Sunday, April 27, 2008

JJ Chinois and Terminal USA

The short JJ Chinois segment and the underground film Terminal USA were probably the two weirdest films I have ever seen. It is really hard for me to comment on either because I do not understand what point the producers were trying to make. The reading helped clarify the 5 min JJ Chinois clip. I had no idea what most of the random subtitles and text referred to. In the end, though, I am unsure of what this is supposed to say about being Asian and transsexual. Meanwhile, Terminal USA has been well received, as it has been chosen to appear in multiple film festivals and was selected to air on PBS in 150+ markets. However, the film was too ridiculous to me to take seriously, and I found myself getting annoyed more than anything. A lot of reviews and advertisements I found online call it hilarious and a great comedy, but I guess it just did not strike me in the same way. I found some of the absurdity refreshing and thought the whole bit on Kazumi getting accepted to his ‘dream community college’ was comical. The use of music stood out to me in the film, as well. Every time a scene transitioned to Marvin, a nerdy type of sci-fi music came on. I thought that was clever and enhanced the portrayal of Marvin.

As I am sure everyone realizes, the film is an extreme portrayal of Asian American stereotypes. I think the director made that clear in the first 5 minutes of the film by showing Kazumi looking stoned out of his mind, the oblivious mother and dying grandfather, Holly’s cheerleader attire, and having Marvin first introduced with his big glasses and a protractor. I would answer yes to Allison’s question about the producer’s creative notion to then weave in other taboo characteristics into the lives of the different characters. By giving the characters multiple identities, it makes everything seem even more extreme than it already is. The different attributes/storylines associated with each character makes the film become more than just a 1D look at different types of Asian American personalities and how they are received in the community/family. Ultimately, though, there were simply too many radical ideas going on at once.

It seems like I, along with everyone else who has posted so far, am interested to hear what these films are supposed to say about being Asian American.

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