Thursday, September 4, 2008

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Note: Film Space has postponed their previously scheduled September showings of the “Colors” trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski to December, in order not to conflict with the showings of these same three films by the Alliance Française in September. Film Space is now showing “A Month of Asian Films” throughout September. October will offer “A Month of Alcoholism.”

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or maybe the roof. A small but nice place to view movies. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

At Film Space on September 6, 7 pm: The Scent of Green Papaya / Mùi đu đ xanh (1993) by Trần Anh Hùng – France/Vietnam Drama – 104 mins. In Vietnamese, with English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81 out of 100.

An award-winning film, nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1994. This placid but visually intoxicating tone poem explores the interior life of a Vietnamese household in the 1950s, as seen through the eyes of a young servant girl. Although set in Vietnam, the film was shot entirely on a soundstage in Boulogne, France. This is Trần Anh Hùng's first feature film and stars his wife, Trần Nữ Yên Khê. He later went on to direct Cyclo and Vertical Ray of the Sun, also starring his wife, and these three films comprise what many consider now to be his "Vietnam trilogy."

Although Trần Anh Hùng was born in 1962 in Đà Nẵng, Central Vietnam, he emigrated to France when he was 12 following the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Trần has long been considered at the forefront of the wave of acclaimed overseas Vietnamese cinema in the past two decades. His films have received international notoriety and acclaim, and until recently have all been varied meditations on life in Vietnam.

Trần Anh Hùng has said about his film,

"The scent of green papaya is a personal childhood memory. Everyone [in Vietnam] knew the gestures associated with the preparation of the papaya and, since the houses weren't soundproofed, you often heard it being prepared in the house next door. You knew the sound because the papaya is hollow and when you hit it (with a knife), it makes a very characteristic noise. The papaya was really a part of everyday Vietnamese life. Since the green papaya was a vegetable prepared by women, it immediately becomes a symbol of women's work."

James Berardinelli writes,

What The Scent of Green Papaya does so well is to show the everyday life of a culture that has been bombed into history. This is the kind of motion picture that could easily become repetitive and boring, because so little happens. But, by involving the audience in the everyday minutiae of Vietnamese life, Trần Anh Hùng holds the viewers' interest. The Scent of Green Papaya is made all the more enchanting by its simplicity.”

Roger Ebert writes,

Here is a film so placid and filled with sweetness that watching it is like listening to soothing music. . . . I have seen The Scent of Green Papaya three times now - the first time in May 1993 at Cannes, where it was named the best film by a first-time director. It is a placid, interior, contemplative film - not plot-driven, but centered on the growth of the young woman. As such, you might think it would seem "slower" on later viewings, but I found that the opposite was true: As I understood better what the movie was, I appreciated it more, because like a piece of music it was made of subtleties that only grew deeper through familiarity. This is a film to cherish.”

At Film Space on September 13, 7 pm: Eat Drink Man Woman / Yin shi nan nu (1994) by Ang Lee – Taiwan/US Comedy/ Romance/ Drama – 123 mins. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 75 out of 100.

Review by James Berardinelli:

"Everything is much different in Eat Drink Man Woman than the other films I've made. It has a bigger cast and a lot more complex story line... I started thinking about families and how they communicate. Sometimes the things children need to hear most are often the things that parents find hardest to say, and vice versa. When that happens, we resort to ritual. For the Chu family, the ritual is the Sunday dinner... At each dinner the family comes together and then something happens that pushes them farther apart."

- Ang Lee, writer/director of Eat Drink Man Woman

Who said foreign films can't be fun? Ang Lee's follow-up to his internationally successful The Wedding Banquet is a delicious examination of the relationship between aging Chinese master chef Tao Chu (Sihung Lung) and his three daughters. The oldest, Jia-Jen (Kuei-Mei-Yang), is an unmarried school teacher in her late twenties. The middle daughter, Jia-Chen (Chien-Lien Wu), is a thriving corporate airline executive whose career comes before all else. The youngest, Jia-Ning (Yu-Wen Wang), is a twenty year old romantic who works at a Wendy's fast food joint.

Eat Drink Man Woman is a more accomplished motion picture than its predecessor - and The Wedding Banquet was good enough in its own right. The comedy is spontaneous and relaxed, the drama is finely-tuned, and the plot is seasoned with unexpected little twists. The script delights in occasional forays just beyond the typical bounds of a screenplay.

Though filmed entirely in Taiwan (Lee's first film not to examine cross-cultural issues), the themes of Eat Drink Man Woman are universal. The problems faced by the Chu family happen all around the world, and the difficulty of communicating across the generation gap is something almost everyone has experienced at one time or another. Love, especially that of Chu for his daughters, often goes unspoken, for to express emotion is to admit vulnerability.

With an ease that marks the true craftsman, Ang Lee develops a rapport between his characters and the audience. These people have a richness, texture, and depth that no stereotype could hope to match, and which a film like Wayne Wang's The Joy Luck Club was grasping for. The perfectly-proportioned measures of comedy and drama emerge through character interaction, not as a result of contrived situations and silly one-liners.

For his cast, Lee has chosen a mixture of actors he has and has not previously worked with. The role of Chu was written with veteran performer Sihung Lung in mind. The actor appeared in a similar patriarchal capacity in the director's Pushing Hands and The Wedding Banquet. Also returning from The Wedding Banquet are Winston Chao (the reluctant bridegroom then and a co-worker of Jia-Chen's now) and Ah-Leh Gua (the mother then and the obnoxious Mrs. Liang now).

Food is as much a backdrop as a recurring symbol. Chu's failing taste buds parallel his loss for the zest for life. Jia-Chen's love of cooking harkens back to a frustrated childhood desire, and Jia-Ning's work at a Wendy's makes a statement about the infusion of Western culture into modern-day China. Nevertheless, as with The Age of Innocence, which displayed countless dishes guaranteed to whet the appetite, Eat Drink Man Woman could perhaps be frustrating to any who view it on an empty stomach.

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