Ocean Heaven (海洋天堂, Hǎiyang Tiāntang)
Ocean Heaven is a drama directed by Xue Xiaolu in 2010.
Sam Wong has a terminal illness and will die soon. Even if you have accepted it, is worried about his son, Dafu, an autistic 21-year-old boy. Sam works in an aquarium, and since his wife died 14 years before, has to look after his only son.
The deepest fear of Sam is Dafu unable to care for himself after his death. Therefore tries to teach his son to learn the essential day-to-day tasks to make it capable of surviving once it is only.
An important part of the story is dedicated to display the help that Sam and Dafu obtained from their community. In China there is the welfare State which is available in Europe or Japan, so the people learned to take care of the other.
This is one of the few films in Chinese that I was able to understand completely without subtitles in English. The reason is that there is not much dialogue. It is all body language and facial expressions.
Despite being a sad history, Ocean Heaven ends with an optimistic vision of the future. But you have to see the movie to find out; )
The Story of Qiu Ju (秋菊打官司, Qiū Jú dǎ 冠 sī)
The story of Qiu Ju, a 1992 Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou, adaptation of the novel of Yuanbin Chen The Wan Family completo Lawsuit.
The film describes how Qiu Ju, a peasant woman, played by the beautiful Gong Li, moves from the field to a nearby village to obtain justice when the village chief gave a kick in the balls to her husband and unwilling to apologize. But you don’t get any results, and despite being pregnant, Qiu Ju goes to Beijing to challenge the most convoluted bureaucracy of the Earth: the bureaucracy of the capital of China.
I loved Qiu Ju and his obstinacy the first time I saw the film, many years ago. However, it has only been since have survived the Chinese bureaucracy by myself, to really appreciation their value. I also believe that the makeup of this film did a great job by “transforming” Gong Li in a peasant!
Eat Drink Man Woman (饮食男女, Yǐn Shi Nan Nǚ)
Eat Drink Man Woman is a 1994 Taiwanese film directed by Ang Lee.
Master chef Chu is a widower who works at Taiwan Grand Hotel. Likes to organize sumptuous Sunday feasts for his three daughters. However, as the story progresses we discover that girls lose interest in this ceremony which they perceive as too traditional.
The film, as the title suggests, has two main themes: food and sex. Ang Lee shows several scenes of Chef Chu in the kitchen and, at the same time, tells the story of three daughters. There are Jia Ning, which has several relationships and finally becomes pregnant, Jia Chen, a successful woman who begins a relationship with a colleague and would love to become chef herself; and Jen Jia, the eldest daughter, a sexually repressed teacher who in the end feels attracted to a trainer of fitness that works at the same school.
What I really like Eat Drink Man Woman is the way in which the main characters change to evolving history, a little like in American Beauty, the movie with Kevin Spacey.
Summer Palace (颐和园, Yihe Yuan)
Summer Palace is a 2006 Chinese film directed by Lou Ye, tells the story of Hao Lei, who leaves his small hometown to study at the University “BeiQing” (a false name that reminds Beida and Tsinghua, the two most important universities in China). The story flows between a stormy love, loving and interrupted friendships irrelevant in the context of the student revolt of the Tian An Men Square.
I especially recommend the movie to anyone who wants to know more about the life of Chinese students and for those, like me, he lived it, but I never had the possibility to enter female dormitories, which are (unfortunately) prohibited to children.
The film was quite controversial in China because of its scenes of sex and political tone, which however is always in the background. After being presented at the Cannes Film Festival without government approval, the summer palace was banned in China, and Lou Ye was censured by five years.
Raise the Red Lantern (大红灯笼高高挂, Da dēnglóng gāogāo gua hong)
Raise the Red Lantern, 1991 Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou, adaptation of the novel by Su Tong Wives and Concubines.
The story is set a few years before the Chinese civil war, which began in 1927. At the age of nineteen Songlian, played by Gong Li, is forced to marry Zuoqian Chen rich when her father dies leaving his family in bankruptcy. The fourth wife (or lovers, 四 太太, Sì Tàitài,) becomes then as it is called in the film master Chen. When she arrives at the Palace, Songlian will welcome you like a Queen. However, she will soon discover that not all spouses receive the same treatment: only those with whom the teacher decides to spend the night…
The Red Lantern is a hard film that describes the struggle between concubines to earn the approval of the teacher between false smiles, imaginary pregnancy, continuing betrayals and exaggerated punishment.
Some see in Raise the Red Lantern a critique of modern Chinese society. I can’t say if this is true or not. However they have hidden a “second wife” (二奶, ernăi) is still a common practice among rich Chinese (see my article prostitution in China for more details).
The Flowers of War (金陵十三钗, Jīnling shisān chāi)
The Flowers of War, a 2011 Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou, adaptation of the novel by Yan Geling Thirteen Flowers of Nanjing.
The film chronicles the arrival of a group of prostitutes in a convent. They are fleeing Japanese troops during “the rape of Nanking”. Living with the children locked in the convent is quite difficult, but the male protagonist, an American who is also hidden from the Japanese, seems quite happy by the surprise…
I saw the movie above all because here in China, there was a huge publicity campaign about the movie and Stung me with curiosity. In addition, the history that preceded the film was quite good (probably also was part of the marketing strategy). It seems that Zhang Yimou selected fifteen common girls and “joints locked them” for a month so that they could establish the need to represent the “comrades of the brothel” feeling.
After seeing The Flowers of War, I have to say that the tactic was successful.
If I have to do any criticism about the movie, I would say that there was no reason to use an American as the protagonist.
In the Mood for Love (花樣年華, Fa yeung nin wa (Cantonese))
In the Mood for Love, Hong Kong film from 2000 directed by Wong Kar-wai, set in Hong Kong in 1962. CHOW Mo-wan, is journalist and lives in the same building as their Li-zhen, a Secretary. Both married with a companion who is always out working. Hence, they spend most of their time alone. The director conveys this sense of loneliness often framing them eating only.
Eventually, Kar-wai and Li-zhen become friends and conclude that their partners were lovers for a long time. They then begin to fantasize about how the relationship of their respective spouses could have started…
In the Mood for Love is one of those films where almost nothing happens. However, the music, the staging and Li-zhen you engage in such a way that it forces you to follow the story until the end and inevitably causes a feeling of dissatisfaction.
In addition, I think that this film sums up quite well as Asians see love: you must be willing to sacrifice yourself for the welfare of your partner and the community instead of going behind your own realization and happiness.
Lust, Caution (色, 戒, Se, Jie)
Lust, Caution, a 2007 Chinese thriller directed by Ang Lee, adaptation of the novel of Ailing Zhang Lust, Caution.
The story takes place during the occupation of the Japanese army. Wong Chia Chi, a shy student of Shanghai, comes to Hong Kong in 1938 to study at Lingnan University. She gets involved in a Patriot group that wants to kill Mr Yee, a special agent recruited by the Japanese puppet government.
Chia Chi becomes then Ms. Mai, the wife of a Hong Kong merchant, with the intention of entering the social circle of the Lady Yee and seduce her husband. The plan fails when Mr Yee has to return to Shanghai.
Three years later, Chia Chi also returns to Shanghai and meets again with Mr Yee…
Up the Yangtze (向上生长, Xiàngshàng Shēngzhǎng)
Up the Yangtze is a 2007 Chinese documentary directed by Yung Chang. It tells the story of Yu Shui, a girl of sixteen years who leaves his family – who lives near the Yangtze River, to work in cruise aimed at rich (and FAT) Western tourists.
The other main character of the film is Chen Bo Yu, a young man of nineteen-year-old who comes from a more affluent family and is trying to make a living as a singer on cruise ships.
Through the adventures of Yu Shui and Chen Bo Yu, the film tells the story of the families who have seen their homes and lands that are flooded during the construction of the three Gorges Dam and had to move away.
Other social issues raised by Up the Yangtze refers to China’s transition from a rural to one of mass tourism economy.
Farewell My Concubine (霸王别姬, Bàwáng Bié Jī)
Farewell My Concubine, 1993 Chinese drama directed by Chen Kaige, adaptation of the novel by Lilian Lee Farewell My Concubine and so far is the only film china has been able to win the Cannes Film Festival.
The film tells the story of Dieyi and Xiaolou, Peking opera stars “Farewell My Concubine”, in set in China in the 20th century: the invasion of the Japanese army, the end of the second world war and the arrival of the Communists in 1949. Dieyi and Xiaolou are known from children and, over the years, maintained a deep friendship and a turbulent history homosexual love, reaching betray each other when, during the cultural revolution, Beijing Opera is prohibited.