Monday, September 7, 2009

Eat Drink Man Woman (Yin shin an nu)

Chu: Eat, drink, man, woman. Basic human desires. Can't avoid them. All my life, that's all I’ve ever done. It pisses me off. Is that all there is to life?
Old Wen: We should be thankful that we’re still alive and cooking.

Jia-Chien: It’s strange, I don’t have any childhood memories unless I cook them into existence.


A bittersweet film, Eat Drink Man Woman depicts the ageless story of family life, that of children maturing and rebelling against their parents’ way of life. Despite Master Chef Chu’s (Lung) best culinary efforts, he can’t seem to get the attention of his three grown daughters, who are in the process of discovering their individual identities apart from their natal family. Indeed, one daughter complains to her friend about having to get home for the “Sunday dinner torture ritual.” Nevertheless, he continues to infuse all his kitchen creations with fatherly love, and his daughters eventually come to understand how much they mean to him.
Chu’s cooking is, indeed, amazing to an American audience raised on fast food. Here, for example, is the lunch he prepares for his friend’s daughter to take to school: spareribs, crab with vegetables, shrimp with green peas, bean sprouts and sliced chicken, and bitter melon soup—five courses for a five-year-old!
Though Chu can’t believe it, his daughter Jia-Chien (Wu) inherits his talent for cooking. Here’s what she prepares for her boyfriend: carp with garlic sauce, duck-oil sautéed pea sprouts, squid rings, duck sautéed with garlic, and tofu dumplings. Her recipe for Tsu-An Tofu is as follows: “tofu blended in with chicken, steamed in the pot until it looks like a beehive, which is then cut into pieces and stewed with ham in an old hen broth.” The cooking truly follows the ancient Chinese philosophy: every meal must include a balance of energies, flavors, and types of foods—sweet and sour, mild and spicy, hot and cool, crunchy and smooth, vegetable and fish, grain and meat, and so forth.
The ingredients for this film were so successful that director Ang Lee repeated the basic plot in Tortilla Soup—with an entirely different cuisine, of course.
Fun Facts: The movie’s opening sequence shows the preparation of an amazing host of dishes for the family’s Sunday dinner: fried carp with chiles, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots; ribs; chicken; frog legs; crab dumplings; Peking duck; hot pot; and more. The dinner is so involved that filming the preparation and cooking of this meal alone took more than a full week.
Released 1994
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by Ang Lee, James Schamus, Hui-Ling Wang

Starring Sihung Lung as Chu, Yu-Wen Wang as Jia-Ning, Chien-lien Wu as Jia-Chien, Kuei-Mei Yang as Jia-Jen, Sylvia Chang as Jin-Rong, Winston Chao as Li Kai, Chao-jung Chen as Guo Lun, Lester Chit-Man Chan as Raymond, Yu Chen as Rachel, Ah Lei Gua as Madame Liang, Chi-Der Hong as Class Leader, Gin-Ming Hsu as Coach Chai, Huel-Yi Lin as Sister Chang, Shih-Jay Lin as Chief’s Son, and Chin-Cheng Lu as Ming-Dao

Awards: 1994 Asia-Pacific Film Festival Awards for Best Editing and Best Film; 1995 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Film; 1994 National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Language Film

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