food in the arts




Prod: Li-Kong Hsu/ Dir: Ang Lee/ Cast:Tao Chu, Sihung Lung,Mrs. Liang: Ah-Leh Gua/ Samuel Goldwyn Company/ 124 minutes/ 1994

Eat Drink Man Woman Eat Drink Man Woman Two

Tao Chu is a widower, dictatorial father, and master chef. His taste buds no longer work and he relies on his assistant Wen to tell him whether a dish is eye-watering or mouth-watering. All three of his daughters still live at home, much to their dismay. Jia-Jen his eldest daughter is a schoolteacher and seems quite content to stay at home. Jia-Chen his second daughter has just sunk all of her money in an apartment so that she can move out; she is a successful executive at an airline. Jia-Ning is his youngest daughter and works at a Wendy's. Every Sunday Chu insists that they sit down for a Sunday dinner. Jia-Chen describes them as their "Sunday torture." Despite the anger that fills their house they all love one another and care for each other deeply. They "communicate by eating"; indeed the dinner table is the only place where they truly communicate. With the words "I have an announcement," Jia-Ning tells him that she is moving in with her boyfriend because they are in love, but "mostly because I am carrying his baby." Later in the film while Chu is cutting up a dish with a hatchet, Jia-Jen says, "I have an announcement," and proceeds to tell everyone that she is married. She then runs outside and drags in her new husband. The camera pans to a hilarious scene in which Chu is just staring at the husband while holding a hatchet. No matter what happens in this family, the dinner table is where they connect and share their feelings.

This is a wonderful food movie: spectacular meals and food scenes are always just moments away in this film. While the opening credits appear the viewer is treated to watching Chu beginning to prepare a Sunday dinner. He keeps live fish in a clay jar so that they are fresh; he also raises his own chickens. Something as simple as cutting vegetables is turned into art. Watching him pull out Peking duck is almost unbearable to watch if there is no food around. This film will also leave you craving dumplings, something that he fixes at almost all of his Sunday dinners. In another scene Jia-Chen and her friend are drinking tea. First she pours boiling water into a pitcher containing tea leaves, after a minute she then pours the tea into her cup but leaves the small tea pot resting in her cup for a minute to drain. It is this attention to detail that makes this movie a wonderful food film. The plot is much better than A WALK IN THE CLOUDS; however, it can not quite rival BIG NIGHT for substance, but it is still well written. The only other film that rivals the preparation, presentation, and consumption of food is BABETTE'S FEAST.

In an early scene, Master Chef Chu (Sihung Lung) takes little neighbour Shanshan her lunch box at elementary school with her favourite bitter melon soup--but it's in the final scene that his critical taste for soup shows his recovered zest for life:

What's wrong?" Jia-Chien (Chien-Lien Wu) says.
"Nothing, it's delicious. Yet..."
"Too much ginger. Too much, and its effect is ruined."
"I disagree. It's not too much. This is Mother's recipe...and you complained way back then. You're too timid with ginger."
"I'm certainly not."
"Don't boss me around."
"I'm not. It was a minor criticism about a slight taste of too much ginger...a taste..."
"Yes? A taste...?"
"Jia-Chien, your soup..."
"What about my soup?"
"Your soup, Jia-Chien...I taste it. I can taste it."
"You can taste?"
"I taste it. Some more, please. Daughter."


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Ang Lee (2 DVDs, Box Set, limitiert) - -


Eat Drink Man Woman (Yin shi nan nu) Salé sucré -