Thursday, December 22, 2011
SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN
Evidently amongst all the other things that the Chinese can claim to have invented/created we can also add BFF as in Best Friends Forever. Back in the 19th Century a woman having a ‘laotong’ was an embedded social custom that bound two friends. known as ‘sisters’, by a written contract and according to the account in this movie the bond and the (platonic) love was so much deeper, more profound and longer lasting than any marriage.
In this highly sentimental story Snow Flower and Lily both from totally different backgrounds meet as young children and as 'laotong' kept their relationship going even when marriage separated them and the only contact they could manage was by smuggling out a secret fan on which they would send messages back and forth. They survive a tyrannical mother-in-law, typhoid, an abusive husband, a Rebellion, losing a child, a bust-up, and even when Snow Flower dies prematurely, the bond is still in tact.
Evidently the novel that this is based on upon finished there, but director Wayne Wang has mixed this with a parallel contemporary story between Sophia and Nina two young successful women living and working in Shanghai the most modern of China's cities. Sophia is in a coma after being knocked off her motorbike, and as the friends have been estranged lately a guilt-ridden Nina sitting by her bedside discovers a manuscript that Sophie has been writing of the story of Snow Flower and Lily, and this is the cue in the movie for reminiscing and to start comparing the two sets of friends different stories.
Gianna Jun and Li Bingbing the two actors who play both sets of friends do as good a job as the (slightly stilted) script allowed, and I actually failed to recognize the fact that Sophie’s Australian boyfriend was Hugh Jackman.
Wayne Wang’s resume includes the highly successful 'The Joy Luck Club', but this is not in the same league as that at all. It is all very emotional, and a soundtrack of lushly arranged music heightens the saccharine-like cutesy drama. It is simply chinese chick-lit.
P.S. My favourite line is uttered by a young Snow Flower just before Lily is to get married and she is asked 'what about the bed business?' and she tells her friend that she really didnt know and then added 'but it can't be as hard as cleaning or embroidery'! Exactly.