- Director: Lisa Zi Xiang
- Writer: Lisa Zi Xiang
- Producer: Jose Val Bal; Lisa Zi Xiang
Winner of the prestigious Teddy Award' with a few other trophies to keep Ted company...and, inexplicably, regaled - by some - as an outright masterpiece!
Throw a dollop of paint onto the nearest wall and watch it dry...there, that's just as interesting/entertaining as watching 107 minutes of this slow, painfully repetitive, practically static, unecessarily muddled dirge to/comment on traditional Chinese family values and Chinese society as a whole...told by one diasporic auteur.
This is Lisa Zi Xiang's first film...more homily than homegrown. Present...are all the usual supects, the mother with anger issues, the doormat father, respect and shame, matching and marriage...and, the kind of 'why-did-you-marry-that-foreigner' racism that seems to [always] avoid criticism. The 'foreigner' in this instance is Thomas Fiquet's Benjamin, the husband...as impotent a character could ever be and - quite possibly - one of the most ineffectual performances ever to disgrace the big screen. Fortunately, Thomas Fiquet's screen-time is limited, saving him from complete embarassment...sorry, but acting ain't your thing. Or, is it a case of bad direction? Whatever...the character of Benjamin serves only as a wasted opportunity.
As does that of the father...again, minimum screen-time and the crux of the story! Discovered by his wife...fumbling with a [much] younger male student! Indeed! Well, as you would imagine, the proverbial hits the fan...only, in this instance, the proverbial misses the fan [completely] and lands sloppily on the floor...to be trodden on, over and over again.
Yes...there is a great premise here...tradition, homosexuality, communism, religion [with modernity and migration having their say too]...they all go together like oil and water! Explosive ingredients...the only problem is Lisa Zi Xiang...with her [infuriatingly] static camera, she focuses on her [yes, this is autobiographical] mother's immersion into a Buddhist cult. The 'gay' father barely gets a look-in, apart from the mother refusing to divorce him [all that family shame] and declaring him to be [frustratingly for her] impotent for years! Erectile dysfunction is no laughing matter...but [especially with the little blue pill in existence], this should have been the joke of all jokes...there's nothing wrong with his willy, it's you! And, yet one more wasted opportunity...his homosexuality: Nature or [spousal] nurture? Discuss!
Add to all these wasted opportunities, moments of directorial madness, Lisa Zi Xiang takes her [now long lost] audience out of the [presumed] reality and into the theatre...of the absurd. You couldn't make this stuff up...and, she didn't...this is her autobiographical, theatrical whimsy...and, the biggest wasted opportunity of all...is that of her mothers' - she had the biggest secret, she held the story in the palm of her hand...and, sadly, her daughter let it slip through her [inexperienced] directorial fingers!
But, hey, what do we know? Winner of the prestigious Teddy Award'...and, regaled - by some - as an outright masterpiece!
When the young student Li Jiumei meets her future husband Huang Tao, she is youthful and happy; her daughter Huang Xiaoyu has not yet been born and the secrets of the family are still hidden behind closed doors deep inside the house. Her daughter Huang Xiaoyu is already a young girl when creeping suspicion overcomes Li Jiumei. She kicks down a door behind which she catches her husband with a young man. Huang Xiaoyu is now pregnant and living in the USA; a little while later she returns to pay a visit with her boyfriend. She discovers that, in addition to bitterness and hatred, the teachings of an ominous sect have now also spread throughout the house.
Chinese director Xiang Zi masterfully interweaves the narrative strands of this complex family saga that unfolds simultaneously in different periods. In carefully composed and at times surreal images, a chronicle of reticence gradually unfolds that has much larger dimensions than one might first assume. This is a tale of suppressed desire, the social importance of marriage, and the frostiness that exists between the walls of a wealthy Chinese family home.