Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wo Ju – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 11

Haiping pulls out a book and dusts it off -- it is an book on English.

Haizao gets call from Secretary Song, who says the English lessons will start next month. Haizao tries to invite Song out on Christmas Eve, but he says he doesn't celebrate, and is busy.

Haizao tries to get Young Bei to go with her to a movie on Christmas Eve, but he prefers to buy counterfeit and watch it in bed. She rejects his ideas and says she will visit her sister, Haiping.

Haizao surprises Haiping, who is studying English. Haiping has nothing to eat except dried and instant noodles, so Haizao criticizes her for endangering her health. Su Chun is not there, and they are still apart. Haizao is wearing a fashionable scarf while Haiping is wearing a jacket from the planned economy days.

Secretary Song and Developer Zhang are having wine in a club with jazz playing in the background. Zhang says that he did as Song asked with the riverside project: he built a wall and left it there. It can't sit for longer than 3 years, but the plot ratio is too high for villas, so he doesn’t know what to do with it. Song says that the city government has a new plan: they want to use the experience of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) to build a culture and travel industry development area. Song: "That area of land that, you say, is only slightly larger than a sesame seed, is next to the center of this area. There will be a library and a theater. I think it would be very appropriate to develop high-rise luxury apartments. I will help you think of a way to figure out how to solve the problem of height. If I can get them to construct a TV tower there, I can make your project part of the overall plan, so it won’t be restricted by the regulations for apartments next to the river." Song is the Zhuge Liang of the real industry (地产界的诸葛亮, Zhuge Liang is a hero from one of the four great novels of China's history, Three Kingdoms. See Wikipedia entry on Zhuge here).

Song replies: "Get the project in the shikumen done well, and now [Shikumen are another type of old housing in Shanghai. Here are some old pictures of them by Liao Yusheng. The "Xintiandi" area in Shanghai, developed by Hong Kong's Shui On real estate, and exorbitantly expensive, has a museum to Shikumen]". Song tells Developer Zhang that if he doesn't get that old city-center project done, Song can't speak for him on the riverside project.

Developer Zhang: "You only see me eat meat, not being beaten. Real estate does have high profit. But if things go awry, I have nothing. That area looks like the fat on the bone, but it isn't: everyone wants to get a taste. The rich fear the poor; the poor fear those who care less whether they live or die. As for me, I am the donkey in Guizhou without any tricks left [good explanation of this idiom, 黔驴技穷, here].

Song tells him he must find a way. In the Asian financial crisis, some developers were left out in the cold.

Developer Zhang retorts there is a cycle. In those days, Zhongcheng Plaza was bankrupt, but in 2002 it was bought and developed [this is a fascinating story of real estate. Read about some of the malfeasance and history from an investigate report by Caijing here]. In the hands of an expert, there is no such thing as a "rotted-tail building" [i.e. a building that is started but not finished, 烂尾楼].

Secretary Song: Don't forget, Zhongcheng Plaza in 2002 is still Zhongcheng Plaza. But the owner is not the same. It's just like the Titanic. A ship sinks, you can rebuild it and copy it. And the story can become a legend. But the people that died, they have long ago become food for fish and shrimp.

Song drives to Haizao's apartment in his Range Rover [do not know if product placement]. Haizao knew from the day she walked into Song's office and asked to borrow money that she could not repay that there would be this moment (when Song takes her away). It would happen sooner or later, and she was not scared or nervous. Nothing is said.

Song is on top of Haizao. She struggles, protesting. They are on the floor. Song tries to open her coat. They stare at each other. Song uses his hand to close her eyes. He opens her coat and unbuttons her blouse. Her hand falls limply to the floor.

Song increases his speed as he mounts her. The shot breaks into three, showing Song's wife, Young Bei, and Song-Haizao. Young Bei is trying to call and Song’s wife clears the table.

The shot becomes two, showing only Song's wife clearing the table and Young Bei calling and looking at his watch. Song's wife goes into her daughter's room and tells her to get offline. She makes a call from her daughter's room. [fade black]

[fade in to flowers]. Haizao is staring outside, getting dressed. The shower is on in the background. She puts on her scarf and clutches it.

Song drives her home. When they arrive, Haizao looks at him, but he looks at the door, so she flees the car. Narrator: "Song had now sobered up. He felt shameful. Because of the liquor, he had exposed his old body on top of a pearly, transparent girl. He likes her. So why, because he likes her, he must have her?"

Haizao runs into her apartment and starts the shower. Young Bei comes and knocks at the door. Haizao says, her cellphone ran out of battery. And that her period came. Young Bei brings sanitary napkins, underwear, and her pajamas. She takes them, crying. Young Bei knows that Haizao's period has come early, and asks if she has cramps.

"I am certifiable, I am certifiable, I am certifiable. A man so tender... How could I do this to him?"

Haizao is sick. "It must be from the cold. It is chilly, and my clandestine affair happened on the floor. God is punishing me, since I owe him."

Secretary Song goes to get his cellphone the next morning and finds blood on the passenger’s seat. He has done this to Haizao [She was a virgin? Not impossible, but not clear at this point -- Trans.]. Last night, he committed a true mistake, or the truth of what a mistake is. Writing his name on a blank sheet. She is the first women who belongs to me. Completely. To the core. [Seems to be his (and the narrator’s) thinking].

Song calls Haizao, but Young Bei answers. After Young Bei identifies himself, Song says he is "Secretary Song of the Municipal Committee". "Sorry (what) Nothing, I bothered you".

Song comes to Haizao bringing fruit and medicine. She refuses him. He thought she was confused between acceptance and refusal, but now she is headstrong. Haizao knows Young Bei will know one day.

Song has been rejected by Haizao again, what can he do?

Su Chun returns home to find Haiping studying English. He jokes about her becoming a graduate student. He wants to say that he opposes her teaching a foreigner, but doesn't want to start a fight.

Boss Chen brings Haizao a packet from Secretary Song. In it, is 60,000 yuan. Haizao is relieved. It is not like borrowing in the past, when it felt like a stone on her back. Now, it seems deserved.

Haizao gives the 60,000 to Haiping. Seeing her sister so relieved, Haizao feels her body is clean.