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In Hong Kong, Aunt Mei is a cook famous for her home-made rejuvenation dumplings, based on a millenarian recipe prepared with a mysterious ingredient that she brings directly from China. The former TV star Mrs. Li visits Mei aiming her dumplings to recover her youth and become attractive again to her wolf husband Mr. Li. Along the sessions, Mei tells Mrs. Li that she was a gynecologist in China with more than 30,000 abortions along ten years. When Mrs. Li requests an acceleration of the process, the opportunity comes when a fifteen years old teenager with a five months incestuous pregnancy comes with her mother and asks Mei to make an abortion. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Dumplings: restoring one's youthfulness, for whatever it's worth
Strangely I didn't feel like reviewing this film upon initially watching it. Not because it didn't impress me or repulsed me as it did others, but it simply got lost in the shuffle of so many other great features of 2004-05 that I'm still making my way through.
The film opens up with Ling Bai going through the airport, with the camera loosely following the pinko decorated lunch box, then letting her into the frame and a thought immediately rushed into my head, "what was the last time that I really enjoyed anything with Ling Bai?". Seems like an easy enough question. Couldn't possibly have been a film called She Hate Me or the atrocity that was My Baby's Daddy. Her appearance on VH-1's career decapitation of a show "But Can They Sing?" clearly won't be raising her stock as a serious actress, yet there's still something mystifying about her. Enough to actually fit into the eeriness of this film.
My intuitions got reassured as Miriam Yeung walked into the perfectly disarrayed blockades of projects of Hong Kong, where the director captured the cold blue ambiance and already achieved something out of almost nothing. Ling Bai effortlessly portrays Mei, a self-employed cook and she is her own best advertisement and her dumplings? well they just maybe the best cure for anyone wanting to preserve and restore his or her youthfulness. Miriam plays Mrs. Lee, a retired actress willing to pay the high price for these special dumplings, financially and morally. She is actually the complete opposite of her character in real life, age-wise, but her voice and naturally mature looks achieve plausibility and especially come in handy with the progression of the story. Not a bad stretch for Miriam who spends most of her acting time in fluffy romance comedies.
Her primary cause of seeking rejuvenation is to regain the affection of her husband Mr. Lee, played by Tony Leung Ka Fai, who just happens to be an unemotional womanizer and a health nut himself. The pacing of the film might be a slight nuisance to some while not as stagnating and demanding as Ming Tsai's 7 to 400 Blows or Hsiao Hou's Café Lumiere. At the same time don't expect a charade of gory outbursts done purely for the sake of shocking you as the film takes a concentrated approach and builds up tension quite well before the tasteful (no pun intended) moments of desolation.
Even well after the revelation of the dumplings' main ingredient, this film stood still and needs to be commanded for its surprise but fitting choice of actors and their refreshingly good acting chops, as well as its atmospheric cinematography crafted by Christopher Doyle who smartly avoided over-serving us with his usually unusual bag of tricks. Not a film that I'll need to view over and over again, but who said that good films are only measured by the number of times one can enjoy them?
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