs by Teresa Tang. Their roles as aliens in Hong
Kong cement their identification with each other, and they eventually fall
into each other's passionate arms. Xiao-jun's attachment to Li Qiao is displayed
through his inability to write letters to his girlfriend, Xiao-ting. Xiao-jun
and Li Qiao's unique position of being companions all the time forges a
bond which cannot be broken; somehow the viewer sees that they will be together
eventually. Li Qiao cannot stand Xiao-jun's split love, though. She wants
all of him, and when he buys Li Qiao and Xiao-ting the same bracelet, she
tells him that he cannot have both of them, thus ending their fling together.
I thought their real bond is their mainlander identity (rendered through the scene of their heads leaning against one another on the train). That's what is unbreakable; whereas their pursuit of happiness and common struggle in HK and NYC easily snap them apart. No? Li Qiao does not like Li Xiaojun because he is and constantly reminds her of who she was, her primitive self to which she eventually must return.
The solid, respectable Xiao-jun chooses to marry Xiao-ting, as it represents the right thing to do. He sheds his true love, for the love he has promised to another. Xiao-ting comes to Hong Kong, the marriage occurs, and it is even attended by Li Qiao and her new boyfriend Pao. Yet, the strain onscreen can be seen between Xiao-jun and Li Qiao. They yearn for each other, but they must put on faces to deny this fact. Pao, the gangster, sees it for what it is, and tells Li to forget Xiao-jun. The moment Jun and Li are left alone by their separate significant others, their past rekindles itself. The sighting of Teresa Tang reminds them of what they are together. The two cannot deny their attachment, and fall into bed once again. A whirlwind of activity forces them apart again, Xiao-jun moves alone to New York and Li Qiao flees from Hong Kong with Pao. Yet, they come together once again in a New York street many years down the road. Their desires are not the same, Xiao-jun just wants to get by and Li Qiao to flourish, yet they resemble a symbiotic relationship. The need for each other comes from the bond of feeling like it was them against the world in their first days in Hong Kong, and no former love, nor powerful lover can intercede in the fate of their eventual matching. This eventual reunion is solidified by a return to the beginning of their time in Hong Kong and the realization that Xiao-jun was right next to Li Qiao on the train the day they arrived. Their fates were undeniably intertwined.
Much to be Gained, but also Much to be Lost
| The principle cultural element that I pulled out of this film was that
of the diligence, hard work, and determination of the modern generation
in China. This attitude is immediately reflected in Peter Chan's Hong Kong
initially through Qiao, who eventually coaches XaioJun into how to fit in
best in Hong Kong.
The first instance of this ��coaching�� on Qiao's part takes place in the McDonald��s restaurant where she is employed. At first, in only seems as if Qiao only speaks Cantonese and English (the languages of Hong Kong), but while she converses with XiaoJun we realize that she also speaks the same mainland dialect as XiaoJun, and also that she is from the mainland as well. She tells him right away that it is to ever fit in in Hong Kong, he must learn to speak only Cantonese and English, as speaking his own language will give away the fact that he is a mainlander.
As the film continues on we see Qiao teaching XiaoJun about more of these ��modern�� elements that Hong Kong exhibits. He learns about bank cards, ATMs, how to get a job, and English-speaking classes among other things. At first the relationship between these two characters resembles that of the money-hoarding urban dweller showing the unintelligent, backward rural man how to live in the city. We have seen something similar to this theme in many of the films that we have watched this semester, but in this case we see the urban female actively show the rural male how to live in the city. At first he marvels at the amount of money that she has in her bank account, but then he learns another powerful less in the modern world that concerns investing, stocks, and bonds. There is much to be gained, but much to be lost as well.
There are other gains and loses [losses] that XiaoJun experiences while in Hong Kong, illustrated best through the romantic relationships he shares throughout the film. Essentially, he gives up the long time, tried and true, rural girlfriend that he has back home, in favor of the excitement of the modern, money-earning city girl. He shared genuine love with his rural girlfriend, but his relationship with Qiao never progressed to that stage because of the focus she had on making money and being successful.
One again, I see this as an interesting contrast between rural Chinese and modern Hong Kong-ese. During his time in Hong Kong, XiaoJun gains vital knowledge about how to make money in the modern world and how to handle himself properly in Hong Kong. But what he loses, in the end, is love. This film is ��almost a love story�� for a reason. The relationship between Qiao and XiaoJun failed for the very same reason that they were able to be so successful (for a short amount of time) assimilating and making money in Hong Kong. They put their desire to make money and to be successful above having a relationship.
I feel like we have seen this theme historically play out in American culture, just think about how much the divorce rate in America has increased over the last fifty years. Obviously there is more than one cause for this, but the idea that in the modern world, making money is king while in rural areas the ideals of the past are still present exists in this film and in many of the ��rural�� films (Not One Less, Ermo) that we have watched this semester.
What's Love Got to Do with It?
| Comrades: Almost A Love Story, directed by Peter Chan seems to be about
the very farfetched and in many ways, ��sappy�� love story between Li Xiao-Jun
and Li Qiao, has much more symbolic significance. The two meet in Hong Kong
and quickly become friends. Each has traveled from mainland China in order
to make themselves a better life, although Li Qiao attempts to hide her
origins by speaking Cantonese or English instead of her native tongue. Although
Xiao-Jun has a girlfriend back home in China, he and Li Qiao quickly fall
in love, as they seem to be connected to each other by a common bond of
cultural similarity in a new and unfamiliar world.
The two later discontinue their romantic relationship as Xiao-Jun's girlfriend from the mainland, Xiao-ting, moves to Hong Kong and the two get married. Meanwhile, Li Qiao becomes involved with a man named Pao, who is a gangster and native of Hong Kong. Their lives continue on like this until Xiao-Jun and Li Qiao have an affair one night. Xiao-ting then leaves Xiao-jun, and Li Qiao leaves Hong Kong with Pao due to legal complications. Coincidentally, Xiao-Jun also ends up in New York as a cook.
Living in New York does not provide Xiao-Jun or Li Qiao with any more prosperity than Hong Kong or China. Xiao-Jun becomes a cook in a Chinese restaurant, and Li Qiao becomes a tourist guide after successfully dodging the deportation agency, and the sudden murder of Pao. While in New York, the two come very close to finding each other once again, but every time fail to realize this until the conclusion of the film. The event that actually brings them together in the end is the death of Teresa Tang, a Chinese singer that they had both enjoyed in their native China.
On a surface level, this film seems to be very unrealistic and melodramatic. It would be nearly impossible for two people to keep running into each other across decades and continents, especially since they never knew where the other would be. However, the symbolism is much more powerful. Throughout the whole film, both characters were moving to different places in order to find some sort of ��promised land�� or become more prosperous, but in all reality their economic situations did not seem to be much better at all. Although Li Qiao became fairly wealthy relatively soon after moving to Hong Kong, she lost all of her money in the stock market and was probably worse off than she had been in China. In the end of the film, she is nothing more than a tourist guide, which is not a job of high status or wealth. The same can also be said of Xiao-jun, who just ends up being a chef in a simple Chinese restaurant, a job that he could have easily held in China.
Their experiences depict a global world which is relatively unchanging from region to region. Their economic standing would have been the same if not better had they stayed in China. What ended up being most important to each character were their personal identities. A good example of this comes in the form of Xiao-Jun once again adopting his bike as a means of enjoyment and transportation, which he had used in mainland China but had abandoned in Hong Kong, as it was thought to be ��backward.��Another example of this can be found in the circumstances of their final reuniting, which occurred at the television in the window following their favorite Chinese singer's death. When it was all said and done, their original identities; personal and national, were more important than their geography, or even their love story.
|Language in the film Comrades, Almost a Love Story by Peter Chan is one
of the most important aspects that aided in defining the people in Hong
Kong. When Li Qiao arrived at Hong Kong she was eager to be identified as
a ��Hong Kongese.�� To do that she needed a ��modern identity,�� so she worked
at the most modern restaurant in China, McDonalds, and spoke Cantonese.
Manderin was considered the language of the ��country bumkins,�� and it was
not a good idea to admit that you could speak Mandarin. Modernity in this
movie is defined as a lack of fixed point of reference or lack of settled
home and lack of personal identity; basically the lack of stability.
Li Qiao wanted to be identified as a modern person from Hong Kong, which required her to forget and deny her origins, a former mainlander, to fit in with Hong Kong. The fact that Li Qiao wants to forget her ��primitiveness�� only extenuates her lack of self-identity and self-esteem. Because she is lonely and in a similar situation to Li Xiao-Jun, she falls into a fated love relationship with Xiao-Jun. Xiao-Jun also arrives in Hong Kong intending to be successful and become a ��Hong Kongese.�� However, he does not want to forget his past, because that would mean he would have to forget about all his loved ones back home. He rides around on a bike as if he is still in the country and continually acts like a child when he discovers people who have modern technology. In the beginning he does not act like a ��Hong Kongee,�� instead he acts like a ��country bumkin.�� However, he gradually assimilates in the life of a ��Hong Kongee�� with the help of Li Qiao.
The director of this movie is applying the love story between Li Qiao and Xiao-Jun in a way that shows his views on modernity; modernity is continuously changing and is never stable. If a person continually follows the path of modernity he/she will become lost. They will lose their true identity. As Li Qiao and Xiao-jun did when they followed modernity straight to New York in hopes that life would be better, but it was not, because they had lost their own identities to the helpless turmoil of disparity in the cities.
My name is Jack, I mean Will, I mean ...
|Comrade, Almost A Love Story by Peter Chan is about the Chinese losing
their personal identity thanks to money and modernization. Being a modern
man means having left all your past values ideas and beliefs behind. Going
to a modern city you basically need to re-invent yourself, change, and adapt
to your new surrounding forgetting who you are in order to survive. Peter
Chan criticizes modernity illustrating in this movie how people's identity
is being lost because of modernity.
Even though Li, Xiao-Jun and Li Qiao come from the same place on the same train sleeping on each other the modernization forces them to become different people. Hong Kong is modern and represents a place of opportunity as one scene shows. When Li, Xiao-Jun gets off the train and heads for the escalator there is this bright light coming from the top of the elevator representing opportunity. But once out of the train station and into the streets people start to disassociate themselves. Li Qiao wants to be modern so badly that she starts to speak Cantonese, Hong Kong's main language, starts working at a McDonald's, and starts to invest in the stock market. When Li, Xiao-Jun and Li Qiao meet at the McDonald's Li, Xiao-Jun ask her if she is from mainland China and she completely renounces anything to do with the place. This goes to show how modernization forces people to abandon their home and language which make up an essential part of personal identity.
When Li, Xiao-Jun arrives he has to stay with his aunt who insist on being called Rosie. Rosie's insistence and the fact that the other girls in the house have non traditional Chinese names illustrates how people must even change their names if they want to be modern and succeed in a modern city. Li, Xiao-Jun also has an identity crisis. He arrives in Hong Kong engaged but then has intercourse with Li Qiao and can't seem to make up his mind between the two women. He is so confused that Li, Xiao-Jun has to buy two bracelets that are the same, one for Li, Xiao and one for his fiancee. One day Li Qiao and Li, Xiao-Jun decide to sell Deng Lijun, a Taiwanese singer, tapes nobody on the street wants to reveal there mainland origin so there efforts prove disastrous. Li, Xiao-Jun's unbecoming and foolish behavior is a result of the rural Chinese diaspora to modern cities. Chinese diaspora which causes an identity crisis, as this film illustrates, is a characteristic of modernization.
This movie demonstrates how people lose their identity by having to change their language, home, name, and values all in the pursuit of modernization. Peter Chan sees chasing after money or trying to become modern as a poor excuse to lose your identity.
|Throughout history the migratory patterns of people have been many and
varied. In the earliest tribal societies a nomadic lifestyle predominated.
The familial tribes followed the animals that they relied on for sustenance
in their yearly migrations. Year after year these people would return to
the same hunting grounds. With the advent of sustainable agriculture societies
became much less mobile. For centuries people remained planted in one location.
Generation after generation lived in the same family homestead and travel
was only for the very rich. However over the last hundred and fifty years
there has been another revolution in human migratory patterns. As societies
throughout the world have transitioned from economically isolated zones
based mainly on agriculture to production economies based on capitalism
migratory patterns have also undergone a drastic transformation. As depicted
in Peter Chan's 1996 film Comrades, Almost a Love Story people have once
again been forced to take up a nomadic lifestyle.
During the agricultural period societies throughout the world became geographically stagnant. However perhaps the most extreme instance of isolation occurred in China. Firmly ingrained in the psyche of Chinese during their period of isolation (and to some extent even today-if in a different form) the Confucian ideal of China as the "Middle Kingdom" made migration not only unnecessary but actually undesirable. Thus while the rest of the world was isolated no major nation had as cloistered an existence as the Chinese. Only in the last hundred or so years have the Chinese begun to look beyond their borders and to venture there in great numbers. It is this phenomenon that is discussed in Comrades, Almost a Love Story. This film depicts how the Chinese have begun to relate to the rest of the world and vice versa.
In the modern era the idea of what it means to be "Chinese" has undergone a tremendous reworking. So also has the desirability of this distinction. In this film Xiao-jun and Li Qiao go to great lengths to shed their Chinese identities. They even give up the Mandarin Chinese language in order to be perceived as Hong Kong natives. The two lovers are not alone in this deceit. At New Year's no one will buy the music of the famous Mainland singer Teresa Tang because they don't want to appear to be mainlanders. However according to the newspaper twenty percent of people living in Hong Kong are natives of the mainland. Xiao-jun and Li Qiao are party to a deceit that permeates the Chinese diaspora. The wish to shed their Chinese identities. However, when Li Qiao is about to be deported we realize that all her efforts to conform to western standards have been for nought. With their attempts to shed their cultural identity the Chinese are only fooling themselves.
One Kind of Love -- Love Influenced by Society
|The movie ��Comrades: Almost a Love Story�� directed by Peter Chan interested
me much. To me, the most interesting point is that it is a story between
talking a love story and talking a society phenomenon. The society phenomenon
is that Chinese mainland people come to Hong Kong to pursue their dreams.
In fact, this movie is about a love story in that kind of year and it also
presents a society phenomenon by this love story.
The movie is exactly like its name��Comrades: Almost a Love Story. ��Comrade�� is a key word. In china, it means the people with the same attitude in a special situation. The same attitude of Li Qiao and Li Xiaojun is that they both from mainland China. The loneliness of being a struggler in an alien land makes them close, make them being comrades. This is why the love story happens. This kind of love is special. It is not driven by natural love, but kind of being affected by their same attitude. The same, their special attitude also make them break up. The dreams of them coming to Hong Kong are different. Li Qiao wants to be an independent woman and be rich. Li Xiaojun's hope is just marrying with his fiancee Xiao Ting. When Li Qiao realizes that they cannot cheat on themselves, they break up. I consider this story is realistic. Their experiences seem familiar to me. I really can understand the relationship between Li Qiao and Pao. To Li Qiao, Li Xiaojun and Pao are the only two people who treat her with heart in Hong Kong. One reason of Li Xiaojun closing to her is because of their attitude in Hong Kong, but to Pao, there is no reason for him like this. To be natural and right, Li Qiao is moved by Pao. Even though she finds the one she loves is Li Xiaojun, she cannot leave Pao when pao is in danger.
This movie talks about the phenomenon of mainland Chinese people coming to Hong Kong. In fact, this phenomenon does not only happen to Chinese People, but also to Hong Kongese. As the letter Li Xiaojun writes to Xiao Ting, Hong Kongese is moving out, if not to Canada, then to Australia. In the movie we can find that all the stories are about the people who are not native Hong Kongese. It presents their special lives which are influenced by their special attitudes in a special society. Pao is the only Hong Kongese in this movie, he is the leader of a criminal underworld which represents Hong Kong culture and at last he is shot by some teenagers in New York who are just like he was in Hong Kong. It is also a fate circle. Americans are also in this movie, but they appear with the images of rudeness and discrimination. Obviously, this is not a movie about native people.
At last, Li Qiao becomes a tour guide in New York. Some tourists tell her that so many Hong Kongese are going to mainland China now because of its big market. Hong Kong used to be a place like a paradise to mainland people. But everything keeps changing. After much experiences, what is the most important in life? At the end, the story turns to a love story again. Li Qiao and Li Xiaojun meet at the street in New York. This special coincidence gives this special love story a beautiful ending.
Assimilation and Rejection
|Comrades, Almost a Love Story by Peter Chan may at first come off as an
extremely cheesy love story. I know this was my original reaction to the
film. There was actually a lot of underlying content within this film. One
of the bigger and more interesting issues in this film is still a big part
of the immigration process today. When someone moves to a different part
of the world, there is definitely an urge for the person immigrating to
conform to their new societies culture. The process by which this happens
could be described as a form of assimilation. It is almost necessary for
this to happen in at least some way. If a person is not able to assimilate
to understand the basics of a culture, then they will have a hard time living
in their new and strange environment.
This process is stressed in Comrades, Almost a Love Story. We see that the female lead in this movie, Li Qiao, has successfully assimilated herself into Hong Kong's culture. She is originally from mainland China. Seeing the way that she is working, making money, and communicating with the natives of Hong Kong, you would never know that she is from the mainland. She avoids speaking the native dialect of mainland China, which is Mandarin. She has successfully learned to speak Cantonese and English fairly well, which helps her disguise the fact that she's originally from the mainland. Though she does have some hardships in the film, she seems well able to adapt and assimilate into whatever culture she is surrounded by, even when she goes to New York City.
The male lead of the film, Li Xiao-jun, exemplifies a person that is not as well able to assimilate, but Li Xiao-jun does eventually learn to live in Hong Kong thanks to his relationship with Li Qiao. Unlike Li Qiao, he is at first easy to pick as a mainlander among natives of Hong Kong. He does not know English or Cantonese well, unlike Li Qiao. He really struggles in the beginning. He is hardly even able to order food at the local McDonald's. As he learns though, we see him become a successful chef. It's notable that he is not able to be successful until he has successfully assimilated.
The other character that this process of assimilation affects is Pao. He is a gangster from Hong Kong, and he seems to quite a successful one too. He ends up having a relationship with Li Qiao that takes him from Hong Kong to New York City. We as viewers see that he is unable to assimilate into New York's culture. So what exactly causes his failure? Unlike the other characters, Pao makes no conscious effort to assimilate or conform to New York's cultural norms. He is simply sitting on the street, wearing the expensive gold jewelry that he always wore in Hong Kong when his life is taken by people that wanted to steal his jewelry. People just don't wear that type of jewelry in some parts of New York City. Because he doesn't change, he is killed in the differing cultural climate that is New York.
The subject of cultural assimilation was well stressed in this movie. I thought that it was also pretty realistic for the most part as well. This assimilation is definitely something that really occurs for those that move into foreign cultural climates. To a certain extent, the ability for immigrants to conform and assimilate has a strong affect on how successful they can be in their new location.
Climbing A Ladder
|Some of us who belong to a backward culture or nation would at times become
frustrated and want to sever any association with that particular culture
to choose a newer and better one. Peter Chan in his movie, Comrades, almost
a love story, makes exactly this claim. The movie follows the life of two
friends - Xiao-Jun Li and Li Qiao- who travel to Hong Kong on the same train
(without noticing each other) to seek a better life. But unlike Xiao-Jun
Li, Li Qiao wants more than a simple living; she desires to make a lot of
money. Director Chan develops the following situation to compare the path
of life taken by the two protagonists and show their journey and destination
differed from each other.
I don't understand why ��but��; isn't what Li Qiao wants MORE than a simple life that which marks her out as a member of ��a newer and better�� culture?
We all know that climbing a step further on a ladder (and stabilizing on it) involves the risk of falling all the way down. This is exactly what Peter Chan wants his viewers to compares the live of Li Qiao to. The climber in this analogy is Li Qiao, the lower step is the traditional Chinese culture that she belongs to, and the higher step is the city life which Qiao dreams of associating herself with. In order to take the higher step Li Qiao almost completely hides her true identity by stopping to speak [stop speaking] Mandarin in public, by working in an American restaurant, McDonalds, and by buying stock. For a while she was climbing on the ladder successfully, but the ever capricious stock market plummeted, swallowing up most of her money and dreams. In other words, she fell down hard from the ladder. In comparison, Xiao-Jun Li was happy with what he had and did not want to climb the ladder the way Li Qiao wanted to. He was very happy (until, of course, he fell in love with Li Qiao and had to become involved with her problems).
Director Chan develops this juxtaposition between the lives of Li Qiao and Xiao-Jun Li when they came to the city, in order to examine the consequences of having larger than life dreams. He wants the viewer to witnesses [witness] that people can move as much forward in life as they want. But they should be ready to pay a price for this.