I just finished watching Federer collect his 4th Wimbledon trophy against Nadal. These 2 players in their Queen’s Club whites against the backdrop of white-haired linesmen in their all-blue unifoms upon the historic court’s lush green provided a stark contrast in color to the images — black and white, all dark — that the movie I saw last night left in my brain.

My head is still whirring from such disturbing montages. (Of course, it could just have easily been due to the Malbec, this Argentinian red, that I drank like water during dinner.) I saw Heading South, this French movie by Laurence Cantet, at Lincoln Plaza. It follows the story of Brenda (played by the very fine Karen Young), this middle-aged woman from Savannah, Georgia, who travels back to a resort in Haiti to pursue Legba (Menathy Roy), a young Haitian male, she met the first time she went. Brenda is joined in the paradisic hotel by other women with the same story, Sue (Louise Portal), a sympathetic Canadian (with seemingly simple wants), and Ellen (played by the divine Charlotte Rampling), an English professor from Boston (whose carnal desires are seemingly tempered by such a strong sense of self-awareness.) The drama in the lives of lonely, middle-aged women have long been a subject of cinema. What makes this movie a refreshing if not terrifying take is that integrated into the themes of this kind of midlife crisis are those of interracial coupling and transgenerational relations bordering on the criminal. Young Haitian men, boys even, strut around in the resort as escorts of older Caucasian women. Brenda pursuing Legba under the sheets or on the sands of the beach and even into the market with gifts of clothes and food presented such an iconoclastic image of infatuation, if not love distorted by delusion. (Brenda’s fair skin against Legba’s naked body glistening like an onyx against the Caribbean sun was such a powerfully provocative statement on the politics and economics of race relations.) Ellen, who also desires Legba, composes herself against the pitfalls of such a delusion, emphasizing that love should not be confused with sex. (A scene wherein a young boy not older than 10 holds Ellen’s hand and follows her into her cottage as an offer of consolation after seeing her watch Brenda and Legba dancing was enough to send me squirming up my seat.) In one of their dinner conversations, she essays that the Haitian boys give the women their bodies, an orgasm, but that should not be construed as them giving them their hearts, a sense of soulmating, along with it. To think so is foolish; to run away with such a thought is fatal. In the end, after a series of unfortunate incidents (that always happens to the natives and never to the tourists, as per the Haitian cop), Ellen suddenly finds herself waking up from her self-induced dream life and decides to head back to the Northeast. Brenda, reinvigorated by a new sensual sense of herself (after living a lackluster life, sexless after a divorce and driven into the desensitizing grind of lonely, daily routines in the South), decides to stay in the Caribbean to pursue her brand of adventure.

I find this film most engrossing on so many levels. The direction was exquisite, the cinematography most captivating, the acting (led by Charlotte Rampling) was superb. What was also most affecting were the themes. Criminal May-December affairs should never be condoned and will always be alien to me but what is real are those themes that touch on interracial relationships and individual isolation as impetus for all kinds of pursuits, inhibited, at the least, and radically life-altering, at the most.

I have never been very conscious of my race until I moved to NY. (I used to live in Honolulu and the race card was not as evident. Then again, it might as well have been little Tokyo with the abundance of East Asians around.) It seems everyone strives to make a mark in this city and every aspect of differentiation — race being one of the most distinct — is always exploited to this advantage. From the workplace and, most especially, in the dating circuit, race seems to be a defining factor. One is almost always initially scrutinized by one’s skin color. Asian? Must be a bottom. Black? Must be hung. Latino? Must be lotsa drama. I, for one, find myself just mostly attracted to Caucasian and Asian men (although my ex-boyfriend history reveals that I am such a Potato Queen.) Although I understand that the object of desire is basically subjective and for one to attach an objective value judgment upon it is ludicrous (e.g. I don’t think you can say one is morally evil simply because he doesn’t find Asian men sexually attractive), I also hold on to the respect that one should not exclude anyone else from a sincere start at connection strictly based on his race. I know it’s very easy to say that one should move away from such a point of view and much harder to practice it (since I always find myself in the same dilemma every time.) But I think that being aware that one is caught in it is always a start. To think that one is not (the least bit) racist is to delude oneself. I look at Brenda and I am warned at where delusion can get me to.

I just tuned 29 last week and I think I am still too young to think of midlife and all that it carries with it. (Then again, I am gay and this might already as well be old age.) Maybe it will start creeping up to me next year when I turn 30. What I think of is what I don’t want to be at that point in my life. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to be grinding away at my life in a rut. I don’t want to be (unaware of my self) drifting aimlessly in a pool of alienation, despair pushing me to new lows. I don’t want to still be living in a studio apartment and ending up having to pay for rough trade to appease my hard-up desires.

I look at Federer, who, at such a young age of 24, has already achieved so much in his life. What have I got to cherish as I go on with mine? I wasn’t born with a talent at tennis. (Heck, I barely made it through high school gym sports.) What I lack in athletic prowess, I believe I make up for with a propensity for introspective pathos. (I didn’t know self-induced drama can be such a positive.) This love of a sense of self and my passion to know it and the world around me with it will be my salvation as I head on to midlife and beyond.

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