A film circle
A guy in my math class had joined a film circle, and he agreed to take me to them. We descended narrow concrete staircases into the dimly-lit basement of the Law Department. There were three rooms along the dark, asylum-looking corridor. He ushered me into the middle room, where a few people sat smoking around the rectangular table. The light was coming from the small window on the top of the wall, through which I could see the legs of students scurrying back and forth. The air was blurred with cigarette smoke. I sat across from two men dressed in black. Next to them sat a woman of unconventional beauty with long curly hair, also in black attire. All of them had pale skin, and I wondered it was because of the sun-deprived room.
I was then introduced to the president of the circle. Her black, asymmetric clothes and short-bob haircut with straight-cut bangs reminded me of Comme de garcons models. She was more like an artwork than a human, sitting with her back straight, static except for the long white fingers carrying a cigarette in and out of the corner of her thin lips.
I wrote down my name, phone number, and favorite films on the notebook for new members. I skimmed through other people’s favorite films, many of which were of Godard or Truffaut. The two men in black didn’t know Chen Kaige, who directed Farewell, My Concubine, and won Palme d’Or three years before. The president had known of the film but hadn’t seen it. She said she watched Ang Lee films when I told her I loved Chinese cinema. She recommended Pushing Hands, and earlier work of Ang Lee, which I found and watched only recently on the public library streaming service.
Later that day, I attended their welcome drinks at an izakaya. The two men and the guy from math class, who had been poised and cool in the basement, had changed after a few drinks and made shallow jokes with girls around them. The president alone remained the same, composed and calmly moving her fingers the same way, but the art of her presence was incongruent against the cheap wall of the izakaya. I spoke to a girl who was from a different school. She said she wasn’t a film buff but was invited by her friend, who had been flirting with the men in black. She was wearing a bright color shirt and blue jeans.
In the end, I didn’t join the film circle. I wasn’t interested in the production side, and if I couldn’t talk about Asian films, the circle wasn’t so appealing. The only interesting person was the president, but I needed to meet less artistic people as well, with whom I could be as silly as a college student was supposed to be.
Six months later, I saw the girl in the bright color shirt I met at the izakaya. She noticed me and turned around to give me a nod of recognition. She was dressed in black from head to toes and walked behind the president and the men in black.