Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Review by HTQ4

Directed by Ang Lee
Written by Ang Lee, James Schamus, Hui-Ling Wang
Starring Sihung Lung, Yu-Wen Wang, Chien-lien Wu, Kuei-Mei Yang, Sylvia Chang


Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Own It.

Widowed master chef Chu (Lung) lives in his house with his three daughters in Taipei. One is a school teacher who converted to Christianity, one is an upwardly mobile airline executive, and one is a student who works for Wendy’s. Chu tries to hang on to traditional family relationships even after the death of his wife, while his daughters struggle to please their father at the same time dealing with the pressures of a changing society. To make matters worse, Chu feels that his taste for his food is gone, which he parallels to losing his taste for life. Each of them is trying to find love and a life where they can be truly happy.

This film is a really honest look at family life in the late 20th Century--and that's all families, the fact this one is in Taiwan is incidental. It shows how we each get so involved with our own lives and careers that we sometimes forget to listen to those who should matter to us most: our families. It also shows how the traditional family bonds can sometime weaken the family rather than strengthening it. Chu and his daughters depend so much on each other, that they really can’t let go in order to pursue their own happiness. What it really boils down to is, sometimes letting go of what you love is the hardest thing and the best thing to do.

The story of this family is truly beautiful. The director’s vision is executed flawlessly and the actors are more than up to the task. And, not one ounce of the story and emotion is lost in the translation. Lee really loves to get his hooks into you and not let you go until he's done with you. The hooks he uses in this film are all of the hundreds of Chinese dishes you see being prepared, served and eaten on screen. He uses this cuisine and its preparation to show us both how important and how destructive ritual can be in daily life.

When I was done watching the film, I looked over at my wife and said, “Man, I really can’t wait to watch it again with the Lee’s commentary!” Boy, was I let down. No commentary track on this DVD. The only special feature worth mentioning is the interview with both Lee and his co-writer Schamus. It has the feel of a “making-of” documentary, but it focuses mostly on Lee and his vision of the film and his process of writing it with Schamus. Lee talks about his own family life and how important it was for him to be shooting this film in his native Taiwan. I won’t spoil that little tidbit. I couldn’t do it justice anyway. However, as good as this interview is, it only leaves you yearning and squirming for a commentary track. It really bugs me when production companies think that having both the feature trailer and the teaser trailer on the DVD constitute a satisfying array of bonus material for its viewers.

But even though I was disappointed with the DVD itself, luckily the film alone is worth keeping on your shelf.

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Buy the screenplay from Amazon!

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