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Saturday, November 12, 2005

"Saving Face"

Saving Face
One very important characteristic of Chinese culture that no generation of Chinese has evaded, no matter where in the world they end up in, is the concept of "face". "Face" refers to a person's or family's pride. "Shame" in English literally means "to throw one's face" in Chinese. (For a Star Trek reference, the Chinese's "face" is akin to the Klingon's "honour".)

In this Chinese-American movie, it shows how important "face" is when a family is dishonoured. Joan Chen plays a 48-year-old woman who becomes pregnant, but she refuses to reveal the father's identity. And her daughter, played by Michelle Krusiec, plays a lesbian surgeon whose girlfriend turns out to be the daughter of her (Michelle's) boss.

In the former, the unwanted pregnancy causes the grandfather to kick Joan Chen's character out of the house while rumours swirl among their supposed friends. In the latter, the daughter has to deal with a mother who wants her to marry a good man to produce heirs, preferably of the male gender, and that leads to friction between the two.

Of course, everything ends happily in this fictional story. I think the take-home message is that "face" is less important than family relations and love.

The show started quite well, with enough humour to keep it bouncing along. There's also a generous intermix of Mandarin Chinese and English dialogue. (And they say only Singaporeans can do that!) Michelle Krusiec, who apparently speaks Chinese, probably needs to brush up on her Chinese pronunciation, because there were times when she got the tones wrong. I'm not saying I'm a master in speaking Chinese, but her words sounded very... non-native.

I am, however, disappointed about one part. Not at the filmmakers, but the local censors. I can accept that it's rated R-21 due to the lesbian relationship. What I don't understand is why a portion of the film still had to be cut! And the cut was very, very, very obvious.

It happened while Wil (Michelle Krusiec) and Vivian (Lynn Chen) were in bed. From IMDb's quotes page, Vivan's mother left a voice recording, which I think is important because it shows the mother's open-mindedness. So the only conclusion I can draw is that the cut portion involved some sort of super-erotic scene between the two women in bed. Except that the part after the cut portion just shows Wil lying on Vivian.

I do not understand!

Overall, while it's not in the same league as "Joy Luck Club", it is still a charming little show about what happens when a very important aspect of traditional Chinese culture meets modern (and mostly Western) culture.


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littlecartnoodles said...

Was there a mechanical buzzing sound in the scene before the cut ?

Yuhui said...

I don't remember.

Anonymous said...

The movie was cut in Singapore?
That's where you guys are at, right?

***(Spoiler warning)
Wil and Vivian were having sex, both were topless, kissing, fondling. You hear the mother call (I'm paraphrasing):
Vivian, this your mother. just calling to say hi. Your birthday good? Did Wil show up? Thought you might wanna talk after she leaves. Or maybe she still there? Ok, bye.

This is when Wil flops on top of Vivian and they have the little exchange about the "latin verbs".

Yuhui said...

Anonymous: THANK YOU!

Damn Singaporean censors! The friggin' movie is already rated R21, yet they won't let a scene of 2 naked women through! Aaarrrggghhh!!!

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