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2015年11月23日 星期一

Une histoire américaine (Stubborn) (一個美國故事)

There is no rhyme or reason to pig-headedness. But when pig-headedness is wedded to an entirely one-sided unrequited love, it can appear alternatively as engaging, endearing, irritating, annoying and enraging and pathetic or a messy mixture of such epithets. That appears to be the theme of "Une historire américane" (Stubborn) (一個美國故事) of Armel Hostiou.

The story traces the wanderings of Vincent (Vincent Macaigne) through Brooklyn, Coney Island, China Town and Manhattan, New York in pursuit of an impossible love ( an "amour fou") whose ending he doesn't seem able to accept. When the film opens, we see how he dogs Barbara,( Kate Moran) a French speaking American girl, to the seaside of New York city, professing his undying love for her, begging for a chance to resume their relationship because he finds her incredibly beautiful and that he could not live without her, no matter how determined she was to in breaking up with him and despite the fact that he know that she is now living with her new lover, an American doctor.  He would say or do just about anything to have a chance to be with her again. But she remains unmoved. She buys him a plane ticket to go back to Paris. But Vincent would not listen. When she leaves, he wanders about aimlessly in pubs, discos, and cafés, showing  his photo of Barbara on his mobile to any stranger who care at all to talk with him in his almost heavily French accented and barely comprehensible English. He continued to follow her, to an art exhibition, to her boyfriend's clinic and their house but got nowhere.

In one of the bars, he met the beautiful and young Sofie (Sofie Rimstad), who took pity on him because he looked so sad and tried to cheer him up. She accompanied him and went to an amusement park, China town, a ferry ride to Coney Island, a beach, various parks, a casino, an ice-skating ring etc. and took care of him when he got a bleeding nose and bruised face after a mugging immediately he got out of a casino where he made a unexpected winning. When they passed through a jewellery store, he went in, bought a ring and then proceeded straight to where Barbara was living with her new boyfriend and proposed to her right in front of her new boyfriend. He was rejected of course. And when Sofie tried to console him, he yelled at her and ask her to scram. His money gone, he worked in a fish processing plant as an illegal worker, shovelling snow and packing them on to surface of the cut fish fillets to keep them fresh, refusing to return to Paris when he was asked to do so by his father and his little lovely little sister who flew specially to New York for that purpose. When the film ends, we see him digging his shovel into the ice at the refrigerated tank in the cold storage, turning around and then shoving them on to the top of a trough of fish fillets, his hair disheveled, his face unshaved, wearing a shabby T-shirt and dirty jeans. Why? What's the point? Could he have accepted defeat and move on, start a new life without Barbara and perhaps get another girl, Sofie for example? I left the cinema with those questions on my mind. Perhaps the human psyche is a black hole. Perhaps we can never get to the bottom of the mysteries of its working. Perhaps we cannot even scratch at its surface because once we are anywhere near its rim, we'd be sucked in by the immense energy stored in that black hole and we'd be swept inside that vortex of quivering fluctuating quantum energy, never ever to be seen again.

Vincent Macaigne, who co-contributed to some of the dialogues, is excellent as Vincent, the innocent, persistent, mad addict of an obsession for what he considers the love of his life (an "amour fou",) who can't really speak English, who will never give up and who when he finds he can't have his Barbara, refuses to believe in it, perhaps waiting hopelessly but yet patiently for Barbara to break up with her new boyfriend, when he could go back and ask once more for a new start, an incurable romantic bothering on the pathological. But who are we to judge? How can we ever know how he really feels inside that black hole that is his heart and his mind? After all, we're not Vincent. Perhaps when we really were him, it'd be blindingly obvious? Perhaps even Vincent himself wouldn't know? Whatever the truth may be, the human heart may remain forever a mystery. If we don't understand Vincent, if we don't find any meaning in Vincent's drifting and apparently meaningless existence in the New York slums, perhaps we may find his life to be totally absurd. But if so, we may feel less smug if we were to remind ourselves of Camus' Myth of Sisyphus. Perhaps life is really absurd. We carry on our task, each involved and committed to our little projects, day after day, day after day, day after day, but knowing in moments of clarity that in the end, it'll all come to nothing, although we refuse to accept it, and keep on acting as if that were not the case. But perhaps we can give it a kind of meaning for ourselves, as Camus taught us, by the act of our consciously adopting and embracing that existential absurdity, as an absurdity voluntarily and freely chosen by ourselves? Maybe, Vincent has chosen his impossible love for Barbara as his existential project, as the only thing which gives his life a certain meaning in an otherwise meaningless existence? If so, then perhaps, his thought that one day, Barbara may, for some reason unknown to him because it's something in the future, change her mind, something which although most unlikely according to his existing circumstance, is not logically impossible, that faith alone is sufficient to keep him alive and not commit suicide. Perhaps it's that faith that keeps him at digging at the frozen ice with his shovel and then swinging the clump of broken ice on to the fish fillets at his side?