7.5/10
139
3 user 2 critic

A Borrowed Life (1994)

Duo sang (original title)
Autobiographical story about the life of a poor family in the Taiwanese countryside during the 1940s and 1950s as the Japanese rule of the island ends and nationalist forces of Kwomintang arrive when the Communists take the mainland.

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5 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Akio Chen
Jun Fu ...
Wen-Jian
Yung-Feng Lee
Ing-How Tan ...
ER Doctor
Chen-Nan Tsai ...
Sega
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Storyline

Sega, a Taiwanese born in the years of Japanese rule, felt closer to Japanese nationality and culture than to the Mainland Chinese authorities who took over in 1945. The Japanese contributed to the development of the island and its social infrastructure, leaving behind efficient and popular education and health-care systems. Conversely, Wen-Jian is typical of the sons born to Sega's generation. Born and raised under Chinese government, their natural allegiance is to Chinese culture. They are inevitably mystified by and impatient with their parents' fondness for Japanese culture and rule, their bafflement intensified by all they are taught about Japanese imperialist ambitions and wartime atrocities. Tjos os a generational conundrum with no solution, doubtless unique to Taiwan. Written by L.H. Wong <as9401k56@ntuvax.ntu.ac.sg>

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26 August 1995 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

A Borrowed Life  »

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Trivia

Number 3 on Martin Scorsese's top 10 movies of the 90s list, which he presented on a special episode of At the Movies with Roger Ebert. See more »

Connections

Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Best of the '90s (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Perhaps the most touching tribute to a father ever put to film
11 March 2002 | by (Saint Paul, MN) – See all my reviews

The correct title of this film is simply "Dou-San," the name of Wu Nien-Jen's father. Wu, probably best known for writing two of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's most famous films, City of Sadness and The Puppetmaster (he also wrote Dust in the Wind for Hou and other scripts for Edward Yang, who had a big crossover hit with Yi Yi). Dou-San was educated in Japanese when that country controlled the island, but the members of his family prefer Mandarin, which he understands only partially. He loves his family, but feels a little isolated from them. The story centers around the relationship between father and son, from Wu's earliest memories to Dou-San's death in 1990 (the death is mentioned right away in the film, so this is not a spoiler). There are ups and downs, all very beautifully rendered by Wu.

Personally, I found Hou Hsiao-Hsien's films tedious as hell, even the two I liked. My only real criticism of Dou-San is that Wu emulates Hou's style too closely. This was his first film, and he is a good friend and frequent collaborator with Hou, so that makes perfect sense. Wu even said that he first approached Hou to direct the film, but he said that, since it was a personal story about his own father, he should direct it. I'm at a loss to say why I prefer Dou-San to any of Hou's films that I've seen (the only important one I haven't seen is Flowers of Shanghai). I was lucky enough to see the film with its director present - a rare opportunity indeed, especially since I live in the Midwest (the print we saw was literally printed and shipped by Martin Scorsese himself, believe it or not; Wu's second film, Buddha Bless America, was the one that was originally scheduled, but no print could be found). Perhaps I was so touched simply because he was there. I was trying to imagine what emotions he was feeling as he watched the film. I'd like to think that's untrue, of course, and that I'd have loved the film if I had seen it without him there. I know, though, that there are at least half a dozen sequences that I'll remember forever from this film. 9/10.


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