Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Eat a Bowl of Tea|
Actors: Cora Miao, Russell Wong, Victor Wong, Siu-Ming Lau, Eric Tsang
Director: Wayne Wang
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Director Wayne Wang is in his appealingly low-key groove with this wry comedy-drama, a precursor to his later success with The Joy Luck Club. It's set in the aftermath of World War II, when the restrictive U.S. immigration... more »
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Amiable counter-clash comedy with a dark undertow.
darragh o'donoghue | 02/25/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although it never deadens itself with too much period detail, you can almost touch the 1940s atmosphere in Wayne Wang's film, the dark rooms and grey streets occasionally filtered by cold sunlight. 'Eat A Bowl Of Tea' recreates a crucial moment in Chinese-American history - the relaxing of inequitable immigration laws that had prevented Chinamen bringing their women into the country, and the subsequent influx of young female life into the sterile world of old men - with little historical fanfare, and maximum attention to human experience. Wah Gay is a successful club owner who hasn't seen the wife he left behind in 20 years, and who despairs at ever seeing his frivolous son, who served in the US Army during the war (the mass of Chinese who had done so causing the laws to be repealed) ever settling down and continuing his line. He sends him back home to marry a friend's daughter, bring her back, take a good job and start a family. All these pressures, unfortunately, make the young man impotent, and his frustrated wife is forced to take a lover.As the film starts, with its wisecracking Greek chorus, its warm 40s look and its 40s jazz standards on the soundtrack, you might almost be watching a Chinese Nora Ephron film. The struggles of individuals against the community begins to take a starker turn as the film progresses, and characters become alienated from each other. The film is full of images and situations in which Chinese and American cultures confront one another, sometimes to harmonious effect, but just as often clashing. For instance, during the arranged courtship in China, the couple's first moment alone on screen is against the backdrop of an open-air projection of 'Lost Horizon', a famous American film about the Orient, whose English is translated by the village sage (the media and representations are important elements in 'Eat'). When the couple holiday in Washington to try and escape the pressures of community and finally make love, the familiar American landmarks are overlaid with Chinese music. The very real human problems - family, marriage, impotence, work - are shown to be indistinguishable from crises over identity; Ben Loy's impotence, his failure to continue the line and complete the Oedipal process, is a sign of his inability to unite Chinese and American, old wisdom and new entrepreneurialism, communal expectation and private desires. The increasing sobriety of the film's themes is matched in Wang's style, in which the camera rarely moves, as in the cinema of Ozu, another Eastern film-maker who dealt with tensions of family and modernity. Wang doesn't seek Ozu's serenity, however, and the still camera is countered by great movement within the frame, stylised compositions and frequent cuts. Like a Sirk melodrama, the surface realism is undercut by artificial tableaux that encourage us to read against what we see."
More emasculation of Asian-American men
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 10/18/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This film is important and needed for three reasons. One, you get to see supa-fine Russell Wong. Two, rarely do you see a movie with so many Asian-American men. Three, this movie illustrates that Asians did live in the US before 1965's liberalization of immigration laws. Still, in this movie, when Russell is a gigolo for a white female client, he's sexually active. However, when he has a cute Chinese wife, he's impotent. This seems like some disturbing white-worshipping to me. It's kinda anti-Asian woman too. Haven't we seen and heard enough of historical stereotypes of Asian men as not true masculines?! Then, the end is too fast and illogical. This movie had so much potential that it did not meet."
Be Warned - Different Version
A. Wong | Torrance, California United States | 06/12/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I am very disappointed. I purchased this DVD assuming that it is the same version as the one I saw many years ago on TV, and that original movie highly reflect what my grandfather told me what life was like for him back then. Some of scenes were changed. The biggest change is the scenes when Russell Wong was arrested by the police. The original version I saw didn't have the Russell's father cutting off the ear of the adulterer and the police come to arrest Russell for the crime. In the original movie, the problem is handled by the Wang Family Association, where a couple of tough looking guys spoke quietly to the adulterer and ask him to leave town and never come back. The Chinese Americans back then normally don't report their problems to the police, because the police don't care. That goes with the rest of the American society. Another example is the banks. Back then, Chinese Americans don't go to the bank to borrow money. They go to their Family Association or the Chinese American Association instead.
There are other scenes that have been changed, all to down play the injustice and inequality that the white Americans assert to the non-white minority, and in this movie the Chinese Americans. After watching this DVD, I throwed it away.
I wouldn't eat (or drink) this Tea again!
D. Pawl | Seattle | 08/12/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The title of this film alludes to a remedy prescribed to one of the characters. If I was to be more specific and explain what the remedy is for I would ruin the plot, so, I won't do that! I will tell you, since I take writing these capsule reviews very seriously that I don't believe that this film is worthy of your time. Based on a novel by Luis Chu, EAT A BOWL OF TEA examines 1940s United States and the Chinese-American experience in this country. Due to a stringent immigration act, all Chinese men coming abroad the USA to seek work were forced to leave their wives behind. Chinese women were not allowed to accompany their husbands, when they came seeking jobs to support their families back home. Thus, the older Chinese men who had settled in this country twenty years before, were aging alone, without the possiblity of bringing first born sons into the world, to continue their familial lineage. In spite of miscygenation laws, Chinese and Chinese-American men would sometimes keep company with Caucasian women, as is depicted in the example of the young main character, Ben Loy (Russell Wong). Ben is sent home to China, by his father, to meet and marry a nice Chinese girl. When he finds her (Cora Miao) and they get married, Loy becomes impotent (one factor possibly being stress--especially, the stress of producing an heir--something that is mandatory in the eyes of Ben's father, as well as their community). This leads to unfortunate circumstances and choices based on frustration and embarrassment.
Why didn't this film work for me? Well, for starters, themes of family obligation, extramarital affairs, and bicultural identity were handled in a very clumsy way and the poor acting certainly didn't help. Russell Wong's delivery of the lines was wooden (at best) and the other characters seemed more like poorly-developed caricatures. What's more, a seduction scene that should have been sexy was more creepy. In fact, more than one of us watching this scene thought that it almost came off more as a rape scene, which was incredibly disturbing. Skip this one."