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June 25, 2006

Dumplings

dumplings.jpg

Gaau Ji
Fruit Chan - 2004
MegaStar Region 0 DVD

At a time when Hollywood is prone to remake an Asian horror film rather than come up with something relatively original, I almost feel confident that Dumplings is one film that Hollywood will leave alone. I may be cynical, but Dumplings subject matter may be extremely challenging given the so-called "culture of life" as expressed in the U.S. The film is extension of the shorter version that was part of the anthology Three Extremes, three short horror stories by three different Asian filmmakers. The story, by Hong Kong writer, Lillian Lee, examines the lengths that women to renew their beauty.

The DVD has the advantage of a statement by director Fruit Chan explaining his intent as well as how his film fits into the cultural history of China. The film begins with industrial sounds which reinforce the motif of "youth" as a product. This motif has its visual equivalent with eggs, a product made available through the industrialization of farming. An early scene shows Tony Leung Ka-Fai eating the undeveloped chicken from an egg, while a latter scene shows Miriam Yeung (above) stomping on an egg carton with one unhatched chicken. Chan looks at the contradictary state of being female in China in particular where unborn females are frequently aborted, yet young women in their twenties are coveted by men of all ages.

The full length version of Dumplings has more scenes concerned with the relationship between Yeung and Leung, a married couple who spend little time together. Leung's character, an executive with a young mistress, is a more important character in the longer version, not only in illustrating his relationship with his wife and mistress, but also having an encounter with the woman who makes the sought after dumplings. The film also expands the story of the dumpling maker, played by Bai Ling, a woman whose life traverses Hong Kong and China in a variety of ways. Too often nothing more than eye-candy, Bai shows the range of her talents as woman who is detached and clinical about her work and life. Dumplings has some disturbing imagery yet unlike films with dismemberment or torture which pass as entertainment, is more horrifying for what is suggested than actually shown. When Fruit Chan does get briefly graphic with his subject matter, Dumplings goes from horror to the depths of Greek tragedy.

Posted by peter at June 25, 2006 02:17 PM

Comments

I was going to correct you re: chicken fetuses but got to googling around and, well, it's not that clear--mostly blogs with horrified accounts of the Chinese eating baby fetuses (hoaxes).

In Manila we do eat unborn duck fetuses, and this might be what they're doing in Vietnam and China. Wouldn't know the difference in taste, would like to try the chicken version someday...

Posted by: Noel Vera at June 29, 2006 07:15 PM