Whilst out at lunch at IMM, I came across a DVD sale. There wasn’t anything that I’d watch, but in a flash of fillial piety I decided to get Daddy a copy of æ°´æµ’ä¼ – The Water Margin, the characters of whom I happen to know he admires.
The volume I’d purchased turned out to be Chinese production (ie. from China) that was of some repute, according to Chinese-colleague. It was the most emotion I’d ever seen her express, when she noticed the box set in the plastic bag I carried. It reminded her of her family back in China, she said, because it was one of those television programmes they’d all watched together when she was but a wee innocent little girl. Which I found slightly strange, because I hardly thought that a tragic literary epic about a bunch of men engaged in bloody war against a corrupt government would have counted as family entertainment.
Encouraged by my seeming-interest in returning to my roots, Chinese-colleague then started to engage me in literary discourse about the Four Great Chinese Classical Novels, which consisted of her talking and me nodding occasionally. The only one I can safely attest to having any real knowledge of is the one with the monkey in it, and that’s only because I’d seen some cartoons and read a comic about it as a kid–I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to admit to that. Her favourite was, as she recounted, was çº¢æ¥¼æ¢¦–Dream of the Red Chamber, of which I only had the vaguest idea was the prototype of the modern Taiwanese melodrama, with women crying in every scene. I said as much, after which Chinese-colleague stopped talking to me.
In any case, that the DVD-set I had purchased had been produced in China for a Chinese audience should have set of warning bells in my head, but I didn’t really think anything about it. Father was suitably moved when I presented him with it (he grunted something that sounded like “Mmk Ye”), and was also impressed by the fact that it had been well-received in China. Until later that night when we started watching it.
Because the series tries hard to remain faithful to the original text, much of the dialogue is unintelligible (as far as we’re concerned). Our initial viewing was peppered with cries of “What?” and “Huh?” Worse–the subtitles only come in traditional Chinese, which means my father has to pause it every time someone says something and look it up in a dictionary.
I think partly because he’s praised the work so much in the past, my father is unwilling to give up watching it despite the difficulty in understanding it–even scenes where the main character orders something from a waiter result in a flurry of dictionary-activity. Mother is very much irritated, because he’s crawling through it at a snail’s pace and hogging the television, meaning she can’t watch regular TV (Taiwanese drama serials involving women crying in every scene). I can’t stand to watch it together with him neither, because of the terribly slow pace at which he goes (I’m slightly better at reading traditional chinese) and having to read out every line after the actor has already said it (for Dad’s convenience in checking the dictionary) makes me feel like I’m at an audition for a play starring mentally-disabled people.
Unsurprisingly, this has not turned out to any kind of family entertainment at all. I’m even reluctant to say this is entertaining for Father. I think the next time we fall out I’ll buy him Romance of the Three Kingdoms.