Dear readers (both of you),
Today I am taking my new wife to see “De Mai Tinh,” a Vietnamese romantic comedy that just came out this month. Vietnamese movies for me are like arm-wrestling a bonobo while inebriated: Sure, it sounds like fun at first, but it’s just embarrassing when you review the whole thing on Youtube and realize that you should have been more careful about who you pick to plan your bachelor party.
It seems that even with the Vietnamese and Vietnamese American community’s rapid growth and success, our TV and movie-making skills overall are underdeveloped when compared to other ethnic communities. “Slumdog Millionaire” was just awesome, for example. The Japanese film “Ringu,” still haunts me to this day, even though I’ve never seen it. That’s how powerful Japanese filmmaking is. And of course, Koreans have perfected the addictive romantic drama formula that usually involves a poor girl falling for a rich boy while a poor boy likes her and someone goes abroad, comes back, and at the end dies while snow falls. (“Why, Han Tae-Hwa, why? What? You too, Han Jung-suh?! No!!”) Even before the opening credits are done, I start weeping, anticipating that one of the characters will die, usually from cancer, but not before fully recovering from amnesia.
Now, what do Vietnamese films have? Certainly nothing as compelling in terms of plot, character, production values, or spreading of awareness about cancer. And let’s face it, when it comes to acting, we Vietnamese are at the bottom rung of the ladder. It has been so bad that I believe the Communist Party in Vietnam purposefully trains actors to be that bad, so that they can use them to punish political prisoners. (“You are spreading Democratic propaganda again? Let’s see how tough you are after 22 episodes of ‘My Love I Save Only for You.’”)
Still, whenever a new movie comes out, I become hopeful, despite knowing I’ll be disappointed. Kind of like a mother with an underachieving child, or Dino Rossi’s campaign manager. As a Vietnamese American, I long for something to break through into the mainstream. Or at least is not horrible. This is not to say that all Vietnamese films are bad. “The Scent of Green Papaya,” for example, is really good, although half of it is spent staring at poetic raindrops and ants. I think there have been signs of progress. Last year’s “Passport to Love” was not nearly as unbearable as I had anticipated it to be; only two of the four main characters made me want to papercut my wrist using the ticket stub.
To improve our movies, the community needs to encourage youngsters to pursue a diverse variety of professions, including acting and filmmaking. Kids who want to go into these professions when they grow up should be supported and encouraged, not taunted and bullied and called mean names (seriously, my parents were terrible sometimes; that was the worst fifth birthday ever).
Anyway, with that, I am off to see “De Mai Tinh,” which literally translates to “Figure it out tomorrow,” but they translated it to “Fool for Love.” It’s a romantic comedy about a guy who falls in love with a girl, who is pursued by a wealthy tycoon, while the guy is pursued by a gay guy. It’s supposed to be hilarious, especially the gay guy. I’m looking forward to it. From what I hear, it’s really good. If not, they can always reshoot it to have someone die of cancer while snow falls on the streets of Saigon.