Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dumplings (2004)

I didn't know that the Planned Parenthood videos would be this bad.  Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't think that fetuses should be included in meal plans, even if eating them can take years off of an aging actress's face.  There, now you have the plot of Dumplings, an expansion of a short originally featured in the pan-Asian Three Extremes anthology.

Gross.  But not as gross as fetus-cook Aunt Mei, who isn't like an Asian version of Spider-Man's Aunt May, as you might expect.  Going by her verdure, she's more like the Chinese version of Peg Bundy.  Bai Ling deserves applause for making this character, who is objectively pretty grotesque, into a more likable figure than the protagonista, Miriam Chin Wah Yeung's insecure Mrs. Li.

As with Romero's Jack's Wife, one wonders if Mrs. Li being "Mrs. Li" is a reflection of the film's themes—the pressure women face to keep up appearances, to fill their appointed roles.  Is the shot below a mirror of Dumplings's core selfhood?

This film is real hard to parse because it's so subtle.

Obligatory tech stuff: really well-shot.  You can tell that director Fruit Chan exhaustively thought out his shots and moreover, given how putrid the plot is, this is edited elegantly, almost like a Merchant-Ivory film (about eating fetus dumplings).  My great complaint is that the final act doesn't really deliver on the promise of the preceding scenes.  Still, this one is worth watching, both for the technical artistry and for the resonance with current events.  Equally appropriate for your aunt's birthday and your next Bernie Sanders rally.


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