Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011) Poster

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Bounded feet and bounded love.
David Traversa16 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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Beautiful to watch but slightly tedious
phd_travel5 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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A winner is ""Snow Flower And The Secret Fan".
Dale Haufrect9 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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Well Worth Seeing.
HLshop26 November 2011
Warning: 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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It's no secret.
jdesando20 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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Staggeringly low rating for such a good film
perkypops14 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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Relationship in the Book Overshadowed by 21st Century Story
zatarains807 August 2011
Warning: 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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Great movie about the laotong: a life- long relationship between women friends.
himelda17 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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Laotung and Nu shu: Two of the pleasures of a lovely story
gradyharp20 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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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is one of the WORST film adaptations I've ever seen.
pineapple-sherbet9 August 2011
The book explores the culture of 19th century China through a woman's eyes; in the book you see real relationships and heartbreak. The movie squanders all of that in favor of appearing "artistic" or "deep"; something it does not pull off at all.

They unnecessarily add some modern characters to "parallel" the girls from the book. Said modern characters randomly switch between speaking Chinese and English, adding to the overall confusion and mess of the movie. The movie constantly switches back and forth from the modern to the actual book story line, making it extremely hard to follow, even for someone who has read the book. This also means that you make no real attachment to any of the characters. They change lines around and only include scenes of "significance" from the book- making it all completely insignificant. You get no sense of the deep-heart love they speak of. You barely see the characters at all.

Overall, it is essentially two hours of thinking, "Is the movie going to start yet?"

A real waste of an amazing book.
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centuries apart
Lee Eisenberg24 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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It Could Have Had A Better Film Adaptation
Desertman8428 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a film based on the novel by Lisa See. It stars Gianna Jun and Li Bingbing together with Archie Kao, Vivian Wu, and Hugh Jackman.Wayne Wang directed this feature about female friendship.

The screenplay is set on two historical periods.One is during the 19th century in China wherein two girls,Snow Flower and Lily, are bonded together for eternity.They were paired by a matchmaker as "laotong". They are isolated by their families and they try to maintain their relationship by communicating through a secret language known as Nu shu. They support each other through the ups and downs of their village, dealing with harrowing traditions like foot-binding and arranged marriages.

The other story is set at present day Shanghai.Their descendants are Sophia Liao and Nina Wei.Both are struggling with their own childhood.During their teen-age years,they were introduced on the concept of "laotong".They maintained their special bond all throughout the years but struggled with their friendship due to their careers,love lives and modern society .Then both got into an argument that resulted into a temporary separation but they eventually got reunited when Sophia got into an accident.Nina reads the unpublished manuscript she wrote when she got into the hospital and she tries to understand the story written in it which is based on the lessons of their past generation particularly with their ancestral connection of Snow Flower and Lily.

This was a well-shot film.The cinematography was definitely great.But unfortunately,Gianna Jun and Li Bingbing weren't able to generate interest on the characters that they are portraying both in the 19th century China and modern day Shanghai.It is not their fault since are talented actresses particularly Gianna Jun whom I have loved and admired in movies like My Sassy Girl,Daisy and A Man Who Want To Be Superman.Part of the reason is that the progression of the story is on a very slow pace and emotionally inert to capture one's interest.Even Hugh Jackman's singing in Chinese couldn't even lift it as both lead characters aren't given enough to capture the viewer's attention.Added to that,the mix of multiple languages served as a distraction the shift from Chinese to English and vice-versa despite the fact that it adds realism to the story.Finally,I felt that it wasn't really able to emphasize the message that it tries convey that that old traditions does work in modern times as it became very predictable and often times melodramatic especially in telling the story of female friendship and the people around them.Too bad that this beautiful story told by Lisa See could have had a better film adaptation.
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Almost no emotional attachment
KineticSeoul21 March 2013
This is one of those bond between two characters movie done in a very generic manner to the point it just gets really boring easily. It tries to get that emotional pull from the audience but I just couldn't get into this one. The development and scenarios are just poorly done, maybe the novel this movie is based on is better or something. Cause this one felt like a cardboard box that just seemed to be trying too hard for something it just isn't when it comes to the overall experience. The story is about the bond between two sisters by match making that transcends time. The thing is the development is poorly done to the point I just couldn't get emotionally attached to the two main characters in this. It shows the outer bond and struggles but it seemed to only show the surface and nothing much underneath it all. Between the two sisters Bingbing Li's character Nina seemed like the main one and then comes Gianna Jun who's name is on the title of this movie. Her name is Snow Flower in this but she doesn't have much dialogue or show much range in her acting skills. Hugh Jackman is in this as well and he basically just makes few cameo appearance and seemed like he just was in this flick as a favor.

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A Nutshell Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
DICK STEEL14 October 2011
There are a few reasons why I decided to watch Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and for starters it's an international film directed by Wayne Wang for a story set in both Old and Modern day China, with leads from Taiwan, Korea and Australia speaking in two languages and playing two characters from different timelines, exploring a strong friendship that existed and was sustained through secret letter exchange like penpals. While production values are strong in recreating an era already bygone, and not painting modern day Shanghai in too romantic overtones, the film somehow lacked a certain punch to really ring home its emotions, resulting in a rather featherweight film that turned out to be average despite its production arsenal.

Which is a pity since it's directed by Wayne Wang, based upon the novel by Lisa Lee, which tells of the friendship between Nina (Li Bingbing) and her good friend Sophia (Gianna Jun) who have both drifted apart, from their firm friendship forged since their teenage years, by the time we meet them in modern day Shanghai, with the former scheduled to go to New York to head a bank branch courtesy of an opportunity given by her CEO (Russell Wong), and the latter scheduled to go down south to Australia to follow her boyfriend Arthur (Hugh Jackman), a pub owner operating a chain in China. An accident befalls Sophia and in her state of unconsciousness, Nina begins to read up on Sophia's titular work, which is in a way is based on her ancestor, and in uncanny terms also seemed to mirror the relationship of Nina and Sophia.

So we flash back to 19th century China, where girls of various classes are subjected to bound feet - an excruciating process to keep one's feet under 3 inches in length, a symbol of female perfection that involves the crushing of bones and blister formation no thanks to tight cloth binding all toes tightly into the foot, and in a way force a very dainty sashay each time the woman has to walk, assisted most of the time. The so-called Three Inch Golden Lotus foot is much sought after by noblemen with foot fetishes, which means an automatic ticket out of poverty, a passport to a good life, but not always. Snow Flower (Gianna Jun again) and Lily (Li Bingbing in her second role) are born to different families of opposite fortunes, and being brought up by a matchmaker who made them "laotong", or a sworn sister equivalent, we see their different fortunes when they get matchmade off to different husbands, with Lily having the advantage for bearing the perfect feet.

It's a story about these strong, sisterhood bonds and their secret communication with each other through secret messages written in the Xu Nu script, which involves rhyming couplets, and are thought to girls who are brought up under this system, where they will have a sister and companion for life. In the olden days this seemed more like a lifelong support system where the girls would frequently visit each other and be each other's confidante, and the significance of these bonds were to be replicated by the modern girls of Nina and Sophia. On one hand the modern girls' take on this seemed to be more of a one-upmanship against the other in who loves (with slight lesbian undertones) who more, only for them to realize that it's about being in for the long haul, and that living up to those laotong vows isn't easy, with intentions easily misinterpreted, especially when it's deemed one party is taking pity on the other, be it work opportunities, romance or material wealth.

Wayne Wang lays the narrative out in a very flat structure, almost linear too despite the jumps back in time, since the events occurring in parallels between the two timelines cannot be more pronounced, akin to a story within a story within a story in its plot development. While it had the promise of exploring the ritual of feet binding, this is unfortunately not that film, with that behaviour being little more than a plot device rather than a potent plot point examining that ritual in more detail. And it does seem that the actresses were most of the time finding themselves balancing in extremely high heels to give the illusion of bound feet through their wobbly walk, and sometimes you may catch a moment or two when a heel gets spotted.

But what seemed more of a challenge, was the requirement to speak two languages. Li Bingbing was the best amongst the rest, being equally comfortable in English as she is in Mandarin. The decision to cast Gianna Jun is a mystery, since her character requires her to speak in English, which she does OK in, but Mandarin? Only the simple phrases were fine, but the out-of-sync mouth movement when lines of dialogue got more complex only seemed to irritate when someone else dubbed over her lines which I'm not surprised is spoken in English, or Korean even. Hugh Jackman too wanted to get into the act, and found himself singing an English version of a Chinese song, before belting it out in Mandarin himself, which got worst by each line of lyrics, but you do have to give the man full marks for effort, and not being embarrassed in severely butchering the language.

Still, this is a Wayne Wang film, and that should warrant a watch even if the story is quite ordinary and didn't do a deep dive, but boasting a cast that you'll probably won't see being combined in the same film anytime again soon.
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Wonderfully emotional and beautiful...
Paul Magne Haakonsen23 December 2015
Not having seen "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" before now in 2015 was a really big mistake on my account, because this movie is nothing short of spectacular. This is really a beautiful movie, and it is a definite must watch for anyone who enjoy cinema that offers something astounding.

The movie is really nicely set up as it skips back and forth between present day China and ancient China, as we follow two sisters in the heart throughout the ages. And director Wayne Wang captured some really beautiful moments of sisterhood, love, friendship and loyalty.

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" has a really good cast, and I must admit that I was more than pleasantly surprised to see talented Korean actresse Ji-hyun Jun starring in this movie, and she really carried the movie so well. And right up there beside her was Bingbing Li with her equally impressive performance. Put together Jun and Li really shined on the screen with amazing chemistry.

A movie is nothing with a proper soundtrack, and the music in "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" was majestic and almost ethereal. The score for this movie was so well-composed and complimented the movie quite well.

The wardrobe, setting and scenery for "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" was quite good, and there was a lot of nice details to be found in just about every scene.

This is a very emotional story that was quite nicely put on the screen by director Wayne Wang, and the movie does spur an interest to read Lisa See's novel to fully get every detail to this story that spans the ages.

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" is a beautiful movie that is well-worth watching and should be watched by anyone who enjoy the finer moments in cinema.
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Exquisitely heart-rending cultural film
lsmoondancer015 December 2015
Adapted from the novel written by Lisa See, Snow flower and the Secret Fan, (screenplay written by Angela Workman, Ronald Bass, and Michael Ray and directed by Wayne Wang), is a cinematographically stunning and poignant illustration of cultural parallelism between two dramatically different eras of Chinese culture as it regards the conditions of life for women in these eras. Intertwining 19th century and modern day China, the story follows two pairs of laotong - literally meaning "old sames" (essentially soul sisters committed to one another for life) through the heartbreaking journey of their lives. The film focuses on women's status as second-class citizens and the intensely devoted relationships forged between them as the only source of genuine love and support for one another in the historical social climate that sought to isolate and devastate them paralleled with that of the contemporary era which offers promises through the glass ceiling of a misogynistic culture that appears beautiful from the outside.

Snowflower and Lily, the laotong of 19th century China face the excruciatingly painful and crippling tradition of foot-binding, arranged marriages, and living as slaves with no rights and no love, save for the sisterly love they have forged for each other since they were first matched at the age of seven. Though circumstances of life separate them, their loyalty and sacrificial love stands in stark contrast to the cold, detached affect of their surrounding culture. I cannot overstate the absolute eloquence with which Wang visually captured and conveyed profound depth of emotion in such a way as to make the viewer feel intimately connected to the lives of these women. Furthermore, the brilliant score composed by British composer Rachel Portman beautifully complimented the stunning imagery, creating a powerful combination of artistry which further magnified my emotional connection and response to the events unfolding in the lives of Snow Flower and Lily. I must admit to spending a substantial portion of the film with my chest clenched, holding my breath in an attempt to maintain my composure, as I was so invested in the heartbreaking story unfolding on the screen.

Nina and Sophia, inspired by their descendants Lily and Snow Flower, become laotong as well. Living in contemporary Shanghai, they are flawlessly portrayed by the same two women (Bingbing Li as Nina/Lily and Ji-hyun Jun as Sophia/Snow Flower), contributing a harmony to the complex structure of this intricate story. While the lives of Nina and Sophia appear to be rather synonymous in some broader ways to the contemporary life of other modern women, it becomes evident that their world is still very much entangled with the oppressive attitudes of its past. For all of their progress, women are still second-class citizens and the love these two women have for one another is the most precious and fragile gift either has. Though some of the hardships and tragedies they face seem less extreme than those of Snow Flower and Lily, the results of those events in their lives bear similarly devastating results. The most exquisite aspect of this film, however, is not the heartbreaking story of all that these women must endure, but of the extraordinary and immeasurable love they share and the extent to which they will sacrifice for one another.

This film is profoundly heart-rending with a sublime ability to elicit such authentic emotion from the viewer that it almost carries a therapeutic effect. Without a trace of pretension, it gracefully and humbly shares a glimpse of a culture that is so richly saturated with anguish and offers us the opportunity to surrender wholly, if we will, to the most beautiful and sacred virtues of humanity - empathy and compassion - to a degree that we don't often allow ourselves to experience. Beyond a doubt, it was one of the best movies I have ever seen.
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Simply Wonderful!
mdkersey30 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The film weaves together two stories, one in modern China and one in Chinese antiquity. In each, two women raised together form strong friendships and pledge themselves to always support each other. As time passes these relationships are tested by tradition, marriage, love and loss.

In Chinese antiquity, some women ("laotang", or "secret sisters") would communicate by writing on the folds of fans in an obscure language, nu shu (literally, "woman's writing"). In "Snow Flower" most of their missives are poems, Listen for the poetry: you won't understand the language (almost no one, including native Chinese, can) but the rhyme, meter and sounds of the poetry enhance the narrative.

The older story also describes the binding of young girls' feet. This painful and crippling practice and other difficulties of life bind the women in these stories: mother to daughter, secret sister to secret sister, and friend to friend.

Excellent acting, beautiful music, architectural cinematography of the first order and a pace that allows you to catch the many fine details of these stories make this film an exquisite experience. I already want to watch it again.
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nep98326 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
From seeing the preview of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan you'd think

this would be a great film about friendship and the power of it lasting for ages but sadly it isn't.

Here's the positive

Rachel Portman delivers an Outstanding music score which is full of emotion I'm disappointed it didn't get any nods for this or the costumes either.

The two leads try their best to act in this film but alas all we get

is scenes of BingBing Lee looking out the window seeing parts of ancient culture blending in with modern day.

The negative

Fans of the book should stay away.From what I've heard this movie is nothing like the book.However if your interested then go rent it.

My Chinese friend told me during the movie that he's never heard of laotong he told me it means "old saying". Maybe this was something they did in the southern part of China that he didn't know about.

There were scenes that were just confusing where it looked like Lily was into Snow Flower.

The scene when they were young and there feet binded/wrapped up to make their feet smaller and stand up and walk around. My friend pointed out again that they would be in extreme pain and might not walk for days.


I wonder what the author thinks of the movie?
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Touching. Well Done
bob-rutzel-116 November 2011
In 1820s China, two young girls are committed to a tradition to be Sisters-for-Life. In modern day Shanghai, two teenage girls sign a contract to be Sisters-for-Life. This is a Chinese tradition known as Laotong. We would be more familiar with this as BFF, but a very, very intense BFF.

This was, I believe, our first introduction to Laotong.

We watch two stories unfold in the different time periods whereby the girls follow this tradition. To make things easier for us, each actress plays a character in both time periods. Gianna Jun plays Snowflower and Sophia, and Bingbing Li plays Nina and Lily. See?

Nothing of a sexual nature is shown in this deep love between these Sisters-for-Life. The movie could have gone there, but didn't, and we do not know if Laotong encompasses this. There seemed to be a deep caring for good things to happen in the life of each sister. That seemed to be the overriding aspect to the relationship. And, when one sister sees things not going well for the other sister, that watchful sister is torn both physically and mentally. Told you this was a deep love, didn't I?

The relationship doesn't change although each girl marries in the 1820s. The bond is still there and strong for Sophia and Lily in the present day although some wrinkles (read misunderstandings) appear. Some wrinkles also showed up in the 1820s with Snowflower and Nina; and the fan was used to communicate with each other.

A bicycle accident starts all this and Sophia is laid up in a hospital. Sophia had been writing a book about Laotong with her characters Snowflower and Nina back in the 1820s. Lily visits Sophia and finds and reads the pages to the book and that is how we go back to the 1820s with Snowflower and Nina.

This is extremely well done and the chemistry between the Sisters-for-Life in both time periods is excellent, intense and quite touching. There is a good mix of sub-titles and spoken English and the sub-titles are short and easy to read.

Hugh Jackman is good, and was probably only included to get the X-Men crowd. But, seriously, his name was the only one most could identify with to get people into the theaters or rent the DVD.

This is slow moving as you would expect, well acted by all and the cinematography was very good. And, since we do not know all the ramifications of Laotong we must accept the dialogues as presented.

If you decide to see this movie, bring a couple boxes of Kleenix with you. They will be needed.

Violence: Yes. Sex: Yes, Nina watches Snowflower and her husband thru loose boards in the floor,

but you only see the husband's back, and it only lasts a few seconds. Nudity: No. Language: No.
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vapid, confusing, cheap sentimentality
sir_humpslot13 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
From the get go it shouldn't be surprising what this movie is going to strive for: cheap sentimentality with the schmaltzy music.

Like every other movie that tries to do the same: it just ends up being off putting when characters do nothing but brood and cry at their hardships.

The plot makes no sense except to inject additional melodrama from modern day Shanghai to draw similarities in the lives of women from 200 years ago. I just gagged at the nonsensical "ghost" images of Snow Flower in contemporary Shanghai.

I don't think anyone can actually sit through this clunking piece of time waster in one setting, as the pacing is simply atrocious. It took me about half a dozen tries over several days to get to the marathon ending - which is ironic given the run time isn't that bad.

(And I speak as somebody who can sit through the entirety of Dr.Zhivago in one setting.) In short, this is the worst kind of manipulative charlatan product tie-in that Wayne Wang has tried in awhile. I simply don't understand how he keeps making these brooding glacial book-movies; and why does the Asian-American blogs keep posting about these intellectually vapid books and movies?
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it touches the heart
jfarms19563 December 2013
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a "Chick Flick" and is best enjoyed by those 8 and older who know what it is to be a friend. This is a story of sisterhood which withstands the test of time itself. The musical score is quite nice and relaxing. It is a good movie to watch in the afternoon, alone or with your BFF. The movie is a bit too long, maybe 20 minutes could have been edited out. Switching back and forth through time is done okay. The movie requires a glass or two of wine and some pizza. Guys, don't bother with this film unless you want to impress your significant other. It is a slow pace film telling a love story between sisters of a sort. You won't easily forget this film overnight like many other films because it touches the heart.
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Beautiful but who understands Chinese?
dddanse1 January 2012
Watched this movie on home CD. Would loved to have seen it on the big screen.

This was a beautiful movie, but since most was spoken Chinese and for some odd reason the copy we watched from home had no sub-titles during the majority of the spoken word, which was Chinese, we had to guess at what was going on.

The movie is clear enough to figure things out and some English is spoken, but I would loved to have known what was being said during the Chinese spoken portions.

Overall, a lovely story of how close friendships are important. It also showed how people will find a way to connect, even when forbidden to do so.

I was also interesting to see how Chinese culture represses women.
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