Opening 4 Aug 2005
Mei, a recent arrival in Hong Kong, is famous for her dim sum (stuffed dumplings) which, when eaten, promise eternal youth. This is just the ticket for Qing Li, who is desperate to regain the attention of her errant husband. The potency recipe is hard-boiled eggs with unborn birds still in the yolk, a symbol of what is to come. Later, fifteen-year-old Kate and her mother arrive in need of Mei’s other line of work as a Chinese Vera Drake. Kate is five months pregnant with her father’s child, a very special embryo indeed. When things go badly, Mei disappears, leaving Qing Li with the words, “You are rich, but I am free.” Now without a supplier of special dim sum, Li learns that her husband’s girlfriend is five months pregnant with his child.
According to director Fruit Chan (what a name!), the film reflects the extremes people will go for beauty. What are the ethical limits in Eastern (and perhaps Western) culture where “cannibalism has gone through periods of acceptability,” not to mention a 1400-year tradition of dim sum. What begins as a harmless mixing of dough in the kitchen reminiscent of Eat Drink Man Woman ends in macabre blood-letting. Bai Ling (Mei) grew up in China and, since filming Red Corner with Richard Gere, is at home in China, Hong Kong and the U.S. She was part of the jury at this year’s Berlinale where journalists made fun of her skimpy wardrobe, crediting her ability to withstand, half nude, Berlin’s February weather to experiences in the People’s Army in Tibet. Her acting, as well as a terrific bird’s nest hairdo, in this film should put her above such future comments. Miriam Yeung (Li) is a popular, talented actress and singer from Hong Kong. Christopher Doyle’s photography is fine, as he already demonstrated in recent films 2046, Rabbit Proof Fence, and Hero. This realistic Chinese film might strain the sensibilities of some viewers (stomping a baby bird to death, hemorrhaging on a bus seat). No subtle symbolism of tigers and dragons, but still much hiding and crouching. (Becky Tan)