Jyanni Steffensen Her feet covered many cocoons...
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The Other Peony Pavilion

Orlando Jones began to watch films in French warm(Artemesia, Fanfan) when she should have been marking essays in English and learning Chinese. She could in fact, by now, hold spontaneous conversations (albeit simple ones) in Chinese. Nevertheless, her ability to understand French, which had languished for some time, also improved dramatically.

Then she discovered a film called Peony Pavilion in the minuscule Hangzhou St. video store. To her everlasting delight, it was subtitled in English. "Ahh," she sighed. She thought that this film encapsulated her doctoral thesis better than any other did. She thought that the female character Lan was the most fluid (languid seemed a better word) bisexual who she had ever been on celluloid - not that there were that many. The film Peony Pavilion did not, it was obvious, bear any resemblance to the classic Chinese story and opera of the same name. The film was set in Suzhou, a garden city west of Shanghai, in the 1930s. Jade was the fifth concubine in a Noble House. She had been a singer at the Moon-Lit Chamber. cheers_banzai!She had a little daughter named Pearl who asked questions such as "What are you smoking, Grandfather?", "Why doesn't Auntie Lan (who is wearing a man's tuxedo at the time) have children?" and "Why is my nephew older than my mother?" Orlando Jones thought that this looked like a promising film. The opening scenes were set at a lavish birthday party for the opium smoking grandfather. The costuming and art direction were lush enough to make Baz Luhrmann gasp. The pace of the film was, however, languid. Characters kept breaking into snatches of Chinese Opera (Orlando Jones could not identify which version). Then she, Lan, appeared. Lan was a cousin of the Noble House (the kinship system was large and complicated) who was in love with Jade. She was a modern woman, a teacher who cross-dressed, smoked, took lots of photographs, and sang Opera - both male and female roles. Dressed in men's clothes (both western suits and traditional Chinese men's silk gowns) she was the most beautiful character that Orlando Jones had ever seen on film. All of the major protagonists in Peony Pavilion were exquisite.

Jade, who was bored with her life of secluded luxury - doing embroidery and getting drunk while the other four concubines were playing mah jong - left the Noble House with her daughter. The House was coolcrumbling anyway. She moved in with Lan. What Orlando Jones loved most was that none of the other characters in the film paid the least attention to the fact that Jade and Lan were lovers - that they were always kissing, holding hands, singing opera, dancing, or lying about in bed together. It was all such a narrative non-event. Jade smoked opium. Lan taught her students English. Then Lan met Mr. Shing, an official from the North (Nanjing), who came to the school where she taught. This character was unbelievably beautiful. The scenes in which Lan watched Shing washing himself (she thought that he did not know that she was there) was one of the most erotic that Orlando Jones had ever seen. Lan slid easily into a heterosexual relationship. The ease with which she lived her bisexuality, without drama or tears or even thought, impressed Orlando Jones greatly. For a moment, Orlando Jones thought it would be one of those films where the dyke suddenly realised the error of her decadent ways and went off with the man. However, Shing left because he could not bear Lan's 'ambiguity'. Lan and Jade remained lovers. Pearl, Jade and Lan remained a 'family'. It was the calmest film that Orlando Jones had seen for a long time - languid, quiet, and stunningly beautiful. It had won prizes (at Cannes) in 2001.

In amorous languor, something keeps going away; it is as if desire were nothing but this hemorrhage. Such is amorous fatigue: a hunger not to be satisfied, a gaping love. Or again, my entire self is drawn, transferred to the love object which takes its place: languor would be that exhausting transition from narcissistic libido to object libido. (Desire for the absent being and desire for the present being: languor superimposes the two desires, putting absence within presence. Whence a state of contradiction: this is the "gentle fire.") [4]

language n 1 (U) system of sounds, words, patterns. Etc. used by humans to communicate thoughts and feelings. 2 (C) form of language used by a particular group, nation, etc.

languor n 1 (U) tiredness or laziness of mind or body; listlessness 2 (sing) feeling of dreamy peacefulness

From time to time, Orlando Jones forgot that she was staging a Russell Crowe festival.