Thoughts on the new year:
I watched the recent Chinese animated version of Journey to the West, the first part where Monkey is freed from the mountain
which was pretty good and I love the way they've rendered Sun Wukong. Though the music cues are kind of meh. I've always been secretly fond of Sun Wukong's character. A typical rendition of Sun Wukong: 大闹天宫
(I love this animated version). My fondness is sort of complicated by the fact that the Great Sage is also a religious figure in my culture. It's kind of hilariful when you find yourself at the temple... Anyway, pop media's varied interpretations about the Monkey King are just as fun: as a trickster figure, a protector, a rebel, a fighter, or as a greedy monkey who is looking out for number one.
Anyway, one of my favourite interpretations of Sun Wukong is from The Chinese Odyssey, part 1: Pandora's Box and part 2: A Cinderella story, a two-parter Stephen Chow movie from about 1994-5. At first viewing, though, it's hard to see through all the crack, jokes and sight gags - not to mention sexist and other -ist sins of Hong Kong cinema masquerading as jokes - the story of Sun Wukong, about love, truth and redemption. Most of the best interpretations about Sun Wukong occur before he goes on the journey with Sanzang, by the way: he's just obligated to be saintly (not merely good) by the end of the journey and really, with a damper of Sanzang, it's not fun anymore. The Chinese Odyssey has its faults (oh so many), complete with ending of someone (the Ox King) trying to send a piece of earth into the sun (now trite, but still rather exciting in those days when it first came out) and getting the smackdown for it. But it's still weirdly engrossing.
Maybe because behind all the wacky jokes, it still asks questions about what is love, what is reality, what is self-deception, and looks at the effects of greed and hatred, and then, it goes for the brutal conclusion that life is transient. Quite an interesting balancing act. It's not a Christian-like redemption, and the ending, well, is overall a bittersweet one. The monkey's journey is a journey for clarity of self and purpose. There are probably movies that do this better, and strike at those truths more intently. But there'll never one with Sanzang belting out a bastardised version of "Only You"
Anyway, the reason for all that rambling is this song 《一生所愛》
. The theme song for the CO. It's damn good, and it's haunting. The title makes you think it's a love song, but the lyrics are about transcient joys and the impossibility of having again what has been lost. And that look on Wukong's face when he turns away from the happy couple... a lifetime of regrets.
**Speaking of Stephen Chow, one of my favourite scenes from the couplet-contest in The Flirting Scholar, scene 唐伯虎點秋香：吟詩作對
, awesome when rendered in the original Cantonese. This was also the scene with the crack UST-inspired kiss.