A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
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Mr. Shi, a Chinese man , travels to America to visit his American-resident daughter after her recent divorce. Though his trip starts off as a mission to see his daughter remarry, he realizes a generational and geographical divide has developed between them preventing him from completing the journey he set out for. In turn, Mr. Shi ends up exploring human relationships and communication barriers.
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is a small chamber piece about the intricacies of family and the complexities of lives connected to two countries. In other words, it's ideal subject matter for director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club), a frequent specialist in such material. This one's set in an all-American small city (not named, but filmed in Spokane, Washington), where an all-American woman (Faye Yu) is visited by her very Chinese father (Henry O). At one time a rocket scientist during the heyday of the Cold War, he's been at loose ends for a while. His main occupations while visiting his predictably busy daughter are cooking her elaborate Chinese meals and trying to counsel her on her love life--he knows a lot about food, not so much about the ways an independent 21st-century American woman might behave. This believable sketch is based on a short story by Yiyun Li, who also scripted, and it hits some credible notes without generating a great deal of cinematic excitement. The subplot, in which the father strikes up a kind of friendship with an Iranian woman he meets in a park (their conversation is fluid, despite not sharing a common language), feels a bit insistent in providing a contrast to the difficult talks between father and child. The inexpensive-looking video photography doesn't help, either. But it does work as a quiet mood piece, and modest actors' workshop. Wang directed another film from a Yiyun Li story, The Princess of Nebraska, at about the same time as this film. --Robert Horton
- Photo Gallery
- Script to Screen
- Mr. Shi and the Cultural Revolution
- 2 Women, 2 Chinas, 2 Stories
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This movie shares some qualities with Ozu's best films from the early fifties, especially TOKYO STORY, not the visual style, but the intensely observed family dynamics. But here, in modern America, lacking extended families, Wang uses chance encounters with characters like the Iranian woman to achieve a less-profound but still emotionally moving effect.