- Considerations of "Modern life"
- Creative writing
- Joie de vivre
- New York City
- The law
The summer before I turned 9, I took my haughty little self and marched straight through the doors of People’s Republic of China Shanghai City Yangpu district People’s Court. It was a brisk 20 minute walk from home. All the way there, I rehearsed my righteous speech and in my hand, I held papers whose contents I didn’t completely understand. But it’s clear, you see, one thing was clearly stated: 150 rmb per month for child support commencing on October 1989. It’s 1995 now, I said to the guard, almost six years, that’s more than 10,000 RMB. I was so sure, with my newly acquired multiplication skills. You should make him pay. I started to cry. I was so angry.
Months went by, and we never saw any money from my father. On the day I turned nine, a man showed up at school and I was taken out of class by the principal. My birthday fell on a Friday that year. Friday the 13th, I stood outside in the school yard and spoke to my father for the first time in my life. He handed me a shopping bag and before my hands could open up the box inside, he began to quiz me on his side of the family, followed by an explanation that I have to remember these things when I’m grown and successful.
And, so, I do.
When I went home for lunch that day, I found a white blouse, an orange skirt, and a receipt. 145 RMB. There were ruffles everywhere, satiny ruffles, lace ruffles. All of it polyester, and all of it hedious. I wished nothing more than for the whole pile of ruffles to morph into a pile of money. And even though, all I had then were uniforms, handsewn clothes, and handmedowns, I never did wear this fancy outfit. I put it away as quickly as my mom asked me if I liked it. Maybe I have finally found the source of all my distaste for polyester.
The New Yorker March 16, 2009
Gilroy interrupted. He reminded the actors that they were no longer facing off. “There should be no hostility,” Gilroy explained to me. They had suffered a reversal, and the effect, for now at least, was to bring them closer together. A second take: Roberts and Owen leaned toward each other as they spoke. They took each other’s hands.
CLAIRE: I can’t breathe.RAY: You’ll be O.K. CLAIRE: When? RAY: After we wake up in Rome. CLAIRE: We might have to wake up in Rome for a long time. . . . RAY: That sounds like a plan.
“Cut,” Gilroy said. He still didn’t like it. The actors tried the scene different ways. Gilroy changed Ray’s line to “Sounds like a plan.”
After each take, the camera, the lighting, and the sound had to be fixed. The hours dragged on. At midnight, the crew broke for a meal, and Gilroy joined them. He gets along well with technical crews. A grip distributed homemade mozzarella as Gilroy mulled. “We don’t want to tee the ball up,” he said.
Upon returning to the ballroom, Gilroy offered a variant line. The actors tried it: CLAIRE: We might have to wake up in Rome for a long time. RAY: Plan on it.
The line still felt too much like a zinger. Owen looked like he’d rather be saying something else; Roberts looked like she’d rather hear something else. The techies looked pained. Gilroy quietly gave the actors notes. “Action,” he said.
CLAIRE: I can’t breathe. RAY: You’ll be O.K. CLAIRE: When? RAY: After we wake up in Rome. CLAIRE: We might have to wake up in Rome for a long time. RAY: That’s the plan.
The flatness of the line worked against Owen’s British accent, eliminating the whiff of effortful wit. The more serious tone suggested that running a “triple game” had been difficult for Ray; it humanized him. He was no longer just a man with a good suit and an easy smile. The actors had given the scene a useful tentativeness: the sexual bond between Ray and Claire was clear, but now something deeper was at stake. At the same time, the underlined intimacy of the scene—the silence around the dialogue, the sustained shot—would make the viewer suspicious. Hadn’t we fallen for this sort of thing many times before? Was a new trick coming? This was a movie about acting, after all. The camera slowly pulled back, all the way out of the room, teasing the audience. “Cut. Star it!” Gilroy said. ♦