Destiny

07/02/05 Other Writing # , , ,

Sightings of a Global Feminine Hero

“What new feminine hero glimmers in the shadows of international filmmaking? Forget about the victim movies. Let’s take a look at the films bringing an empowered image of a multi-cultural female sensibility, prowess and purpose into play in the world. Definitely more than an action figure, a feminine hero does everything a hero was ever meant to do and does it with her eye on what furthers and excites regeneration, rejuvenation and redemption. She’s good, she’s bad, she takes sides, she doesn’t, she holds her ground, she yields, she entices, she looks away, she knows what she knows – and she wants you to know what you know as well. That’s it. There may be another world out there somewhere but, for the moment, life is here to be lived as fully as humanly possible – and it’s not always pretty. So new skills, new values and new visions are in order. Here are a few glimpses of a new feminine hero archetype emerging in well-liked films featuring women protagonists who come from around the world.”

 

CinemaShrink Says – “No one expects ‘The Divine One’ to come as a girl. Whale Rider could well be the Lion King for girls. It’s a lot more than cute, a far cry from the usual victimizing, sacrificing and idealizing of children who come female instead of male into this harsh world. Whale Rider makes the spiritual practical. It celebrates the power of an enlightened girl’s heart to change old ways of elders who have good intentions but an accumulation of far too much fear.” (New Zealand/Maori)

CinemaShrink Says – “In Bend It Like Beckham, a young East Indian woman living in London not only breaks with the traditions of her family to become a successful soccer player, she rescues her father’s dream, makes her mother proud and opens up new possibilities for her friends, family and culture against all odds.” (UK/India)

CinemaShrink Says – “If you didn’t get to see The Secret Ballot, be sure to rent this inspirational film about what a difference one very small and very ordinary woman can make. An Iranian woman makes her way around an isolated island collecting votes from people who never thought about voting, who view her carrying around a cardboard ballot box as an inappropriate activity for a female — and who get won over to her cause by her sheer persistence, her belief in herself and her caring. Awesome.” (Iran)

CinemaShrink Says – “There’s so much of the feminine in Dirty Pretty Things that it goes beyond a single protagonist. The presence of the feminine floats like a good fairy throughout, sprinkling magic dust on the ugliest side of human beings, the seamiest side of London. Somehow – and never has ‘somehow’ held so much promise – hope emerges from a mean game of chess played by ordinary people against a dominant predatory evil. A young woman inspires a man to some fine moves of compassion, intelligence and impeccable ethics to checkmate greed, small mindedness and arrogant indifference.” (UK)

CinemaShrink Says – “Amelie, sprite incarnate? This may be an ‘everywoman’s’ film. In ‘everywoman’ lives a small girl who looks on the bright side of a sorely lacking childhood, dreams of rescuing a depressed father and, in real life, sets clue after clue for a boyfriend to find her. She makes new meaning out of lost, spiking bleak situations with an instinctive ingenuity.” (France)

CinemaShrink Says – “Lola chases after the fraction of a second that changes destiny in Run Lola Run. She may not be faster than a racing bullet but she is so swift that she can reshape time, flip it back on itself and rewind the story until she gets it right. Sounds like a new skill to me. She’s pals with lady luck, gives dad an awful shock, gets the guy – and, and – she walks away with a big bag of money!” (Germany)

CinemaShrink Says – “Colorful, smart and looking right through you with each of her world class paintings and a life to match, Fridademands respect. Sometimes she gets it. Sometimes she doesn’t. But in every instance, she digs deep for a personal, individual and grand emotional response that defines her humanity — and never apologizes. Frida Kahlo – real woman, artist and cinematic phenomenon – commands respect. And while this film comes from the United States, its protagonist is thoroughly Mexican.” (USA/Mexico)

CinemaShrink Says – “Almodovar sticks it in your ear with Talk to Her and makes a fine point. Perhaps it’s not so unusual that two women – even if they’re in a coma – should provoke a friendship between men. Neither man ever ‘talks to her’ but they do begin to talk to each other. Two men locked into silence, shame and a questioning adherence to traditions of what it means to be a real man, come together when they find themselves both loving endangered women. It’s that feminine hero in the closet at work again.” (Spain)

CinemaShrink Says – “It’s rare enough to see a woman in a mid-life crisis portrayed in film, even more rare to see her solve her dilemma by diving deep into her inner world and coming up with a solution that works in the outer world. In Swimming Pool, a crime fiction writer turns her considerable visionary skills to killing off a depression, a fake lover, an old self, a dead end career — and coming up a winner.” (France)

CinemaShrink Says – “Y Tu Mama Tambien challenges the mores of Latino machismo, opening eyes to a different kind of love and lust. It turns endings – end of adolescence, end of innocence and end of a life – into something fun and profound. Two young studs get more than they bargain for when they invite a slightly older young woman along on a joy ride to a hidden beach for the weekend. They find themselves lit by fiery passion and sobered by her touch. She’s the sea that binds forever, flows everlasting and contains all secrets. Well, of course, she’s a girl.” (Mexico)

CinemaShrink Says – “Australian Aborigine are famous for their dreamtime walkabouts, hundred mile treks in the outback without any destination but home. So, when three young Aborigine girls rebel against the idiocy of a British plan to ethnically cleanse them by taking them away from their families and sequestering them in a boarding school, they simply walk away. They follow a Rabbit Proof Fence, defying rules meant to separate them from their rightful destiny. It doesn’t spoil the thrill of following their escape to know they live to be lovely old – very old – women.” (Australia)

CinemaShrink Says – “On the cutting edge, Oasis features a highly unlikely romantic lead, an isolated young woman twisted with cerebral palsy, who inspires a man who lacks common sense or book smarts to the kind of love that heals a family. If you ever wondered what real love looks like, this film reverses every cliché. It’s not the pretty pictures but the depth of character that matters. (South Korea)

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12/01/01 Film Essay , Published Works # , , , ,

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Hui-Ling Wang (screenplay), James Schamus (screenplay), Kuo Jung Tsai (screenplay), Du Lu Wang (book)
Stars: Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang

 

(Published in C.G. Jung Library Journal, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2001)

Watching Crouching Tiger; Hidden Dragon, I felt like a kid at a Saturday afternoon matinee. I can remember seeing ‘The Thing’ when I was ten. “IT” — whatever “IT” was — crawled out of the ocean and I crawled under my seat. I was sure the whole audience dove for safety. The distance between make-believe and reality collapsed easily when we were kids. But the same thing happened recently when I saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. When Ang Lee matches his masterful storytelling with the weapon artistry of warriors in a computer game, I bounded across invisible sheets of air right along with them. It was exhilarating. And, as the film seduced me into the possibility of the impossible, the fact that Tiger’s hero was a girl seemed to offer more, not less excitement. I suspended my disbelief for an eighty-pound girl as readily as I would for James Bond. And if there were any doubt that a story drawn from Asian mythology would appeal to American viewers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon put an end to it.

The trailer put us on notice. It promised a strong girl hero whose rebellious spirit would drive the film’s wild adventures. This girl enticed with artful deception, first pitting wits and moves against an experienced woman warrior of high style and grace. Then she walked out on a limb, weightless against gravity, to slash swords with a grand male Pooh Bah on the tips of a bamboo tree. I, like many teenagers, had crossed swords and gone far out on lots of shaky limbs challenging authority figures. The metaphors were powerful. Viewed from this perspective, the girl is engaged in a classic, cross-cultural Hero’s Journey identified by Joseph Campbell. But I awaitedCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon cautiously. I hoped the girl wouldn’t turn out to be another foil for a man’s crisis like so many big Hollywood movies. Could this girl stay true to a passionate desire for freedom in a world hostile to an empowerment of feminine sensibilities? The Wonder Woman of my generation never went beyond the identity of saving victims of crime. What would be in store for Ang Lee’s Wonder Girl?

THE HERO — Jen Yu (Zhang Zigi,spunky and engaging) is angry, fiercely independent, wanting freedom from the old system. She wants to be free to come and go as she pleases, like the heroes she’s read about in books. From her first appearance, in the room where a sacred sword will be stored for safekeeping, she is not where she is supposed to be. And she makes no apology for where she stands. This girl intends to take her place according to her own wishes, not the protocol of her traditions. As Crouching Tiger, it could be said that Jen feels entitled to be curious. As Hidden Dragon, she sports a cool demeanor concealing an irreverent attitude and a self-determined assurance. This girl wants more than the role of wife, which, for the moment, is the only future she has been offered. She has been betrothed to a member of the landed aristocracy, an old and boring man, a paradigm of the establishment and, to Jen, a constricted system of social values. Jen has her eye on a different kind of life, one with the magical powers and freedom of Zen warriors. And she’s not ashamed of her desires. She flouts her ambition. Like Muhammad Ali, she enjoys taunting her opponents with flippant remarks like “I’m just fooling around”. She fights against rule and prejudice, taking on some of the biggest, “baddest” men of the land — for some of the best fun in the film — to be free of traditions that constrain the movement and options for women. Surprisingly, the film does not belittle her rage. Perhaps, at last, a girl who faces the dead-end vision of feminine development in society can be acknowledged as legitimately infuriated.

THE CALL — Jen Yu’s heroic journey gets underway when she skitters in the dark, scarcely more than a shadow, over the walls of Peking and steals Green Destiny, the sacred sword of Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat, Asia’s Cary Grant), a Wudan warrior of the highest order. Jen steals the sword, not because she really wants it but because she can. Yes, the girl’s heroic call begins with her impulsive theft of an ancient sword, symbolic of centuries of sacred arts and traditions. What kind of a hero is this? She toys with rules not questioned by wise men and women. This capricious act of youthful female anger turns an ordinary story into an extraordinary one. An ordinary story would have the girl chasing after the power that the boys have. As an extraordinary story, the girl’s hidden motive creates a mystery quest. We will only find out what she wants by following her. She will provide clues in the form of confrontations spurred by intuition and emotion rather than planned by intellect or required for status.

The theft of the sword brings Jen into battle with Shu Lien (Michele Yeoh, soulful beauty) who is the protector of the sword, a Wudan warrior in her own right. Shu Lien steps forward against Jen’s hasty bravado. She demands Jen return property that does not belong to her. In this first battle between the two, they fly like blackbirds’ tipping wings across tiled rooftops and scooting fearlessly at high speed through Peking’s narrow streets. In what might be the most adrenaline-inducing scene and finest exhibition ofCrouching Tiger’s unique human appeal, Shu Lien, running along the top of a city wall, suddenly darts downward — supported possibly by a centrifugal momentum — and with her feet clinging to the bricks, stops midstride, stands parallel to the ground, reaches down and rips a chunk of brick from the wall, and hurls it at Jen. It is absolutely breathtaking!

Shu Lien, a mature woman who, although she inherited her father’s business and never married, still chose a traditional lifestyle that contrasts sharply with Jen’s determined quest for freedom. But now Shu Lien has been pleasantly surprised by the return of her past love, Master Li Mu Bai, the most acclaimed enlightened warrior of Wudan martial arts in China. Mu Bai has come to tell Shu Lien that he is breaking away from his esoteric training. He explains that after a period of intense meditation, he has not found enlightenment but only the vast emptiness of existential longing. He has come upon a profound sorrow spread so dark at the core of his being that he does not want to transcend it. Instead, he wants to change his life. He is laying aside the sacred ancestral sword, Green Destiny, which has been bestowed upon him. He no longer wants to serve the dictates of vengeful leaders and their endless cycles of war. From the restraint in their mannered speech, we know that this man and woman left a deep love for one another behind, many years ago, to follow traditions that excluded personal desire — much like the Henry James story, The Beast in the Jungle, where the protagonist denies his passion for his woman friend in favor of a quest for meaning, only to find after she dies that she was the meaning he sought. Due to circumstances of tradition, when Shu Lien was unable to marry, she developed her warrior skills to perform the duties of a security guard. Mu Bai now entrusts her with the sword that has defined him and she is the one who delivers it to Peking for safekeeping.

THE HERO’S CONFLICT — Jen evades Shu Lien in their first encounter and escapes with Green Destiny slung across her back. But her theft unleashes a sophisticated clash of wills between generations. When Jen Yu was ten years old, she felt her intelligence and catlike instincts blossoming. She surpassed parents, teachers and, especially her mentor in martial arts, Jade Fox (Peipei, dark, mysterious). But, while Jen honed her hidden talent, she complied with parental expectations. Now her theft pulls back the curtain, revealing crossed purposes at the heart of her soul. Jen has set her sights on freedom in a world which gives precious little freedom to anyone, certainly not to a slip of a girl from a prestigious family destined to marry and cement ties of political dynasty. She is destined by the traditions of her land to be married but destined by her spirit to take a path not cleared before her.

As hero, Jen’s internal conflict vividly reflects the clash of the old with the new in society. Young people often rebel to transform and transpose old values. Their desire for freedom to be individuals reflects their desire to affect their families and culture with their own lives. Girls in modern society face a particular pain. A boy typically knows there is a role for him at the end. But there is no place for a girl as a returned hero. She is driven by a sadness and an excitement that she might be the one who discovers a new way. In a sense, a girl hero embodies a different kind of heroic quest, one of the old being transformed by the new. There is no traditionally established, public call for a girl to join society in any other way than through constricted roles. The calling for full development, therefore, comes from within — often from an impulsive action.

THE QUEST – Men in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may scoff at Jen’s bravado but they don’t trivialize her desire. Jen is not just a female hero fighting like a man. And her desire goes beyond the familiar fervent need to be coupled with a man. When Dark Cloud (Chang Chen, dashing and sensitive), the young leader of a band of renegades, attacks her father’s caravan in the Gobi desert and steals her comb, Jen is fierce in her determination to retrieve what belongs to her. This girl will not be stolen from. But the leap from her carriage window onto a horse chasing Dark Cloud across the desert takes her into an unexpected territory of love. Though she will not be taken, she learns that she can be seduced. Not without symbolic significance, Dark Cloud finds water in the desert for Jen to bathe and refresh herself. It’s only as Jen experiences sexual desire rising in her own body that her feelings for Lu soften and change. When she yields to Dark Cloud, it is with feelings that can be given but not stolen.

However, Jen’s quest does not end here. Though she falls in love with Dark Cloud, coupling is not the culmination of her journey. Her love sharpens the edge on her internal conflict, sets the stage for stealing Green Destiny and coming into the critical encounters with both Shu Lien and Mu Bai that will eventually transform her into a mature, morally developed woman. She returns to her father’s house after her stay in the desert with Lu, ostensibly to marry within the family tradition. But on her wedding day Lu shows up and she bolts. A life in the desert, even in love with Lu, is not an answer. Society allows this couple no more acceptance than it has Mu Bai and Shu Lien. Her love drives her deeper into conflict, deeper within herself. She takes to the road, disguised as a boy and ready to do battle to prove herself worthy of an independent life. But a successful resolution of her problem requires more than flashy moves against outside enemies. Her distinguished elders, Shu Lien and Mu Bai, who followed the old ways and put aside personal love, have lessons of the heart to teach her. Still, while their history of lost love casts a protective shadow on Jen’s romantic adventures, it holds no vision for an outcome. Jen’s desire will serve as compass as well as inspiration for her on her journey.

NO EXIT — When Jen follows her instincts out onto a limb against Mu Bai, after rebelling against Shu Lien’s advice, she meets an opponent who has examined the questions she’s just beginning to ask. In his current search for freedom, he represents a novel adversary. Mu Bai deems Jen a woman destined for more than male conquest, more than a prize for a male ego. He acknowledges her exceptional talent and offers to teach her. But Jen is suspicious of Mu Bai’s intentions. And even though Mu Bai breaks through her youthful disdain for all that comes from a previous generation, he makes a fateful error when he requires her to bow to the same system that has deprived him. When he offers her entry to Wudan Mountain, she calls it a whorehouse; implying women are used but not taught there. Her childhood mentor, Jade Fox, suffered the consequences of its prejudice and became a hated enemy of the state by murdering a Wudan warrior who took her as concubine. Jade Fox stole a Wudan manual of training as revenge for the warrior’s unwillingness to teach her and taught Jen its secrets. But, Jen could read the text of the manual while Jade Fox could not, so she was able to develop talents far beyond her mentor. This ability to “read” is emblematic of the trans-gender and trans-generational themes in the film: the socio-economic chasm between aristocracy and the servant class that constricts women as well as the difference between two women of two generations. The fortitude and initiative taken by Jen to learn more than her so-called teachers and surpass both their accomplishments and their expectations highlights a familiar break between parent and child but also reveals a hidden resentment that the old use to hold back the young. Jade Fox accepted her inability to read; Jen considered it merely a further challenge. Jen, lacking clear direction, refuses to join either side of the old system of warfare — as a Jade Fox rebel or a Mu Bai warrior.

THE ORDEAL — Though Jen honed a keen intelligence while being tutored by her childhood mentor, she underestimates Jade Fox’s possessive agenda for her. When Jen refuses to kneel before the power of Green Destiny, Jade Fox finds an opportunity to bring Jen back under her influence. She captures and drugs her, hoping that Jen will have no alternative but to join her. Mu Bai attempts to rescue Jen. But Jade Fox wages an underhanded battle with poison darts and kills him. Now Jen is no longer an innocent; she grasps her ignorance. Shu Lien, devastated by Mu Bai’s death, demonstrates an awesome balance of emotion. As rageful loss vies with soulful compassion, she sobers Jen with a profound lesson of forgiveness. She shows the heroic child that freedom without empathy is no freedom at all. These extremely moving emotional interactions with Mu Bai and Shu Lien awaken Jen to the destructive side of her genius. And, in a tender moment of acceptance, Shu Lien demands a promise from Jen — not to be careful but to be, above all else, true to herself. Shu Lien’s charitable disapproval of Jen’s shortsighted, youthful acts of grandiosity is astonishing. In soul shattering times, Shu Lien’s kind, fierce and unconditional love dissolves barriers of blame.

THE BOON — Jen becomes a hero of a feminine sort, adept at stepping lightly between mind and body. Each step takes her closer to her destiny, an enactment of the courageous action asked of any conscientious individual. Her path goes through a labyrinth of contradictions. Just as Jen thinks she reaches clarity, she is met with an impulse in an opposite direction. To become more than she imagines she can become, she is called upon to master both disappointment and disillusionment. From this mastery comes a straightforward boon of heroic proportion — an ability to balance chaotic feelings with uncertain capabilities. The call differs radically from the one of self-sacrifice that most teenagers hear today as they face demands for exceptional performance in a highly competitive world. The familiar call of self-sacrifice attempts to persuade young people that they will achieve their dreams by complying with society’s agendas. The call for a mastery of self, aimed at calming ravaging emotions and navigating ambiguous outcomes as a way of life, is a modern challenge for young heroes in a society where no table has been set.

BEYOND THE OLD WAYS — Mu Bai loosened the grip of service to a society based upon elitism, dominance and certainty but he still represents an old hero. He has been taught, like many young people have been taught, to keep frustration to himself rather than change direction, embrace his feelings and act effectively for the health and well being of all people. Jade Fox became addicted to her rebellion and was as surely limited by it as by any system of the state. Neither Mu Bai nor Jade Fox break through the illusion of superiority ingrained by their warrior training. Only Shu Lien sees through Jen’s drive for freedom to the larger issue of personal freedom. Shu Lien layers moral intent into Jen’s desire and helps her move toward an elusive but full feminine identity. Shu Lien can imagine a mature feminine presence in public life but she has not lived a life grounded in a determination drawn from female sexuality. This is a new way, one confounding in its complexity but actively pursued by the younger woman. Jen’s last heroic action in the film is a leap downward into a flowing stream of mysterious water. She is taking us toward a new vision of the feminine which lacks contemporary definition, has not coalesced into a recognizable identity in society and lies somewhere in a girl who continues to move — somehow –toward her heart’s desire.

When Dark Cloud and Jen were in the desert, he told Jen a story about how he became a man. To fulfill one’s dreams, he had heard the old folks say, you must leap off a mountain into the dark abyss below to an unknown fate sustained only by a belief that “a faithful heart makes wishes come true.”

THE END — We all need heroes and mentors. Jen and Dark Cloud help us to see an adventurous fresh start for lovers who are both intent upon living fully and deeply. And, someday, their relationship will form a springboard for others just as Mu Bai and Shu Lien’s has been for them. Jen and Shu Lien will surely meet again to teach each other more of life’s lessons. There just aren’t enough female heroes around who are warriors of the spirit as well as the fist and the kick. And there aren’t enough adults willing to tell young people the truth of their own awakening. The audience that sharedCrouching Tiger with me loved the opportunity to identify with a girl who fought for the freedom to be an individual. No one minded that she needed more than fancy footwork to achieve maturity. Young people today often claim more authority than their age and experience warrant because heroism is not linked to the heart. Jen models a hero who breaks through emotional as well as physical barriers as she transforms into a carrier of society’s hopes and values for tomorrow. She inspires an invigorating new vision and advances a cultural reformulation of our image of hero articulating extraordinary interior as well as exterior leaps of accomplishment.

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18/06/99 Film Essay # , , ,

Run Lola Run (1998)

Run Lola Run (1998)
Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer: Tom Tykwer
Stars: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup

 

(Published in C.G. Jung Library Journal, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1999)

From post-postmodern Germany comes a film that gives a girl the role of Hero, the special one born with the power to prevail against the collective odds. Lola (Franka Potente), despite her punked-up hair and striking looks, is Everygirl, an ordinary young woman of today, whose mother thinks she’s going out on an errand when she’s really running for her life. This Hero, as if in a fairy tale reinvented, has a daddy who betrays her, is weaker than he looks, and turns out to be irrelevant to her problems. At best, he can’t protect her; at worst, he won’t. But the girl still manages — through her persistence and surprising good fortune — to escape the limitations of the disempowered daughter role and score a victory for the feminine.

Lola is a Hero waiting to happen. Fate interferes with her picking up her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtrue), after he pulls off a drug deal in Berlin and that misstep sets off a series of events in which Lola has to tap into an amazing ability to reconfigure consequences. Manni, calling from a telephone booth, reaches her at home on her red phone, and, after blaming her for the predicament he is in, pleads with her to come up with a way to save his life — in twenty minutes. Hapless fellow, he has lost the big bag of cash that belongs to mob bosses who are already on the way to pick it up. They will kill him if he doesn’t have their money.

As if held back only by imagination, Lola transforms herself into an animated cartoon. The sheer challenge of the impossible energizes Lola into using magical powers to rescue the Manni she loves. Her hair is dyed bright red as if to signal her affinity to the troupe of wild women who roamed the hippie San Francisco of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb’s fantasies in the sixties. As Lola slides into action mode on the brink of the millennium, she stretches seconds beyond minutes, banishes the past before it becomes memory, and flips the future back into the present so that she, not time, will be in charge of the outcome.

With a wondrous autonomy, Lola revisits her boyfriend’s crisis three times as if learning from her mistakes, each time increasing her focus and decreasing the constriction of circumstance. Her progressive return to the choice-points of the rescue scenario structures the three segments of the movie: in each segment she gets better at releasing herself from her parental legacy and takes on more creative responsibility for shaping the outcome. In the first episode, Lola is revealed as the daughter of a highly placed banker who could rescue her but instead viciously rejects her. In the second episode, Lola turns the tables on her father and manages to save herself but loses what means the most to her. As she repeats the same flurry of activity attempting to wrest enough money from the “world of the fathers” to avoid disaster, her internal interpretation of events shifts and so do the events themselves. Finally, Lola relies on herself, backs up her date with fate by tampering awesomely with the inevitable and walks away with a new future.

As Lola proceeds though her three scenarios and bumps into the same people one after another on her sprint through the city of Berlin, flashes of images appear on her mind’s screen like 15-second commercials, advertising the way her life is changing. Lola’s internal images align with the different external scenarios and envisioning styles. Imagination strongly figures into how things turn out for Lola, who is like an Imaginal Hero.

There’s a wonderful scene that repeats itself in each of the three episodes. A group of people carrying a huge piece of clear glass is walking right in front of an ambulance that is racing to save a man’s life. In the second episode, the ambulance crashes through the invisible barrier posed by the glass. Once this shield of time and space has been broken, the patriarchal order can’t be put back together again, and the movie shifts decidedly in another direction. In a redemptive, Buddhist way, reality becomes what Lola makes of it through her conscientious mindfulness. This insight is the boon this feminine Hero brings back from her challenge to the odds against a victory for compassion.

If I were a girl, I would like to be told “Run Lola Run” over and over again. Every night when I went to bed I would ask for the Lola story. Tykwer’s film makes me feel like it is okay to be Lola, spinning her red telephone in the air, warping time and slipping from one reality to another like an animated cartoon hero. “Tell me the part about what she did to the phone again,” I would like to beg of the freestyling storyteller.

Forget Clever Gretel who saves her brother through trickery, forget Snow White who, though fairest-of-them-all, doesn’t know a witch when she sees one, and forget that persona-struck Cinderella who goes for a guy who can’t recognize her in street clothes. I want the colorful Lola, who leaps into action when her boyfriend is in trouble, keeps her wits about her when time is running out, and manipulates her perspective like a kid with a computer game. I would insist. If I am to grow up and be comfortable on city streets, I want flaming red hair (not a short red cape) to mark my coming of age, and I want the death-defying, life-affirming ending that any decent Hero gets. I need a fairy tale where the girl is unique, triumphs over evil, and inspires hope.

Miraculously, Lola’s race against the odds is also winning at the box office.Run Lola Run has gotten a better run for its money than most independently produced foreign films: in many cities, its time on the big screen has been extended. Wherever you live, beg for this movie – insist upon it. When you see Lola go for the big bag of fairy dust, you’ll enjoy being with her, and believe again in the possibility of change.

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