Blood buds – Sila Khomchai
17/06/2011 § Leave a comment
He wasn’t sure when ‘classic’ had become his catchword; he didn’t even know what the word really meant and had never thought of looking it up in a dictionary. He only knew that it was a generic term used to describe what you felt in front of a picture that deeply disturbed you and that everybody around you was talking about. You used it to give your opinion about someone’s work, as a kind of quality label for an outstanding piece.
So, when he started his own work, the word roamed in his mind as if he was haunted by a ghost.
The sheet of paper he had fed his typewriter the night before was still totally blank, even though the marketing objective was clear and data gathering and analysis had been completed. These days, people are under stress because of their hectic struggle for money and social status and increasingly violent and stifling competition with one another. They have to let out steam but can’t do it themselves, so, entertainment must cater to this need. Rampage sequences must be realistic and presented in meticulous detail, and death scenes must show horrible savagery, as in those Hong Kong and Thai classics with titles like Brutal Squirt, Settling Accounts through a Hole in the Head, The Bullet of Revenge or Blood All over Town.
He had some classic scenes in mind, such as the one in that film on Al Capone’s life, when the cops are trying to secure a prime witness, the only one willing to testify in court against him. In the hustle and bustle of the railway station, the first crossfire creates Pandemonium. A mother loses hold of her baby’s pram, which starts rolling down a long flight of stairs. In this crucial second, a police sharpshooter throws himself forward to stop the pram before the baby gets hurt, and at the same time takes his chance and fires at the Mafia boss, who is using the witness as a shield.
There is also the ringing of the church bells in that scene of The Godfather in which Don Michael Corleone is baptized as godfather of his nephew while the child’s father is being murdered as he has instructed. Or Chow Yun-fat’s one-man act in The Mean, the Bad & the Good, when he takes his revenge on his former business partners, whose betrayal led to the arrest of his closest confident; the fast-paced, action-packed, blood-splattered scene is riveting.
These things vied for attention in his mind and he had to think hard before starting to write his film script. He had to find scenes, angles and events that would arouse strong feelings.
‘Don’t … don’t do that, Eik. Stop it!’ The screams of Sarlika, the maid, interrupted his thoughts, only to be covered by the shrill yells of ‘Yahoo! … Jetman’s Gang! … Fatal Kick! …. Red Boomerang!’
When he opened the door and got out of the room, he saw his six-year-old son perched on the dining table deftly kicking the maid with one foot. He was holding a hanger as his magic weapon and bashing her on the head with it.
‘Hey!’ he shouted, startled, but that didn’t help. Sarlika, protecting her head with both arms, collapsed and squatted on the floor next to a pile of clothes waiting to be washed.
‘Stop that stupid game now! Can’t you see you are hurting her? Her head will bleed, you know. What a naughty child! Go away — get out of here, or before long you’ll be hurting too!’ His voice was like a growl. He was really angry. His concentration had been disturbed to the point that he couldn’t sort out his confused ideas. That, and his son’s aggressive and threatening attitude, which went far beyond a pleasant tease, made his blood boil.
He and his wife were bringing their child up the modern way, according to the advice of handbooks and of the paediatrician on TV. They made sure they spent quality time with him and hugged him often to make him feel loved. They avoided shouting at him, hitting or berating him when he did something wrong, because they were afraid it might spoil his temper and make him rebellious.
They kept teaching him how to love and be kind to others and how to notice and remember things. They did it themselves, with the help of video. Yet, strangely enough, the older he grew, the farther he was straying from the path they wished for him, showing himself obstinate and decidedly aggressive. He had bought him a guitar to play with and get him interested in music, but his son had turned it into a gun like that of Getter Robo G, the space protector in a Star War-type of movie.
The little fellow, looking despondent, went to fetch some coloured pencils and drawing paper. He bought him plenty of them so that he could enjoy himself dabbing away while improving his concentration and creative talent. As soon as he saw his son busy drawing in a corner of the room, he went back and sat down in front of his typewriter.
He loved his only child with all his heart and had never thought of giving him a brother or sister, even though the family could probably afford to have more children. He wanted to raise him as best he could and give him his undivided love and everything else besides, so that he would grow up healthy, both physically and mentally.
He had to make a great effort to focus his thoughts on his work. If he was working so hard, it was for him. He didn’t have enough courage right now to tackle the classic scene of his film script. Perhaps the personalities of the main characters were not clear enough. The film was about serious conflicts that turned to bloodshed, so the characters should have inner conflicts as well. Each of them should have roughly equal measures of good and evil, and strong and hidden weak points.
The Mafia overlord must be thoughtful and soft-spoken, as well as ruthlessly decisive, circumspect and adept at protecting himself. His weak point is his kindness to children, especially those in the local borstal, as he himself has gone through the painful experience of this kind of establishment. Every year he joins in the charity fair there and makes a donation. That’s where he’ll get his comeuppance.
The godfather’s personal bodyguard is smart, brave and as emotive as an ice pick; he is an expert killer and a master tactician, and there is nothing on his plain face to attract attention. His strong point is his total self-control. His apartment in a five-star condominium is full of aquariums and he spends most of his time feeding the fish and watching them swim around. His mind is totally focused and never strays. Like his rival the crack-shot cop, he believes in the need to achieve total mental concentration before going down to work. The difference between them is that the cop meditates in front of a Buddha image in a temple, his pistol ready at his waist.
The godfather’s main foe is a clever young man who is adept at hiding his feelings as he bides his time to avenge his family. Under the guise of a businessman, this master strategist manipulates the situation so that he finally corners his enemy and gets ready for the kill, but when the time comes to spill blood, he lets a greenhorn do it for him. His weak point is his indiscriminate womanizing. He strongly believes the sex drive is the power that fuels men’s ambitions and dreams of regal greatness. His end must come in ‘Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind’ fashion.
And there are lots of minor characters who must have their own aspirations and roles.
The classic scene should take place when violence reaches a climax and purity seeps in and gives the action an entirely new twist, creating an uneasy atmosphere which forces some of the characters to make potentially disastrous decisions — or perhaps he should do the opposite, going against the expectations of the audience, to achieve a higher effect? Or…
‘Bioman’s Gang … SuperLaser Sword … StrailFair…’
The little fellow was yelling again after a long period of quiet. He was a boy, so his boisterous behaviour was normal, but he had never learned to stay his hand and refrain from violence.
His son should grow up fine and decide on his own course. His parents could only try to figure out what life would be like in tomorrow’s world and prepare the ground for him to walk in step with the rest of society and live in a meaningful way.
To begin with, he must be ready in body and mind. He thought he should get him to play a couple of sports, so that he would get proper exercise, know the rules and understand discipline, as well as play to win and also know how to lose. That would be better than letting him throw stones at the birds sitting on the fence, yelling, ‘Jet bomb … Boom!’
Oh, yes! There was that shot of the flock of birds taking off in fright in the sequence where the mayor and his underlings surround Bonnie and Clyde and shoot them dead — really classy, classic stuff! You hear the shots blasting from the surrounding bushes but can’t see the guns. What you see is puffs of smoke and leaves whirling in the air, and the bullets tearing through the plating of the car, and the bodies of the young man and woman jerking under the impact of the bullets. What a beautiful, sensational and perfect shot!
Sometimes, eerie sounds that set your nerves on edge — a window that shatters, wheels shrieking on the tarmac, piercing screams of pain from some dark corner, the deafening explosion of a fuel tank — play an important part in rousing you till you are taut with fear. He had to have some of them in some scenes, to show how good he was.
‘Shoo! Get out or I’ll chop your head off!’ the little one was shouting. This must be the neighbour’s dog, who had probably come through the fence onto their lawn again. It seemed the boy couldn’t get along with this noisy pet, who yapped non-stop but got easily scared. His son should be more considerate than this; though he didn’t like the dog, he should at least be kind to him. He had often taken his son to the countryside to admire the fields, the jungle and the mountains, and had introduced him to the various species of animals, those lovely and wonderful friends who live in the same world as us.
He used to worry that, in this increasingly screwed-up society of ours, his son would develop abnormal sexual proclivities, but before long it was his aggressiveness that got him worried. Perhaps he should tell his wife to have him apply for some weekend music course rather than let him watch all those star-war movies.
Indeed, what about the score? Though that was handled by professionals, he should contribute by letting them know what kind of mood he wanted. A good score adds spice to a movie. The crescendo slowly building up to a climax and the furious fracas during the main explosion should be clearly separate. Even though action rules over feelings in this film, the music after the climax should be sweet and soft. To have as lead song a ballad like ‘A moment of romance’ wouldn’t be a bad idea.
In order to be classic, sometimes you have to find some ambiguous symbol that will make the viewers think and come up with diverging interpretations, like in that scene in The Graduate in which Dustin Hoffman runs away with another man’s bride at the start of the wedding ceremony and blocks the church gate with a cross to prevent anyone from going after them. That shot purports to show that sometimes the fetters of religion can alienate man’s freedom.
Perhaps he should have the hero keep some kind of hunting animal like a wildcat, a hound, a hawk or a piranha. He’d have close-ups on its hungry eyes, impatient claws and glistening fangs during the important scenes to convey the hero’s innermost feelings. Its fierce growls would make the story perfectly exciting.
His son was singing a Japanese song out there. The boy just picked up whatever took his fancy after hearing it repeatedly on TV. It was remarkable how he didn’t have to be taught; he just absorbed everything naturally. He may not get all the words right, but the pitch and the tune were close enough. Sometimes he couldn’t help laughing at his son’s gift to memorize and learn. He thought he should set up good examples for him so that he could absorb proper and useful values. If he left him exposed to the present-day environment, there must be problems for sure: people are getting increasingly violent these days.
Maybe he would take him to the seaside in the South once this work was over and let him learn and appreciate the beauty of nature below the sea for three or four days.
He switched his attention back to his work and concentrated on thinking up the most important scene. To get the godfather killed, he would use a handsome, candid-faced fourteen-year-old boy as his murderer. After the donation ceremony, the godfather, feeling elated, would lower his guard. His bodyguards would be covering various spots some distance away. The boy, who had been sent to the borstal to prepare for this very eventuality, would present him with a basket of flowers as a memento of gratitude and suddenly pull the small, sharp Vietcong-style bayonet out of the basket where it had been hidden and stab the godfather right under his left breast — exactly what the shot should be, given the target and the boy’s strength.
That was the outline. As for the details, he had to think hard to figure out the distance between the boy and the godfather, the rhythm for pulling the bayonet out of the basket, the cool, unchanged expression in the boy’s eyes, the deadly accuracy of that one stab, and the gushing of blood when the bayonet is pulled out, like in Chinese movies — no, that sounded ridiculous. The sight of blood should convey more repulsive or thrilling emotions than this. Or should he have a shot of the blood dripping from the tip of the knife?
Sarlika, the maid, opened the door of his office, served him his third cup of coffee and changed the ashtray expertly. After she had left, he heard his son shouting harshly: ‘Gogul Red attacks Dead Dark … Kill ‘em all!’ Sarlika cried out heatedly: ‘Don’t … don’t do that, Eik!’
The commotion forced him to drop his work and hurry out of the room. Since when had his metallic ruler disappeared from his desk? It was now a laser sword in the little fellow’s hand and it was cleaving the alien Sarlika right into a dark corner.
‘Hey!’ he shouted in fright as a sharp corner of the ruler cut into the arm Sarlika had put up to protect herself and left a long gash. Sarlika covered the wound with her hand and rushed to the dining table, where she sat down. He took mercurochrome, gauze and cotton out of the first-aid pharmacy and hurried to help her. Dark-red blood was oozing from the web of her hand, and blood drops began to fall on the white tablecloth.
As they touched the cloth, they slowly spread out like the buds of red flowers in bloom. Each drop formed a fascinating flower and all together they were like a bunch blossoming all at once.
He looked at them thoughtfully, and suddenly was reminded of the godfather’s blood at the time of his death. In the shocked silence of the moment, the blood buds were slowly stretching their petals all over the tablecloth.
What a supremely classic shot!
First published in the issue of Phooying magazine dated 24 November 1991