Same Film, Different Feels

Film poster, copyright 20th Century Fox.

I revisited The Turning Point a couple of days ago. It’s one of my favourite films and I have watched it goodness knows how many times. When I was a teenager, I recorded it when it was screened on Channel 5, Singaporean Broadcasting Corporation, and I watched that video tape so many times, over so many years, the picture got decidedly fuzzy in the end.

I got the DVD in the early 2000s, but have not watched it for years — the last time, I was probably in my late thirties.

I was ballet crazy in primary school and through my teens and early adulthood, so the gorgeous ballet sequences in The Turning Point were very special to me. Remember, this was before the days of YouTube and the Internet. I was living in a small town in Malaysia and had no access to any ballet performances of any kind. The rehearsal scenes in the film were also wonderful — they allowed me to be a part of a magical, mysterious world that I could otherwise only dream (and read) about.

Baryshnikov was the main reason I was first drawn to the film. I was crazy about him, although not as much as I was crazy about Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. However, after I watched The Turning Point for the first time, I was definitely more taken with Leslie Browne than I was with the Russian superstar.

tp bb1
Copyright 20th Century Fox.

Of course I took her character, Emilia’s side in the love affair portrayed in the film. And of course I swooned over the romance of an aspiring young dancer falling in love with the more experienced but also young, handsome star of the ballet company. Watching the film today, I found that I was amused by how predictable Emilia’s feeling are, and then annoyed at how predictable Yuri’s behaviour is. Otherwise, the relationship is not a terribly interesting feature of the film, but written to highlight deeper issues faced by Emilia’s mother Deedee (played by Shirley McClaine) and Emma (Anne Bancroft), the ageing ballerina and Deedee’s best friend.

Copyright 20th Century Fox.

It is so interesting to me that when I was a child (yes, my teen self seems like a child to me now), I was totally unmoved by the film’s most important relationship: the one between Deedee and Emma. When I re-watched The Turning Point in my teens, I may have fast forwarded through the scenes in which the two women interact. I know I definitely fast forwarded through that last climatic interaction at the ballet gala, in which things come to a head between the two friends.

But today … goodness! Nearly every scene featuring the two women made me tear up, and all of them hit a chord. Obviously, what Deedee and Emma faced, the problems they were struggling with meant nothing to me when I was young because, having not lived, I knew nothing, and was scornful and dismissive of everything that I had not experienced. Thwarted ambition and lost dreams, betrayal, regret, self-sabotage — what did I know of these things?

Copyright 20th Century Fox.

At the end of the film, Deedee says to Emma, of Emilia, ‘Oh, Emma, if only she knew everything we know’ and Emma replies, ‘It wouldn’t matter a damn.’

In life, experience is everything. Without it, there is only imagination and even that, in my opinion, relies on experience to function fully.

We can’t force what about a story resonates with us. We can’t imagine what will appeal and what not until it does or doesn’t. I love this film now as much as I did when I was sixteen, but for different reasons. I know exactly why I loved it in 1983, but I would never have guessed, then, how my life would shape the way I responded to the story on Saturday.





Southern Gothic

reflectionsBefore this, I’d never read anything by Carson McCuller’s although I’d heard of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.

Reflections in a Golden Eye is such a strange book. I started off laughing out loud at the characters. It seemed to me that they couldn’t be taken seriously at all. Everyone is too intense, too extreme in being and feeling to strike one as at all real. But I enjoyed the story; I liked the darkness and the stifling heat of it, but I don’t know if I understood it, or fully see what it’s meant to be. It did make me wonder though, and it made my imagination tick over.

It seems that it was a John Huston film, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando. The trailer is ridiculous, but I must watch it because it sounds even more bizarre than the book:


The Exorcist: The Film, the Book, the TV Series

The-Exorcist-Horror-SeriesI can’t even remember how I found out, but there is a TV series inspired by William Peter Blatty’s novel, The Exorcist. The first season aired in 2016. (There is nothing spooky about me not knowing how I know this, just more evidence that my memory sucks big, hairy balls.)

When I was a practising Roman Catholic, the evil portrayed in Blatty’s work coincided with what I had been taught to believe. The 1973 film (starring Linda Blair as the possessed child, Regan) disturbed me for the same reason, but also, I feel, largely due to the cinematography, the way the set is lit, the soundtrack.

exorcistcoverWhen I was in my early teens, I tried reading the novel and was so spooked that I threw it in the trash. I used to say that I thought the book was ‘watching’ me. I projected my own beliefs onto this block of paper and ink, giving it a power it didn’t have.

In Christian culture, Demons are malevolent spirits. Christians also conveniently and arrogantly view the gods of other (non-Abrahamic) religions as demons. The Christian god is the default supreme being in The Exorcist and many Western-based narratives that portray evil spirits being weakened by the sign of the cross and the contact of holy water. There is no room for anything that suggests that there isn’t just one ‘true’ god. Every other being is a servant of this god, and any that question the might and right of this god is automatically relegated to the ranks of the unholy; the vile; the evil.

Hindu and Daoist demons can have good or bad intentions and natures. In Daoist exorcism, the spirit is questioned in an effort to understand its motives. This is because possessions or hauntings may be caused by human transgressions and the spirits/demons simply responding as they see fit. An amicable solution is always preferred.

Demons, as portrayed in Christian stories, are not reasonable. They only seek to destroy and harm their hosts; they often attack without being provoked; and there is no negotiating a peaceful departure. At very least, they are driven into swine that run into water and drown. Reading about that event in the gospels I used to wonder what happened to the demons after the two thousand poor pigs died. Did they go off in search of new ‘homes’?

There are spoilers below this line so stop reading if you want to avoid them.Read More »

I can feel the distance getting close


So last night I watched the final episode of HBO’s Insecure,  more than a month after it aired. It took me that long because I was avoiding how sad I knew it would make me. Funny that I chose to watch it just as I was sinking into my latest bout of depression . Hmm …

I guess I just wanted some distraction, and I’d already read so many episode recaps that I was ready for what was coming.

And, actually, it turned out OK. Sure, I cried, but I didn’t take it personally, the way I did Season 1’s final scene, blearghh.

What will happen in Season 3? Will Issa, Lawrence and Molly continue being the complete idiots they’ve always been? To be honest, their messy lives are why I love the series so much. Another nine months to go, but the most alarming thing is just how quickly they will pass.

(P.S. I hope I never see Aparna again. Nope. Do. Not. Like. The. Woman.)


Movies Galore

I watched eight films this month. Considering how expensive tickets are (RM16), it’s not something I would be able to do on a monthly basis, even if there were that many films I would want to watch every month.

This month, the Freedom Film Fest (FFF) as well as the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) combined to offer me lots to choose from. In fact, there were several short films screened as part of the FFF that I didn’t couldn’t fit in.

(I also watched IT.)Read More »