Sunday, February 3, 2008

Language: A List

After watching Wayne Wang's Chan is Missing, I was struck by how the film used/played with the concept of language. Unfortunately, I can't make much of it, besides the fact that I think it's an important aspect of the film. Instead of trying to craft a weak/shoddy argument, I have created a list of moments in the film that draw our attention to language, and perhaps we can come up with something more cohesive together.

1. (Arguably) The Genesis of Chan is Missing: Chan Hung is stopped by a police officer and the two men become embroiled in a verbal tussle that escalates to Chan Hung's arrest. The argument seems to stem from the inherent discrepancies between Chinese and English grammar.
2. Newspaper articles--written language--as clues.
3. Disembodied voices (the man behind the door and the mysterious female caller)--spoken language--as clues.
4. The Cook: Speaks fluent Mandarin... only to reveal he pretty much speaks fluent English. Note the lack subtitles (intriguing).
5. Acronyms Galore: FOB and ABC are defined.
6. Steve's amazingly corny joke: "You can tell by the way I use my wok, I'm a Chinese cook." An example of playful use of language.
7. The Language Center.
8. Chan Hung was the brains behind his brother's first word processing system in Chinese.
9. Names: Jo and Steve versus Chan. ("Chan is too Chinese")


1 comment:

chuynh said...

I hadn't really noticed the use of language, but it does make a lot of sense. I did notice the lack of subtitles and was a little disoriented by it. My only guess is that a lot of culture (pop culture or not) is centered on language and that there could be subtle plays on translation, both literally with language and figuratively with the figure of Chan (coming to America-FOB and how the other characters view him).