November 25, 2009

The Man who Keeps Movie Tickets / Kelly Chun-laam Ma

It was a lovely evening, with a delicious dinner, an interesting conversation with a friend, and a good movie. On his way home he listened to his iPod, letting his own thoughts take him wherever they wanted. He took the elevator, walked through the hallway and opened the door to his apartment. Lights were turned on, and earphones were taken off. The music was still loud and clear enough.

Instead of taking off his coats and shoes or checking the messages, he went straight into his bedroom, and switched on his computer and scanner swiftly. Everything’s ready – he got his wallet from one of the pockets on his coat, and slowly took out the movie ticket that he kept, the ticket of Departures which he saw a few hours ago at AMC Festival Walk, and put it on the scanner. After a few seconds an image of the ticket was seen on the computer screen, and he saved the file, so that he could keep a soft copy of the movie ticket.
With the ticket on his hand, he pulled out a drawer right under his desk and opened a small black box that said PATRICK COX on its top. Inside the box there was a well-organized pile of movie tickets that he has been collecting since . . . August 28, 2003, which was the day he saw the romantic comedy Down with Love. He remembered it because it was the ticket on top of the pile, arranged in chronological order. He carefully took out the whole pile of tickets and placed the latest addition at the bottom.

This is the moment he usually considers that he has actually seen a movie. The moment in which his ritualistic procedure is done for the sake of his fetishistic obsession with collecting movie tickets.

He never really tries to explain or to justify this particular behavior of his. Still, it does make him feel good in a somewhat magical way when he flips through his collection of movie tickets. Looking at them – he can recall the memories with his old friend and the last movie they saw together: to cherish the rare opportunity of viewing Lost in Translation, his all-time favourite movie, on the big screen because he missed it four years ago when it opened in Hong Kong; to feel nostalgic about his first and only trip so far to Japan where he decidedly spent one afternoon to have the silly, exotic experience of seeing I am Legend, a Hollywood film in a Japanese movie theatre. How exactly do these little pieces of paper, which are only meant to be receipts, or proof of consumption, add something to his life? How does opening the small black box every time displace his various experiences of time, space and memories? If he had ever asked himself all these questions, he must have kept them inside the box altogether with the tickets anyway, just as he closed the box again . . .

The clock said it was 3 a.m. and he stayed up late as usual, and he had just finished blogging about his thoughts on Departures. He opened another web browser, clicked on the web link to Broadway Circuit, in the hopes of buying a ticket online for another new film to see tomorrow night. Viewing the seat plan attentively, with a cup of coffee next to the keyboard, he was not yet in the mood for sleep.

The short piece of writing tells the story of a man who loves going to the movies and keeps the ticket after each viewing. Despite the self-referential inspiration (to be honest, I do collect my own movie tickets), this story is still meant to be fundamentally creative and slightly personal.

I tried to describe the setting of modern world and focus on how the nameless protagonist is surrounded or even consumed by various kinds of dominant technology for which the genuine relationship and communication with other people is marginalized (see how the dinner and the conversation are merely mentioned as if there is no point).

At the same time, this protagonist loves movies and finds himself allowed to add meanings to his life thanks to films (despite the technology and reproducibility of films). In this way, films become the major connection between him and the modern world, or products/commodities which he consumes to be enchanted (or less disenchanted, at least).

Pieces of his real-life memories are entangled with each movie-viewing experience, and consequently his temporal and spatial consciousness is displaced to a certain extent, and his way of dealing with the modern world—through consumption of art as product and commodity fetishism—is inevitably problematized.

Kelly Chun-laam Ma is a student from CLIT2018 Critiques of Modernity 2008-2009 second semester.

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