Since Wonder Woman, we’ve been using the GMovies app to book tickets online. It is cleverly integrated into the Ayala Cinemas system, making our booking selection easier. I often forget my SureSeats password.
But what drew me in was the BPI promo: a Php 150 off on our first transaction and Php 50 off in the succeeding transactions. However, as July comes to a close, the promo also ends. It would have been neat to have this promo forever. (Oh, happy birthday Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling!)
Anyway, let me write this down before I become too lazy. Our last GMovies transaction was for a local movie ‘Kita Kita’. Until bedtime, I still recall snippets of the movie that gave me the frisson. Aside from a new movie review in a while, I haven’t had that lingering feeling for a long time.
(ETA 06 August 2017: Update on the GMovies app. Cancelling your ticket transaction is not as easy as having it on SureSeats. Their landline is not working, and I had to call them several times over their mobile only to inform them that I already emailed asking for cancellation. They then coordinated with Ayala Cinemas to have this settled, then inform me of the result. They are quite helpful but I just cannot with red tape. It would be better if cancelling is a breeze, but oh well. Back to SureSeats now and time to uninstall GMovies.)
*MAJOR SPOILER WARNING*
The title was a play on the Filipino homonyms ‘kita’. When you put the stress on the first syllable, it is the root word for the verb “to see”, while if put on the second, it means “you” (functioning as both subject and object ‘I… you’). Taken as a whole, then, it becomes “I see you”. It was well integrated into a scene called ashiyu (足湯), where Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) and Tonyo (Empoy Marquez) bathed their feet.
The establishing scenes were pretty straightforward. Lea was a tourist guide based in Japan, who had a falling apart with her Japanese fiancé because of a traitorous friend (one look at that friend and I knew she was giving me anaconda vibes). Then a twist of fate had Lea on temporary blindness, which was then followed by an unexpected company with the unconventionally appealing Tonyo (yes, it is a euphemism).
Every morning, Tonyo visits Lea with homecook Filipino food in tow, to the point that he annoyed the latter so much. One thing led to another and they eventually frolicked together around picturesque Sapporo. Lea assumed her tourist guide duties, while Tonyo functioned as her eyes (which drew giggles from the moviegoers).
I could not initially put a finger on what this major premise reminded me off. The woman in absolute darkness, cavorting with a man she could not see. Thirty minutes into the movie before it hit me: Cupid and Psyche.
Cupid and Psyche Summary
It is a tale old as time (and yeah, that line was a reference to Beauty and the Beast for obvious reasons). Psyche was doomed to a life in isolation on the top of a mountain, as the oracle of Apollo said that she’d be with a monster husband that comes along with her cursed life.
The goddess of love herself beckoned Cupid to shot Psyche with one of his arrows for this unholy matrimony to occur. However, he shot himself by mistake, as he was astonished by her beauty. Cupid was enamored with Psyche and began visiting her each night in the darkness. His only request is for his face to remain a secret.
Upon the insistence of her sisters, Psyche sneaked upon Cupid with a candle. As the light set on him, she finally saw his beauty. But in doing so, a drop of oil/wax woke him up and he eventually fled, never to come back.
The Enduring Archetype
This is one of the enduring qualities of mythologies. At the risk of overly intellectualizing the movie, Carl Jung once wrote about archetypes. For him, archetypes are universal, archaic patterns that persist through time. From man’s collective unconscious, stories repeat themselves, making them recognizable. Nothing is actually new, just a deconstruction and a reworking of old stories.
A brokenhearted Tonyo left Tokyo for Sapporo, inspired by the aptly named brand of beer he feasted upon during his wretched state. Ragged and wasted, he then accidentally shot a photo of himself with an unsuspecting Lea on the background. Suffice to say, he fell in love in an instant. It was a classic coup de foudre.
He followed her to her quaint home. He even rented the house right across her place. But he never actually mustered the courage to approach her, not until she became blind.
We later on discovered during the second act of the story that Tonyo was following Lea all around Sapporo. From the oracle of her bad luck atop the observatory, to the sake bar dressed as a banana, and as a sorta-Machiavelli at the park, Tonyo turned his life around to be with Lea.
Tonyo was a persistent guy, bordering as a creepy stalker. This is a common criticism that you’d hear from social media. I, for one, also thought that this was disturbing. But did he really take advantage of her? Was this pushing the sexual harassment envelope and exploitation of the (temporarily) disabled?
Not trying to rationalize Tonyo’s actions, but he knew how he looked like. The temporary blindness was unfortunate, but do you think Lea will even let him win her over with just personality? Tonyo was a bit too close for comfort, but Lea eventually opened up to him for reasons we could only speculate.
Was she lonely? Was the welcome company of a person who spoke your mother tongue all you needed to get over this temporary phase?
Knowing Lea was alone in her house, he could very well break in and do a full-on Cupid on her. But modesty prevailed. He was still a gentleman, though very pushy, torn with the urge to win this blind girl over.
He knew that she’d eventually regain her sight back and the fantasy will soon be over. He could be selfish and not wish her to be better. But the thousand cranes and the daruma doll say otherwise.
As Lea slowly began seeing again, it was a tense moment for everyone watching. Will she scoff at Tonyo and see the error of her ways? Why did she even allow him to be that close with her?
Then Lea saw Tonyo. She recognized him with her face alit. And then came the accident. In the end, it was a comedy ending in tragedy – a tragicomedy.
I think the racket over Tonyo’s creepiness was due to his appearance. If he were Piolo Pascual (who is a producer of the film) doing the exact things as Tonyo, it would not be receiving such an uproar. An old running joke here is if a person is ugly, he is a stalker; but if he is dashing, he is an admirer.
Also, if the movie was not shot in Japan, would the story still have worked? While it is no Lost in Translation (foreigners in Japan, full stop, as Lea speaks Japanese fluently), perhaps the draw of the movie was on how these two protagonists could make it together in a foreign land in a short span of time. I even thought if the movie was subsidized by the Japanese government to promote Sapporo. It clearly worked because Mon and I finally found ourselves asking, “When are we visiting Japan?“.
And lastly, and a personal one at that, it was a surprise competition against the new John Lloyd-Sarah movie. Who knew that a behemoth comeback movie of these two will be upset by an unlikely tandem? Kita Kita had a good word of mouth, which happens at least once a year in Philippine cinema (see Heneral Luna in 2015 and Die Beautiful in 2016). One cannot help but root for the underdog in this David and Goliath scenario.
For all the problematic plot of Kita Kita and motives of Tonyo, I think that Lea’s longing for him in the end was all that matters – no matter how manipulative he had been. How can you fault him when at one point in our lives, we have done foolish things in the name of love? You expect temporary insanity when madly in love. We all need to take several seats or come down from our ivory towers.
More than four centuries since Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, the heroine Rosalind could not have described it any better:
Love is merely a madness and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do, and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love, too.
I expected the formulaic end sequence with the dramatic music to be cheesy. But in the end, this blindfolding montage had me succumb to that frisson that I carried with me until I drift off to sleep last night.
I did not like it because it was perfect. I liked it because it was flawed. Very well-played, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo.