91. The Reckless Moment (1949)

Directed by Max Ophüls
Written by Henry Garson and Robert Soderberg
Starring Joan Bennett, James Mason, and Geraldine Brooks

Blackmailers fall in love too easily. Only fools and assholes mistake desperation for affection. Broken dreams: I could never pull off that short haircut so many old Hollywood actresses wore, with the razor-sharp part and stiffly-moussed wave. I was one of those little Asian boys who tamed his thick locks with too much gel, a futile attempt to flatten the helmet-like growth atop my head. The adhesive crust flaked away like the dandruff I’d develop later in life, as the cellular damage from age, cigarettes, and prodigious drinking began to take its toll. Of course, as a teenager, I embraced the floof, teasing it up with Aqua Net into a Robert Smith crows’ nest. Don’t get me started on how my high school doctored my senior portrait to make me look like a Filipino Bart Simpson. I used to think that thinning shears were inherently racist, invented to transform my coarse hair into something closer to what a lot of white folks have: silky and manageable. But last time I went to the Asian-run salon on Washington Ave., I asked my stylist to thin out my layered V-cut to make it fall down my back more gracefully. Why is so much of the femininity I’m adopting white femininity? I spent the final years of my twenties trying desperately to cultivate and assert a radical Asian identity. In retrospect, all the songs and stories I wrote seem so forced. But the sustained effort helped me understand more broadly what it means to be a person of color: to exist and be defined, unavoidably, in opposition to whiteness. For now, gender is, if not more important, more salient to me. My own art school delinquency never led to anyone’s death. But Bea wasn’t a delinquent; she survived a shitty partnership with a shitty guy which culminated in a massively shitty situation. Grandpa Harper over there thinks it’s good, clean fun to invite the neighborhood kids to a crime scene. In this case, he’s kind of right. Without the bludgeoned corpse, it’s just a pleasant day at the beach.