I saw it a few years ago when I brought back some classic movies from Beijing for DragonHead. Didn’t remember much of it–I probably fast forwarded through most of the 3-hour film. Under Tuscany Sun and our trip to Rome reminded me of the only scene I remembered (it’s not hard to guess which), so I bought the DVD and watched it together with Ling couple during the New Year holiday (see my previous post). What a chilling dose of alternative reality after 3 days of our own sweet life!

I don’t mean to write a review for the movie here, but I can’t find a good in-depth analysis link to include here. The Amazon page has some good summaries, saying the obvious that it’s about the emptiness and meaninglessness of modern upper-class life. What I find most interesting is the interpretation of the apparent symbol for innocence, the young girl in the restaurant and on the beach. It’s easy to see her as the only good thing in the movie, and Marcelo’s failure to communicate with her means that he’s totally done for. However I feel Marcelo isn’t that hopeless. Of course the Steiner incidence is a lightning strike. The crazy party is the aftershock. But when he sees that dying monster fish and the girl on the beach, I think he knows clearly that he’d become the dead fish very soon. If he doesn’t kill himself for desperation or his maniac girlfriend Emma, he may actually do something different, like returning to his parents, or retreating to religion. He is, after all, still innocent at heart, just like Sylvia the blonde actress, whose stupidity and innocence are entertwined, sometimes one masking the other. The young girl’s future, on the other hand, seems no more brighter to me. The music she can’t stop singing along with is the same piece to which that to-be-married woman striped. She is just another Marcelo in the making.

Anyway what I really want to say about is our life, not the movie. I think I’ve only told Ye Bin about my innermost discomfortness about my own La Dolce Vita, because he’s really the only one that I know well who’s living a different, more “progressive”, life. Everyone else is a worker bee, humming everyday with good pay, good house, good food, or getting there.

In general it’s not too difficult to live a good middle-class life in America. I’m not saying it’s easy. It takes a lot of hard work for me and everyone I know to come to US, get degrees, find jobs, do a good job, buy a good house, keep up the house, etc. Please allow me not to bring up any offspring issue for now because that’s a whole different world. And it’s also a lot of work, though much more enjoyable, to learn to enjoy life like Americans do: tennis, golf, ski, billiard, bowling, poker, … You have to be somewhat smart to do all these well enough.

Right now we still have visa status issue, so there’s at least something to worry about. Take that out of the way, I can almost see the next 30 years of my life, if no major natural or man-made disaster occurs. I’m extremely grateful for everyone and everything that has enabled me to live and foresee my Dolce Vita. I’m so grateful that I feel I’m obliged by my incredible family, friends, and fortune to do something more, something different.

It’s a socialist cliche to say that you should contribute to the society, though JFK also said something like that, didn’t he. The standard American dream is to be whatever you want to be, or as Steve Jobs said, find what you love. If it happens to also change the world for good, all the better. I feel I want to try at least one approach, because if I don’t, I have a feeling that in the end I would have wasted more or less some of natural and social resources I have and will have consumed. Evolution shouldn’t allow that in the long run.

Anyway I don’t feel nearly as much void as Marcelo because I’ve always got more than enough fun things to do, I mean really fun stuff, for at least one more person other than myself. I guess I just identify with Marcelo on an abstract level about the meaning and goal of life. Maybe I’m still not busy enough to forget about those things…