Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
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From the director of The Joy Luck Club, and based on the best-selling novel, comes a timeless portrait of female friendship. Centuries ago, two “sworn sisters” are isolated by their families, but stay connected through a secret language written in the folds of a white silk fan. Now in modern-day Shanghai, their descendents must draw inspiration from the past as they struggle to maintain their own eternal bond in the face of life’s complications. What unfolds are two stories, generations apart, but everlasting in their universal notion of love, hope and friendship.
Joy Luck Club director Wayne Wang contrasts the lives of two women in the present with two women in the past in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Sophia (Gianna Jun), who hails from Korea, enjoys spending time with Nina (Bingbing Li) in 1990s Shanghai, though her uptight stepmother considers the latter a bad influence. Through Sophia's liberal aunt (Vivian Wu), the girls find out about Snow Flower and Lily, two laotongs, or "sisters for life," from the 1820s (played by the same actresses). Despite their class differences, the Hunan girls bond as they undergo rituals from foot-binding to arranged marriages, but Lily's mother-in-law interferes with their friendship, much like Sophia's stepmother (their contemporary versions squeeze their feet into designer heels). Typhoid and rebellion proceed to ravage their families, just as the stock market crash causes a similar effect centuries later. As adults, Nina and Sophia drift apart after a misunderstanding (concerning Hugh Jackman's nightclub owner), but an accident brings them back together, reflecting the rift that divided the 19th-century friends. Throughout, Wang shifts back and forth between eras, emphasizing the freedoms Chinese women have gained over the years, which brings The Joy Luck Club to mind, since both movies sprang from novels about female relationships, but Snow Flower isn't as much of a tearjerker. It's absorbing and attractively shot, but frequently too restrained. Wang directs with compassion, but the film could use more heat. In the featurette, he and author Lisa See talk about the origins of the story. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Top Customer Reviews
Wayne Wang is a "genre"-hopping director with an unusual catalog. It includes such films as "Chan is Missing," the fascinating "tour" of San Francisco's Chinatown; the fully American/Hollywood "Maid in Manhattan," with Jennifer Lopez, and a film with Queen Latifah; and "Chinese-American" films, "Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart," "A Bowl of Tea," and "The Princess of Nebraska". (There is useful, illuminating interview with him in the documentary "Hollywood Chinese," not to my knowledge available via Amazon, it is available from an independent distribution site. Well worth the price.)
The only other film in which I've seen Li Bingbing is "The Message," a good film in which she is very good (also includes the wonderful Zhou Xun). In this she is excellent (and essentially has the lead role). Also notable in a smaller role is Vivian Wu (excellent in "The Soong Sisters," though the film is stolen from her and Michelle Yeoh by a phenomenal Maggie Cheung.)
A moving film, powerfully emotional, almost from the very beginning. And it is not a "chick flick" for men who are fascinated with and appreciative of mother-daughter relationships (Wang's "Joy Luck Club"), and (especially) sister-sister relationships (regardless whether the sisters are "blood" sisters). Or for anyone who appreciates unique historical storytelling, with an Asian/Chinese philosophical "core," and excellent writing, acting, and cinematography.
Recommended for those who would make up their own minds instead of relying on the misleading negative reviews. But be certain to watch the extra, "The Sworn Sisterhood of the Secret Fan," before watching the film, as it includes important backstory.
I have watched this film three or is it four times since buying it. I have an extensive library of a couple thousand films and counting. There are only a few which I watch over and over and this is on that shelf now along with A Passage to India, Indochine, Steel Magnolias and Gandhi. Just to name a few!
Spanning a long period of time, this is a heart wrenching, lovely story of friendship and hardship with great acting from all the players. Keep the tissue close. I have found foreign films like that of the British, the Indian as well as other Asian cultures all make magnificent, substance-filled, entertaining movies.
I thought "this movie is directed by the same person that directed "The Joy Luck Club", it must be just as good considering the book is very well written". Unfortunately this movie was very hard to follow and the dialog was emotionless at times. It jumped around so much between the past and present I couldn't keep up without having to feel like I needed to watch the movie again to understand the plot. What really bothered me was that the movie was spoken in English but then subbed in English (they were speaking Chinese) a lot of the time in the same sentence. It was very frustrating. Most Asian movies I've seen are either dubbed or subbed the entire movie with only the main character speaking their own language during their narration.
I was really interested in the book and thought the movie would give it praise but I can't help but feel the movie does the book injustice.