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Robert John Burke,
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Master Chu, a retired Chinese Tai-Chi master, moves to Westchester, New York to live with his son Alex, his American daughter-in-law Martha, and their son Jeremy. However, Martha's second novel is suffering from severe writers' block brought on by Chu's presence in the house. Alex must struggle to keep his family together as he battles an inner conflict between cultural tradition and his modern American lifestlye. Written by
Sometimes small productions can give you quite a treat.
Sihung Lung, the actor who played Master Chu, the aging tai chi master, gave a very convincing and sincere performance in this film. It was no wonder that he won the Golden Horse (Taiwan's equivalent for the Oscars) for Best Actor in this film. His performance was extremely touching, as tears jerked into my eyes as I see an aging and traditional Chinese father trying to get along with his westernized family while also trying to adjust to life in a new place and culture. The film encourages people, especially new immigrants, to emphasize and put themselves in their parents' shoes. Try to understand how difficult it is for them to come and settle in a new place and try not to push them away. Be patient with them, take a step back and everything may be better.
The movie title, "Pushing Hands", is very appropriate, as this is the term for an exercise in tai chi in which a person achieves balance by giving up balance. In this non-aggressive exercise between 2 people, a person offers no resistance at all to the pressure or push that the other person is exerting and keeps borrowing this strength until they feel they have fused into one and thus have achieved harmony. This was what Master Chu did. Although his daughter-in-law kept misunderstanding him, causing much discontent and eventually got his son to try to sent him away, he offered no resentment or a temper tantrum. He simply walked away gracefully. This action caused his son to appreciate him and remember why he got his father to live together in the first place in a tear jerking scene and finally they worked out a solution. They decided to give each other space by living separately instead of pushing each other away. In the end everyone was much happier, as even the daughter-in-law learned to accept the father, symbolized by her decorating the guest room for him and asking the question if he would ever visit. The father achieved the balance that he seek in Tai-Chi.
Ang Li is simply amazing and sensational. He did what he could with the limited budget and created a very warm and tear jerking film. Although this film was not the highest quality (the version I saw was very unclear and skips sometimes) and it could feel slow at times, especially the beginning sequence, the film was a great work in directing. The film picked up its pace after the slow beginning without any big fighting scenes or explosions and never felt boring afterwards. Also, from the beginning sequence, where he was able to show the dissension and gap between the daughter-in-law and the father by using just different scenes and visuals, to scenes throughout the film where he used lighting and different camera angles to show the internal pain and sadness that the father experience, it was, simply put, a great piece of art considering the budget. It showcased the talent of Li and gave the audience a glimpse of the man who would bring us the memorable Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
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