Made as a commercial short film for Philips Aurea LCD TV, Wong Kar Wai’s “There’s Only One Sun” returns us to the science fiction world of his film 2046. The protagonist is a blind woman who is sent to assassinate a man she may or may not love.
In 2046, the science fiction world is written and imagined by Chow, a man living in 1960s Hong Kong. He writes the pulp fiction serial partly to support himself, and partly, in a desire laden literary collaboration, to continue to see Miss Wang, a woman he is falling for but who will not return his affection. Science fiction, in all its speculative hankerings, is a desiring machine for Chow and for us.
In “There’s Only One Sun,” the use of the song “Siboney,” high heels that light up, and the futuristic architecture all connect us back to that science fiction world within Chow’s world. The true connective tissue here though is the sense of the unrequited. Certainly, in Wong Kar Wai’s films characters never find love or true connection, but even the film’s visuals themselves haunt us with desire, draw us in and leave us lusting for the unrequited.
As the protagonist of “There’s Only One Sun,” notes in her voice over, “It’s hard to look at things directly. They’re too bright and too dark. Sometimes we need to see things through a screen.” This screen acts as a barrier, between her (the blind assassin / lover) and the man she wants to be with but doubts, and between us and her as she in certain scenes seems caught in a blurry labyrinth of surfaces and images.
“A space must be maintained or desire ends,” Anne Carson notes in Eros the Bittersweet. This screen the protagonist uses to look indirectly is of course the Philips Aurea television screen, but it is, also, the bittersweet object extraordinaire: showing the beloved but barring her from him. She notes, in a perfectly poetic slogan for the television and the ambivalence of desire, “On one side of the screen memories fade. On the other, they glow forever.” What a perfect, imperfect object of desire.
Rob, Your commentary is fascinating. The film is so full of philosophical signifiers. Blindness, desire, the screen between self and other, the woman kissing her own reflection, blindness because you see, the search for the one of whom you have only seen a glimpse (very Quixotic). It’s very philosophical sci-fi. Terrific to see it.
Thanks, Rob, for such a visually arresting film! His use light, colour and transitions into and out of focus are fascinating.
The screen of languages too, of translations, retranslations. Very interesting. I look forward to these films every week.