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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rest in peace, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I was in Bali the past 10 days for a film shoot that I wasn't exactly involved in. (Basically, I was renting out my Blackmagic Cinema Camera for an Indonesian-Japanese film shoot, and had to stay around to ensure that no one was going to break my camera... of course, a free trip to Bali, which I've never gone before, was too tempting an offer to turn down)

While I was seemingly trapped in a time warp (like all film shoots tend to feel, despite my lack of involvement in this one), many things had happened in this world, mostly tragedies. One of my favourite wrestlers from my childhood, THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR, passed away on the day that I was flying off to Bali.

Since then, there was the South Korean ferry disaster in April 16, followed a day later, on April 17, by the deaths of Malaysian opposition politician Karpal Singh and literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Now that I am back in Malaysia for a day before I return to Tokyo tomorrow, I feel nothing but melancholy for the recent losses.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of my favourite writers of all time. Reading his two iconic novels LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA and ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE were life-altering experiences for me, even though I read them 6 years apart, at vastly different stages of my life.

Read LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA in 2005 as a lovesick 21-year-old university student in Perth experiencing the bittersweet pain of unrequited love.

Read ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE in 2011 as a 27-year-old filmmaker in Tokyo making a short film to distract himself from memories of previous unfulfilled romances.

My master thesis and doctorate dissertation were related to magical realism, because ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE shook the foundations of world literature and storytelling, influencing a new generation of important writers (Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende etc), and showed the possibilities of mixing genres, blurring the lines between dreams and reality, the fantastical, the historical to depict the subjective experience of one's culture and history.

It's something I definitely wanted to attempt with cinema.

Just a few weeks ago, I finished reading his non-fiction book CLANDESTINE IN CHILE, which chronicles a Chilean filmmaker Miguel Littin's clandestine visit to his home country after 12 years of exile. He went into the country with a different identity (as an Uruguayan businessman), and then directing 3 European crews to shoot footages for a documentary about Chilean life under the dictatorship, and people of the underground resistance movements. It's compelling stuff, and if adapted into a film, would have seem like something like ARGO.

Since he died, I have posted quite a number of Gabriel Garcia Marquez-related articles on Facebook.

Here's the first 11 minutes of a documentary about Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I don't know how can I find the rest of it.

I liked telling people that I share the same birthday with Gabriel Garcia Marquez (March 6), because... what are the odds, right? Now that Gabo has passed away, I felt an urge to honour him by reading one of his books. There are still so many that I have yet to read. And those that I have read before, I cannot help but revisit each scene with joy.

The depiction of love between Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes in ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE.

He dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her. Petra Cotes, for her part, loved him more and more as she felt his love increasing, and that was how in the ripeness of autumn she began to believe once more in the youthful superstition that poverty was the servitude of love. Both looked back then on the wild revelry, the gaudy wealth, and the unbridled fornication as an annoyance and they lamented that it had cost them so much of their lives to find the paradise of shared solitude. Madly in love after so many years of sterile complicity, they enjoyed the miracle of living each other as much at the table as in bed, and they grew to be so happy that even when they were two worn-out people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like dogs.

The desperation of preserving the moment with a woman you love from afar in LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA:

To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else's heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.

And there is no ending in a novel I love more than the one in LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA:

The Captain looked at Fermina Daza and saw on her eyelashes the first glimmer of wintry frost. Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.

"And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?" he asked.

Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and night.

"Forever," he said.