From the beginning of Patrice Wilson’s brilliant new ARK Studios endeavor, “Chinese Food” featuring rising star Alison Gold, a finely combined stew of themes and artistic considerations take center stage.
The film brings us the hero of a young girl (Gold) on the sidewalk of life, traipsing casually the traverse between her ending childhood’s curb and the coming trafficked roads of adult responsibility.
The observant critic will not ignore the subtitling as young Gold sings of her “ballin’,” her “clubbin’” and her “huggin’.” Not only do Chinese characters come across the screen in rough dictation of her soliloquy, but so do Spanish, German, Arabic, Cyrillic-character Russian (most of which are incorrect), but also most tellingly, even English.
These subtitles persist for the entire video.
The rapid interplay of languages from world-wide cultures both in and outside the Proto-Indo-European tradition sets up the pan-linguistic question of whether alphabets, words, and sentences that were never created to convey the exactly worded ideas of another tongue can adequately convey a “translation” at all, and then queries the validity of that mindset entirely by presenting the words in written subtitled English: the very language in which Gold is singing!
With this loaded visual against the symbolic gesture of Gold pushing over a garbage can, the artist’s considerations of whether language can convey any human thought at all are clear, and the corollary that if any language can convey thought, then every language can convey every thought.
“You know that it’s true.”
It is when the auteur himself makes his appearance within the film, however, that the depths of existential questioning charged within the semiotics of this cinematic tour-de-force are truly made clear.
As the Virgil to Alison Gold’s Dante, a mentor descending with the hero into the depths of the symbolic literary underworld, producer Patrice Wilson guides us with cerebral hints towards the psycho-dystopian nihilism of his real vision.
After guiding us through a game of Monopoly – the surest representation of the neo-capitalist Objectivism that guides today’s sociopolitical landscape – he presents to us Gold and her friends in the despairing subject position of Geisha girls: not only inappropriately strange for girls of their age, but a tradition that is Japanese, and not even Chinese: certainly a scathing symbolic commentary on the Imperialistic victory of globalism as a political “prostitution” of all our cultures.
It is at his exit from the narrative, though, that Wilson finally tips his hand. After blasting through the ceiling as a Panda on the jet force of a rainbow, we open the final text artifact with which he presents us: a fortune-cookie slip that reads, didactically, “The panda will fly away on a rainbow.”
At this moment, the cyclical connections between time and space – what has happened, what is happening, and what can come to happen – dissolve and explode in a dazzling psychological array of shattered assumptions, pushing to the farthest limits the Cartesian duality between mind and body that made the concept of Free Will available in the Enlightenment Era and then using the flames of its burning to set alight the neurological imperatives of Nature vs Nurture in order to set off the fuse of Saussurian Post-Structuralism to ignite the bomb of Derridean Deconstruction Criticism in a blinding burst of mind-awakening colors that jar one into real consciousness, life-awareness: a rainbow of truth, if you will.
While I was almost as eager to examine the post-feminist repercussions of Gold’s early gestures at “making it rain” upon Chow-Mein as if it were so much bitches,
the scope of this initial essay is limited in light of the upcoming prequel to “Chinese Food” that will be released on November 4th. What is clear at this junction, however, is that the meaning baked and embedded in the hard-to-crack shell of Patrice Wilson and Alison Gold’s cinematic text is only beginning to emerge. “And you like it. Cause it’s beautiful.”
– Jeshua Enriquez, M.A. Teaching, is an M.A. Literature student at Northwestern University.