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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
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Index 22 reviews in total 

29 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Bounded feet and bounded love.

Author: David Traversa from Argentina
16 December 2011

I finished reading all the previous reviews to have a clear idea about what other people saw in this movie, and I must say that all that emphasis about the film being too different from the book doesn't show a great understanding of the cinematic technique. A movie is not a book. The visual, with long shots and close ups, the dialogue and the music, even the noises, take over all the written pages to express a single gesture, the full description of a landscape, or the design of a dress. A single close up can give us the essence of a full chapter.

This movie is sheer poetry.

Forget about the original book that helped to create this jewel of a movie, just watch this film, allow your senses to be absorbed by the two parallel stories --the contemporary and the historical-- and just absorb all that beauty offered to you in the story-line, the exquisite photography, the delicacy of sentiments expressed by these women (it is a terrible film for men's egos, because we come a very poor second compared with those women, overpowered by men's brutality and yet transcending the horrible handicaps imposed on them, like the tiding of their feet from early age, to convert them into defenseless crippled creatures, totally depending on men, and their virtual slaves for life).

The image of those bounded stomps, deformed to the point of becoming unrecognizable as human feet symbolizes too the humiliation some ultraconservative elements of society try to impose over minorities as if to say: "There, you'll go thru life bounded and suffering, freedom to be yourself will be denied to you because I want it so".

The total love among these "Sisters for life" was infinitely superior to the love these women could have had for their husbands. We see that in both cases --the historic and the contemporary-- and in both cases it lasted, strong, to the last consequences.

Contrary to other viewers, I didn't have the slightest problem in following the development of the two parallel stories, since it was done in a very natural, simple and honest way; both stories superbly intertwined to perfection till the final resolution.

¿A masterpiece? yes, I think so.

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21 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

It's no secret.

Author: jdesando from United States
20 July 2011

Sunflower and the Secret Fan is the poignant tale of two 21st century Asian girls and their matches in the 19th century: Both couples are bound by the dictates of a patriarchal culture that challenges the natural love and devotion they feel for each other. These lady laotongs or "old sames" take an oath to make them faithful sisters forever, the outward show of an enduring, lifelong commitment to their sisterhood.

Director Wayne Wang's challenge is to intercut the centuries and women without confusing the audience, a virtue not always achieved in two hours of traversing between times. His limited success can be attributed to the striking skyline of modern Shanghai, an apt metaphor for the change in the ladies' lives, indeed for change itself.

Just as arresting as the visual images is the stringed music of Rachel Portman, which dictates emotions as strongly as any other score I have heard this year. Some might complain of manipulation; I enjoy the excess as if it were an ancient Chinese fan of innumerable design. BTW, the titular fan was used by the 19th century ladies to make messages to each other in their special language. Wang's considerable success showing devoted friends in Joy Luck Club is evidenced in the ladies here.

The bonding of protagonists is strong on the surface, but because there is so much to do in only 2 hours, we never have sustained conversation among them to verify what we intuit without much dialogue. It would be sweet to linger more with them while they show through dialogue the bond that makes them sacrifice for each other throughout their lives.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan in the end turns on love, its many forms and demands and on change, which frequently derails the best intentions of love itself. The ladies here evidence in delicate ways the tumult and reward accompanying a lifelong commitment to another human being. And that's no secret.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A winner is ""Snow Flower And The Secret Fan".

Author: Dale Haufrect ( from Houston, Texas
9 February 2012

Wayne Wang has directed another winner, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan". It is a well designed "chick flick" that overcomes ones emotions to the point of great empathy for both the characters and the eras in which it is set. Bingbing Li plays Nina/Lily, and Gianna Jun stars as Snow Flower/Sophia. They are like blood sisters who rotate back and forth from the 19th to the 21st centuries. The story is compelling. The religious and cultural overtones are educational and well depicted. The scenes in Shanghai as well as Australia are vistas that hold one in awe. It is a Drama worth viewing and now is on Blu Ray DVD and worth the effort for the clarity of sound and visual effect. The music is especially well adapted to the film and provides another reason for the extra effect of a good sound system.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful to watch but slightly tedious

Author: phd_travel from United States
5 April 2012

This is a well cast and nicely filmed but uneven movie. The 2 leads Li Bing Bing and Gianna Jun are lovely in different ways. Only Asian actresses could play the same characters as teens and in their 30s convincingly.

The story concerns two pairs of best girl friends, one set in present day and one pair set in the mid 1800s in China. The modern story is a bit less interesting than the modern one. The 1800s story has bound feet (ouch), civil war and rural poverty. The modern story is about career and love with a foreigner (an unintentionally hilarious Hugh Jackman - that song!).

The changes between the 2 stories are a bit too frequent. It isn't confusing about who is who but it just breaks up and jumbles the narrative a little too much.

The movie is a bit long and maudlin. With too many lingering sad looks. Feel like shouting Hurry Up sometimes! That is the old fashioned Chinese soap opera part of it.

Overall worth one watch.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Well Worth Seeing.

Author: HLshop from United States
26 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Others have described the story, so i wont. I feel that both the critics and users were unfairly harsh. I almost missed this as a result, despite having enjoyed the book. Perhaps it was the low expectations. However, I think it's better than many more popular female bonding movies and did not find too sentimental. I don't get why films like Bridesmaided or the Ya Ya sisterhood are well liked. Sure they are OK,, but cover nothing new.

Both the book and the movie are trying to tug the heart strings. That accepted (and i like dark stories) they do it well and I cared about both sets of women and what happened to these women. The stories are interesting and the filming beautiful. I won't give any spoilers, but the ending was a bit too neatly tied up, especially in the modern story. I read the book and was skeptical about adding a parallel tail, but found it worked well, though not sure it was necessary. The ending was a bit too pat, especially in the modern day part. There are many worse ways to spend an evening. Give it a chance.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Staggeringly low rating for such a good film

Author: perkypops from United Kingdom
14 December 2012

A film about laotong, the bonding of two women for eternity as kindred sisters, is unusual to say the least and one that is beautifully retold in the manner of so many oriental stories must be a rarity. The reason it works so well is because it is shot at two layers, one in the present day, and the other at a time when women needed each other for support. In fact the retelling of the latter is the result of a book written by Sophia of the life of Snow Flower in the title. In each layer Sophia/Snow Flower is bonded to Nina/Lily. The acting by Gianna Jun (Sophia/Snow Flower) and Bingbing Li as Nina/Lily is extraordinary with sterling support from an excellent cast. The cinematography and soundtrack are also first rate.

In essence the story explores love in many guises via the relationship of the two present day characters and their mirrors of old, but it is only at the conclusion of the film that we are allowed to be inside the minds of the kindred sisters and their relationship. This is not a film that pivots upon romantic love since it delves very deep into the agendas the women have and for that reason alone it may not be a commercial success. That shouldn't detract from its beauty as a work of art but clearly it has had an effect on the film's popularity on IMDb. And that is a shame because it is well worth lasting all of its one hundred and four minutes including the beautiful wash drawings displayed with the final credits.

I don't know how this film manages less than six on the ratings for I feel a little mean in only giving it eight because of the material it explores. It is worthy of a visit to cinema, or even ownership of a DVD. Oriental cinema has made another worthy addition to its growing list of excellent stories turned into film.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Relationship in the Book Overshadowed by 21st Century Story

Author: zatarains80 from Virginia
7 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a beautifully written book by Lisa See; it tells the fictional story of two women, bound together since childhood as laotong, or old sames. The laotong relationship is a life- long relationship between women, often with similar birthdays, horoscopes, or other social or biological markers; and was often revered higher than a marriage. They communicate with each other, across time and distance, on fans on which they write their special women's language, nu shu. Nu shu is a complex language, where context is paramount, and is reserved for women only.

See's book details the life of two girls, Snow Flower a daughter of a formerly-well-to-do family whose grandfather was an Imperial Scholar, and Lily, whose family is of a middle class caste. They share their life experiences including the painful process of foot binding, mothers who push for good marriages, and the struggles that each encounter once they are married, even war comes to their area. Throughout their lives there is tension, both beautiful and awful until a misunderstanding severs their bond for several years.

Wayne Wang once again fills the screen with a great caste, wonderful scenery, and subtle emotion. But here is where the film adaptation fails. The beautiful and tragic story by Lisa See is eclipsed by a contemporary story line created to follow the lives of 2 friends in modern day Shanghai: Nina, a go getter who is very ambitious, and Sophia, a Chinese Korean who has struggled with her mother's death, her father's subsequent remarriage to a shrew, and her father's untimely death. **SPOILER** It is suggested that Sophia is descended from Snow Flower, and has the fans that the women had shared throughout their life together. There is too much focus on the contemporary characters, which are created solely for this film. The tension and strife that Snow Flower and Lily faced throughout their lives is gone, and events are extremely telescoped. As women of different classes in 19th century China, their fates were bound to their marriages, and their own relationship was shaped by their relationships with their mothers (but whose isn't?). This is lost in the film.

Wayne Wang does a beautiful script, but attention to the original story would have done this film more justice.

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10 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Great movie about the laotong: a life- long relationship between women friends.

Author: himelda from United States
17 August 2011

One of the key discoveries in my life is that for me and for many of my women friends, our friendship is often the most wonderful gift of life. This movie celebrates friendship among women. It relates two stories of women in China whose friendship is signed as a contract, a laotong. Laotong, the movie explains, is a life-long relationship between women, often considered more important than marriage. The movie presents two young friends in Shanghai in the 21st century who celebrate a laotong. Their friendship is portrayed with the closeness, empathy and support that is well known about friendship among women. And it also presents the difficulties and distances that are very real and perhaps unavoidable in close relationships. In a similar way, the movie presents two 19th century women who had had a laotong in very different circumstances and for whom the friendship is also both a marvelous gift and a difficult relationship. Movies are often about relations between a man and a women but seldom about women friends. That is why this movie seems to be controversial. It is not always accepted that for women their women friends are their most rewarding relationships despite the complicated faces of any human partnership. Go see the movie. It shows a side of women's life that is amazingly real but poorly understood.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Laotung and Nu shu: Two of the pleasures of a lovely story

Author: gradyharp from United States
20 November 2011

SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN is the cinematic adaptation of Lisa See's popular novel by writers Angela Workman, Ron Bass and Michael K. Ray and director Wayne Wang. The film unveils parallel stories between 19th century China and present day Shanghai - the tales of two women joined by laotong - a binding vow and contract to be eternal friends and share each others lives - communicating with a secret women's language called nu shu, carefully inked characters placed on the folds between the spines of a silken fan. By using the same actresses to play the parts of the girls two centuries apart adds a mysterious beauty to the films alluring flavor.

In 1826 Lily and Snow Flower become laotung and though they are from opposite ends of the social stratum they become devoted friends, undergoing the ritual of having their feet broken and bound to remain very small as adults - apparently a desired attribute for physical attraction as a potential bride. The poor girl is chosen for marriage by a wealthy family and the rich girl is promised to a butcher, an extreme reversal of roles in society and it is the manner in which each adapts and aids the other that demonstrates the depth of the bond of laotong. Concurrently in the film we meet Nina and Sophie in contemporary Shanghai: Nina has gained education and stature and is due to move to New York as part of an important business. Sophie is in an accident and only slowly do we realize that Sophie had the promise of moving to Australia to marry an Aussie singer (Hugh Jackman), more because she is pregnant than for love. Because of the laotung between Nina and Sophie the two make sacrifices that overcome all else to prove their loyalty. There are many parallels in the two stories that show a bond between the two sets of girls and to capture this bond securely the two girls form centuries apart are played by the same actresses: Lily/Nina become the roles of Bing Bing Li and Snow Flower/Sophie are portrayed by Gianna Jun. The supporting cast is carefully chosen and uniformly fine.

The sets and costumes and music enhance this film significantly. It is not a great epic of a movie, but it has a tender and touching story that is very well told by everyone involved.

Grady Harp

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10 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

centuries apart

Author: Lee Eisenberg ( from Portland, Oregon, USA
24 July 2011

The current scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch makes it all the more surprising that his wife produced Wayne Wang's "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan". But even so, it's still worth seeing. It tells the story of two friends in present-day Shanghai, and the connection that they have with two girls in 19th century China through a fan on which they wrote secret messages.

Wang famously focused on Chinese-American families in "The Joy Luck Club", and took a bittersweet look at people's lives in "Smoke". This movie doesn't equal either of those, but I still recommend it. The development of Shanghai certainly reflects the changes in the lives of the girls (and the changes that China has undergone over the past 100 years). Not great, but worth seeing.

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