I watched YI YI for the first time in more than six years. I last wrote about it on February 19 2010, and I have no memory of the event except a vague sensation of how I felt as the words flowed through my veins. I remember sitting on a saggy couch with a sore back that my youth was still proudly upholding, typing rapidly, gut wrenching, aware of encountering a meaningful piece of work that I will revisit throughout my life. I was so young then, and a vastly different person from who I am today, yet somehow I knew that much.
And I was right. Watching the film again tonight, I felt a familiar pleasure and a deep resonance. The film plays differently for me now. It plays shorter and sweeter. I remember being hyper-aware of its “epicness” six years ago, seeing it in theater at a top 100 retrospective. It was emotional and long, and I grew restless at the end even while enraptured, trying to grasp onto the truth blooming around me. This time, the feeling is one of peace and understanding. I was utterly absorbed throughout the film, and I felt deeply attuned to its rhythm. I also watched it with a much more careful eye, aware of the craftsmanship behind the shots. It’s nice to know somewhat how far I have come.
What surprised me is that it made me want to write, about this film at least, again.
I haven’t felt that need in a long time. I absorb films in a different way now. I choose to do so privately instead of publicly. Making films rewire a person. Shifts your chemistry. Over the years, I had wondered if I will ever write about films again. People have asked and I have brushed it off. Maybe I lost that string in my violin, I thought. It’s nice to know that it’s still there, however rusty.
Reading my words from six years ago, I became nostalgic of my naivete. It reads like a different person. I don’t recognize my thoughts. I see my idealism and chuckle. I see my keen observations and I am glad. I see my excessive adjectives and flowery prose and I wince and feel grateful that I was that girl and that I outgrew that girl.
The characters who most grabbed my heartstrings last time were Sherry and NJ. Unrequited love, first love, those themes reverberated with my youthful disposition. I projected my own desires and heartbreaks onto them and tried to declare them as my own, and of course missed the point.
This time, it was the conversation between NJ and his wife Min Min, after her return from the mountains, that struck me. They sit on separate edges of the bed in their bedroom, out of reach and sight of each other, facing the camera. I relived my youth this past little while you are away, NJ lights up a cigarette. I thought it would be different, that if I had a chance to live life over maybe things would be different, but it turned out pretty much the same. Then I realize no matter what, it’ll probably turn out to be the same. He takes a drag silently. So even if there’s a second chance, I don’t think it’s necessary. Really not necessary. She nods in agreement with a small smile.
What does this say about me? Am I the wise one now?
I don’t know. I hope I grow more into Yang Yang, the little boy, who wants to show people what they can’t see because it will be fun, who jumps into the pool after learning in the sink, who doesn’t say much and sees a lot, who asks questions no one knows how to answer, who still has a lot of growing to do but already feels very old.