13 May 2002
Romance as Melancholic Detachment from
Reality in „Chungking Express“ and the „100%Perfect
Romance as depicted in Murakami Harukiís story „On seeing the 100% Perfect
GirlOne Beautiful April Morning“ and in Wong Kar-Waiís film „Chungking
marked by a melancholic retention of a lost or absent love object
[What object has the narrator lost in the Murakami story?], on
of the narrator in „the 100% Perfect Girl“, and the characters of Qiwu
Officer #633 in „Chungking Express,“ which functions to remove the romance
any actual existence in a present reality, and create for the melancholic
characters, reasons for living predicated on hopes that are inconceivable
reality that they have detached themselves from.
Melancholia, as discussed by Freud in his 1917 essay „Mourning and
Melancholia,“ is, like mourning, the result of a loss of a love object
individual (166). The loss of the love object in both mourning
necessitates „that the libido shall be withdrawn from its attachments
object“ (Freud „Mourning and Melancholia“ 165-66). The necessity
of the libido
being withdrawn from the love object creates a struggle within the individual
during which the object may be clung to in what Freud calls a „hallucinatory
wish psychosis“ which has the effect of turning the individual away
reality that they have lost their love object (Freud „Mourning and Melancholia“
166). In mourning the libido is successfully removed from
the love object and
the ego which has been inhibited during the process of freeing the libido
„becomes free and uninhibited“ (Freud „Mourning and Melancholia“ 166)
the individual becomes grounded in reality again. In melancholia
libido, having been freed from the object cathexis does not take another
but rather „withdraws into the ego“ (Mourning 170) where it serves to
an identification of the ego with the abandoned object“ (Mourning 170)[But
also remember that for the melancholic the loss does not have to actually
have occurred, or the magnitude of the affect of the loss is inexplicable.].
posits, in „The Ego and the Super Ego“ [What
text of Freud’s do you mean, and where is your Works Cited?]
that this identification of the ego with
the lost love object may make it easier for the object to be relinquished
(29) [At what expense however?].
The identification of the ego with the lost love object serves to offer
as a substitute [to what?] for the
lost object and marks the transformation from object
libido to narcissistic libido ( Freud „The Ego and the Super Ego“ 30)
never wrote a text with this title.]. In the
transformation from object libido to narcissistic libido all of the
which were once directed towards the love object are directed back upon
and as the ego has identified itself with the lost object the ego becomes
subject to all of the reproaches against the lost object (Freud „Mourning
Melancholia 169) [And what is the point you’re
eventually going to make with this?].
The self-reproaches that the melancholic subjects him or herself to
his or her own ego as a substitute for the loss object ensure that the
the love object will not be recuperated, an end which the subjects in
Perfect Girl“ and „Chungking Express“ find a sort of joy and reason
in, and which they take great pains to see to is met [This
doesn’t make any sense. The act of identifying with the lost object puts
it the place of the ego and then makes ego the target of the superego.
This is what causes the self-rebuking and morbid self-assessments. And
Freud adds that this process is what accounts for the frequency of suicides
among melancholics who reach this stage. You haven’t made any direct comparisons
between this theory and either of your texts. To list Freud’s theory and
then presume it applies to your texts leaves out any justification for
such a move. And note neither of the subjects in Chungking Express nor
the narrating „I“ of „100% Perfect Girl“ exhibit any symptoms along these
lines. Moreover, the stages in melancholia that result from identifying
and incorporating the lost object cannot lead to any „joy in life.“ Therefore
the theory you cite doesn’t support that conclusion you draw, and the texts
you examine do not provide illustrations of the theory either. So something
is amiss here.]. The identification of the ego with the
lost love object makes the retention of that love object possible and thus
prevents the melancholic from regaining any sense of reality surrounding
the loss of their love object [But this leads
to bitter self-inflicted suffering often to the point of suicide, a process
nowhere in evidence in either of the texts you’re reading here.].
The narrator of Murakamiís „The 100%Perfect Girl“ recounts his telling
friend about his experience of seeing the 100% perfect girl for him.
speak to her, nor can he remember anything specific about her, yet he
on the mere experience of having seen a girl whom, because of the rumbling
his chest, he „knows“ is 100% perfect for him [He
doesn’t really and it would have insane for him to have spoken to her.
Seeing this woman triggers his idea about the „100% perfect person“ and
is the occasion for him to tell that story about two hypothetical people.
The story is really more an essay than a story. The narrator is not talking
about anything that could possibly happen nor is he talking about himself.
It’s a thought experiment. Just reading the story, reading what it says
makes it clear that the narrator is NOT describing something that happened
to him or could possibly ever happen to anyone. Please reread.].
The narrator is fixated on what
he should have said to her [No. He knows that
to have done that would have been harassing a stranger. He’s not talking
about her at all.]. He formulates in his mind a story
of two people who
were 100% perfect for one another and were lucky enough to find one
having done so gave in to their anxieties about the reality of their
love, and decided to part leaving to fate the possibility them meeting
However when they do meet again years later they donít remember one
because of illnesses which have affected their memories, and so they
another silently. The narrator of „The 100% Perfect Girl“ in repeatedly
retelling the story of his seeing his 100% perfect girl
[Which she wasn’t and he doesn’t „repeatedly“ tell anything. He tells the
story once.] is reinforcing his loss
of his love object, a love object which he only had as an object for
fleeting moments [He lost nothing. He had no
love object. Not for one second. Nor does he believe he did. Please reread.]
. The narratorís retelling of his seeing his 100% perfect girl
and his formulating in his mind what he should have said to her keep
on his loss of her for far longer than she was ever present for him
except nothing in this sentence is accurate.].
retelling of the event of seeing the 100% perfect girl and formulation
he should have said serve to reinforce the loss he feels has taken place,
though he canít identify exactly what it is that he has lost
[You have „repeatedly told“ this formula at least three times in the last
two paragraphs. The formula is completely inapplicable to the story, nor
matter how times you repeat it.].
In „Mourning and Melancholia“ Freud writes that the melancholic often
whom he has lost but not what it is that he has lost in them“ (166).
narrator in Murakamiís story knows that he has lost his 100% perfect
girl [No he doesn’t. Please Reread.]
canít remember anything about her and is thus unaware of not only what
about her that made her perfect for him, but also what it was about
her that he
has lost. What the narrator has lost is the object of an idealistic
not an object that exists in reality [But of
course he hasn’t lost that at all – the chance encounter actually provides
him a way of conceiving it. It has nothing at all to do with the actual
woman who walked by him.] . The woman that he sees in
the streets of
Tokyo may in fact have existed, but the narrator is using her presence,
has become her absence after he passes her on the street, to fulfill
that there does in fact exist one perfect person for him. The
belief in this
fantasy [He DOES NOT BELIEVE IN THE FANTASY]
that the narrator is afforded in seeing his perfect girl, and which
becomes his driving force in life, cannot risk being disrupted by an
bring the romance that he has formulated in his head into reality.
writes that he couldnít go up to her and tell her that she was the 100%
girl for him because he couldnít bear to hear her say that he wasnít
perfect boy for her, „if I found myself in that situation,“ he writes,
probably go to pieces. Iíd never recover from the shock“ (Murakami 70).
loss of his love object and his subsequent fixation on the loss of that
serve to fuel the narratorís optimistic belief in the possibility of
romantic fantasy, a romantic fantasy which he knows is impossible in
The narratorís reason for living is predicated on his experience of
the loss of
his love object [Experience of loss predicated
his existence?] , and he continually reinforces this loss
in order to reinforce
the possibility that his fantasy of a perfect love could actually exist.
Wong Kar-Waiís film „Chungking Express“ presents two male characters
who each, after having been jilted by lovers, retain their attachment
to their love
objects by replacing their lost love objects with inanimate objects
to reinforce their individual losses and prevent them from regaining
identification with reality [This is far more
on the mark.] . In the first of the two stories in „Chungking
Express“ Qiwu [You need the actor’s full name
in parenthesis here]. waits at a Hong Kong food stand claiming
that he is waiting for
his ex-girlfriend, May, to come find him there when she changes her
breaking up with him. While he waits he makes phone calls to Mayís
friends and begs them not to tell her that he called. Qiwu carries
a pager and
every time it goes off he is sure that it is May, but it never is.
film starts it is April 28. May broke up with Qiwu on April 1
so he decided
that he would give her a month to let the joke run out and he commemorates
passing day that she doesnít call him by buying a can of pineapple with
expiration date of May 1 which marks the end of the one month that he
wait for her to change her mind, „then our love will also expire“ he
says of the
May 1 expiration date on the pineapple cans.
In buying a can of pineapple for each day that May does not call him
has broken up with him [Not just a can of pineapple
but one with an expiration date one day closer.], Qiwu is ritualizing
his loss of his love object, and his
ritual of buying cans of pineapple which bear both his lost love objects
and the date which Qiwu has determined as the date which will announce
expiration of their love, Qiwu has ensured that he will not be able
relinquish May as a love object until after the date of May 1.
of Mayís absence and removes his loss from reality and relegates it
status of a symbol for his loss of his love object. His ritual
of buying a can
of pineapple everyday allows Qiwu to continue to believe in the possibility
May was really just joking when she broke up with him, and it is in
that Qiwu takes pleasure in his melancholic retention of May as a love
and his ritualizing of her absence [Excelllent].
„As May 1st begins realization dawns,“ Qiwu
says „In Mayís eyes Iím no different from a can of pineapple.“
proceeds to eat all 30 cans of pineapple, literally internalizing the
which he ritualistically used to remind himself of Mayís absence, an
is a manifestation of the act, as described by Freud, by which the ego
internalizes its early object choice: „The ego wishes to incorporate
object into itself, and the method by which it would do so, in this
cannibalistic stage, is by devouring it“ („Mourning and Melancholia“
later throws up the pineapple what could be seen as a metaphorical purging
as his love object. It is only after he has metaphorically internalized
his love object and then purged himself of her as his love object that
able to realize that he has in fact lost May as a love object, and that
able to take on new love objects which he makes himself do by promising
that he will fall in love with the next woman that walks in through
the door of
the bar [Great – see what a difference relevance
The second story in „Chungking Express“ involves a man known simplyOfficerNo.
633 who has become the love object for Faye who works at the the fast food
restaurant that the officer goes to everyday to buy food for his flight-
attendant girlfriend, The officerís girlfriend leaves him and
acknowledges verbally that she has left him he retains her as his love
and prevents himself from fully realizing the reality that she has left
When the officer learns that his ex-girlfriend has left a letter for
him at the
fast food stand he tells Faye that heíll pick it up later, refusing
himself to be forced to be given a definitive end to their relationship
form of a letter and the returning of the keys to his apartment.
In refusing to
take the envelope which holds the letter announcing the end of their
relationship and the keys to his apartment the Officer is allowing himself
continue to believe in the false hope that one day he may come home
that his ex-girlfriend has returned, and this hope becomes his reason
living [Hard to negotiate what’s necessary
in the plot summary here. And who’s the melancholic? What is Faye’s deal?].
Faye takes advantage of the officerís refusal to take his letter and
obtaining his address from him proceeds to replace things in his apartment
things which she has bought. The officer however, in his melancholic
from reality fails to realize that the things in his apartment have
changed. He continues to hold on to the belief that the things
in his apartment
belong to his ex-girlfriend and attributes the changes that he notices
state of grief, regarding his ex girlfriends departure, that he has
from himself onto the inanimate objects in his apartment. The
refusal on the
part of the officer to see the reality that someone is changing things
apartment serves to allow him to continue to hold his ex-girlfriend
as his love
object and to maintain the realistically hopeless fantasy that she will
some day. [You should specify the pattern of
the officer’s rationalization of the changes in the apartment.]
The officer is finally able to come to terms with the reality of his
loss of his ex-girlfriend as his love object when he rubs a leg cramp
Faye after he opens the door to find her standing there with a bag of
which she had brought over to his apartment thinking that he would be
officer used to rub his ex-girlfriendís legs and in rubbing Fayeís legs
begins to relinquish his libido investment in his ex-girlfriend and
is able to
regain identification with reality [???].
The officer goes to the fast food stand to
retrieve the letter that he has avoided for so long, and takes with
him to give
to Faye her CD of the Mamas and the Papasí „California Dreamin“ which
he had heard Faye play repeatedly he had initially believed belonged
ex-girlfriend when he found it in his apartment where Faye had left
it. In this
story in „Chungking Express,“ like the first one in the film, the withdrawal
the libido from the lost love object results in the restoration of the
to identify with reality for the protagonist
[Who’s the protagonist? Why would anyone have to „identify“ with reality?
To be invested in reality is not to identify with it. And what about Faye?].
Murakami Harukiís story „On seeing the 100% Perfect Girl“ and Wong Kar-Waiís
film „Chungking Express“ present stories of romance in which the the attachment
that is felt towards love object is realized only through the
absence of that
object, and in which the objects absence and the characterís subsequent
to acknowledge the reality of that absence becomes the foundation for
the characterís reasons for existence.[Very interesting
and the second half is sporadically insightful and promises great things
when you get your focus in control and stick to what the text actually
says instead of forcing it to conform to a predetermined theoretical template.]
Japan Forum One
Japan Forum Two
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|Study Guide One||Study Guide Two||Study Guide Three|
|Study Guide Four|
Works Cited and Consulted
„Chungking Express“. Dir. Wong Kar-Wai. Rolling Thunder Pictures 1994.
Freud, Sigmund. „Mourning and Melancholia.“ General Psychological
on Metapsychology. Ed. Philip Rieff. New York: Touchstone,1997.
Freud, Sigmund. „The Ego and the Id.“ Trans. James Strachey. The
Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.
James Strachey. Toronto: Hogarth Press, 1961. 28-39.
Freud, Sigmund. „The Libido Theory and Narcissism.“ Trans. James Strachey.
Freud. Vol.16.Ed. James Strachey. Toronto: Hogarth Press, 1963. 412-430.
Murakami, Haruki. „On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April
Trans. Jay Rubin. The Elephant Vanishes. Vintage Books, 1994.