Friday, February 15, 2008

Chan is Late! Late! Late!

I, too, missed last week's blog entry, so I'm making it up here:

Chan is Missing was fantastic. On a purely cinematic level, I enjoyed the film noir-reminiscent style and the unconventional structure of the narrative. As a point of comparison to other appearances of Asian-Americans on film, Chan is Missing provided some of the first Asian-Am. characters who weren't depicted as foreign-- discontent, wandering, perhaps, but never quite alien. Having gone to a predominantly white high school, and I've felt somewhat separated from the Asian-American community for the past few years, so this portrayal of an Asian America was reassuring in a way.

Yet, as I said before, as comfortable as these characters are in their community, they seem somehow displaced. Perhaps it's the mystery of Chan, stories about his unhappiness in the country, and the uneasiness that his absence creates. Throughout the film we are searching for a person we've never met, much in the way Renee Tajima-Pena went looking for the nebulous idea of an Asian-America. The narrative winds almost aimlessly, and the mystery is never solved. Does this ending denote a failure? What, if anything, has Jim learned by the end of the film? I can't decide whether the film contains a moral, or whether it's meant to be simply descriptive of a single tone of the Asian-American experience.

Watching the film, I wondered at times who the intended audience was. Chan is Missing was considered experimental, underground, perhaps because it was produced independently of Hollywood. I don't think it was aimed at a mainstream audience, but rather at Asian-Americans. In fact, the few scenes containing dialogue in Chinese (without subtitles) suggest that the film was produced specifically for Chinese-Americans. I think it's important for more characters like those in Chan is Missing to make appearances in mainstream media: real, round, non-typified characters, emphasis on the hyphen-American.

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