02 June 2012

Film Review: Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), by Ang Lee, ****


This is not a movie to see on an empty stomach. Writer-director Ang Lee's 1994 Oscar nominee tells a family story about a chef and his three daughters through the meals the chef prepares and serves his family. This touching, dryly funny story of a family coping with personal lives and the way those lives intersect with the family relationships captures a shift in generations in Taipei. The father, a famous chef who has lost his taste buds, still cooks, though he draws no pleasure from eating. His daughters, meanwhile, deal with both the disappointments and surprises of daily living and the way their adult lives compare to the expectations the widowed father had for them. A subtle, amusing--and mouth-watering--comedy of impeccable manners. --Marshall Fine


I found this Taiwanese movie exhilarating. As a lover of food, I was enchanted with the preparations of elaborate Chinese dishes. This is a movie about food, about life in Taiwan and about human nature.

I also found the movie to be an interesting picture into the daily life of a family in Taiwan, a fascinating island with a profound Chinese culture but also a society that has developed in a much different way compared to the mainland.

In mainland China, hardline Communist Mao repressed the traditional Chinese cuisine as an expression of bourgeois decadence. Everyone had to have the same bowl of rice, and in fact they were lucky to get even that. In Taiwan, on the contrary, traditional Chinese food thrived and flourished, side by side with local Taiwanese as well as Japanese cuisine. In fact I have had my best Chinese food ever in Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, not China. And in the end, our protagonist is right, Eat Drink Man and Woman, what else is really important in life? Strongly recommend to see this movie early in the evening so you can book yourself a table at a good Chinese restaurant afterwards! Or a Taiwanese one for that matter, as Taiwanese cuisine has a few different recipes to offer the discerning palate.

I hope to try some aborigenal cuisine on my next trip.

Only a NTSC DVD (Region 1) is available as far as I know. I found a Region 2 (Europe) on eBay a while back.

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