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Part 3 of 4

(When Will the "Yellow Ceiling" be Raised)

Film Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

It is interesting noting the interest of the Asian Pacific American entertainment communities in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Given the participation of producers Wendi Murdoch/Florence Sloan, director Wayne Wang, author Lisa See, actors Russell Wong/Archie Kao and cinematographer Richard Wong - should one expect support from the Asian Pacific American communities?




Li Bingbing's film debut was Zhang Yuan’s SEVENTEEN YEARS in 1999, which won her the Best Actress in the 1999 Singapore Film Festival. In 2001, Li starred in the television series “Young Justice Bao,” which propelled her to become one of the most famous actresses in China. That year she was awarded the title of one of the Top Ten Best TV Actors/Actresses in China. She approbated as an “action actress” as she starred in a number of Wuxia television drama, such as “Taiji Prodigy” and “Eight Heroes.” Li starred in the 2004 romantic comedy film WAITING ALONE that received three Chinese Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress.

Li won the title of Most Popular Actress at 2004's 12th Beijing College Film Festival. \Li won the Best Actress Award at the 2007 Huabiao Awards and at the Hundred Flowers for her performance in THE KNOT. She also co-starred with Jet Li and Jackie Chan in the 2008 film THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM as the White-haired Witch Ni-Chang. In November 2009, Li won the Best Leading Actress Award at the 46th Golden Horse Film Awards for her role in the espionage spy thriller THE MESSAGE.

Li’s recent performance include the role of Shangguan Jing’er in Tsui Hark’s 2010 film, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME. Her character in this movie is loosely based on Shangguan Wan’er, who was a poet, writer and politician of the Tang Dynasty. In 2011, Li appeared in "The 1911 Revolution" ("Xin Hai Ge Ming") with Jackie Chan.

LI BINGBING UTILIZED HER TALENTS as one of China’s best actresses (Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame, 1911 and many others) to try to give the needed substance to her characters of Nina and Snow Flower, especially when speaking Mandarin. Her comfort level in English was an obstacle when portraying the various nuances of life in modern Shanghai. South Korea's Gianna Jun (aka Jeon Ji-hyeon) faced greater obstacles when asked to act in two languages she's not comfortable in – acknowledging that her Mandarin dialogue was a voice-over. At other times, she provides exquisitely haunting moments as Sophia and Lily – plus she gets to kiss Hugh Jackman.

THE PARALLEL MODERN STORY did include the addition of the just-mentioned Hugh Jackman (Sophia’s American boyfriend - via a personal favor from Wendi Murdoch) for four minutes, Russell Wong (her boss at the bank), Archie Kao (friend from the bank), Vivian Wu (Sophia’s aunt) while making Gianna Jun’s character a Chinese who was born in South Korea. Their participation provided opportunities for the film to gather traction with American audiences, with Mr. Jackman’s singing of a song in Mandarin was an unexpected delight – though one wonders why it was included. It is unimaginable why “Nina” (or anybody else) would disapprove of Hugh Jackman’s “Arthur” as being Sophia’s BF (boyfriend) – not matter what the circumstances were!!

WAYNE WANG WAS SELECTED by Florence Sloan and Wendi Murdoch to produce a film that has the potential to change how one sees the world and Chinese Cinema with a compelling vision and style that cuts across films, genres and time periods. He sought to travel the path of past great film directors by displaying their ambitions and high level of story-telling – along with Licontinuing their reputation of being a consummate craftsman who has endowed one’s work with meticulous attention to detail, an intuitive gift for casting and a preoccupation with the moral dilemmas of the story’s characters that includes a profound penchant for realism and authenticity. With his top priority seemingly to place his need to be a greater storyteller than his described Chinese predecessors; his above-stated ambitions clouded and disguised the essence of Lisa See’s book with a static expression in literary revisionism. The edges and depth of the original story were eliminated when the novel’s disturbing gruesome-sounding depictions of the foot binding (that led to the death of Lily’s sister), Snow Flower’s multiple miscarriages, the hinted sexual attraction between Lily and Snow Flower, the portrayal of sexual marital pleasures within Snow Flower’s marriage and the kissing scene with Nina and Sophia. The creative decision to utilize a new “modern story” displayed an ambition similar to recent movies such as Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Where Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” successfully utilized historical characters to add depths and understanding, Mr. Wang’s idea didn’t expand on the book’s themes of deep emotional themes of love, judgment, betrayal and atonement. The results of successful integrating the two stories devoid of the background research and historical perspectives found within Lisa See’s book and not having intimate perspective(s) of the lives ot today’s Shanghai young women made the results disappointing. It did illustrate Mr. Wang’s views that Chinese culture is not about foot binding and macho males while escaping the specter of criticism that was directed at his “Joy Luck Club” film. After watching the film, audiences might be wondering what is the actual story – especially since the film ended with the images of Nina and Sophia?


She was born in Seoul, South Korea on October 30, 1981. Her movie debut came in 1999 with the film WHITE VALENTINE. This was followed by a role in IL MARE in 2000 (w/the American remake being Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock's THE LAKE HOUSE). In 2001, Jun had her biggest breakthrough with the romantic comedy MY SASSY GIRL. In 2004, she starred in the film WINDSTRUCK, a South Korean, fantasy, romantic comedy, which was directed by Kwak Jae-yong. . In 2006, she was in the movie DAISY, directed by Hong Kong’s multi-talented Andrew Lau. In 2009, she made her English-language film debut when she starred as Saya in BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE, which was filmed in China and Argentina in March 2007. It was during filming that she adopted the westernized name Gianna Jun. Gianna Jun remains as one of the most talked about actresses from Asia and is still one of the most popular models for commercial ads.
THE PICTURE OF CHINESE CINEMA consists of a door that is wide open that depicts a bright future of its entry into Hollywood's proverbial "Gold Mountain" (jin shan, Gam Saan/Gum Shan) – Hollywood’s entertainment industry. Who will be Chinese Cinema’s new generation of directors/producers that carry-on the tradition of the so-called “Fifth Generation” (filmmakers from Beijing Film Academy that brought increased popularity of Chinese cinema abroad that jettisoned jettisoned traditional methods of storytelling and opted for a more free and unorthodox approach) to go beyond the success of wuxia martial-arts films (i.e. “Hero” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), embrace Zhang Yimou’s words to films that communicate “good stories that people all over the world can understand and be touched by" and/or heed Janet Yang’s advice to understand the “fundamental differences in narrative” (i.e. classic three-arc structure like the Greeks, as oppose to oral traditions’ tendencies to long rambling stories – Western narrative structure) that draws global audiences,


For ten centuries, Chinese women underwent an extraordinary procedure designed to permanently transform the human body: the practice of foot binding. It began in the 10th Century and continued well into the 20th, when the practice was finally outlawed – and it impacted the lives of millions of Chinese girls and women.

Historical records indicate that the roots of foot binding go back to the Song Dynasty, when the Chinese ruler Li Yu fell madly in love with a dancer who bound her feet into the slender shape of a new moon and danced on a lotus platform, which the arts-loving emperor found intoxicatingly beautiful. Soon it became the standard of beauty, with tiny, compacted feet considered the height of elegance, refinement and erotic allure. With women in the royal court binding their feet, and those of their daughters, the trend spread outwards into the populace. Foot binding became a female status symbol, a source of power and esteem, in a world where almost everything else was denied to women.

By the 19th Century, bound feet were found on nearly every wealthy woman in China, and had become one of the few ways young women from lower classes could hope for upward mobility and marriage to a wealthier man. The lengthy, agonizing binding process was started in childhood, between the ages of 3 and 7, when soft, malleable toes and arches were broken, then compressed daily with tight straps and bandages that folded the toes underneath the sole, squeezing and constricting the entire foot until it formed the desired 3-inch shape. Despite the pain, girls undergoing foot binding had to walk on their broken feet daily to become used to the balance, which led to an unusual, swaying walking style, known as “The Lotus Gait.”

The procedure, which was either performed by professional foot-binders, by mothers or another female member of the family, was excruciating for children. It sometimes resulted in deadly infections or feet that were almost non-functional, too painful to walk on for long periods of time, which further limited a woman’s freedom. Yet, at the same time, bound feet could also be a path to greater opportunity – holding out the promise of a better life for their children.

Although controversy surrounded the practice for centuries, foot binding was not formally banned until 1912. Even then, women continued to bind their feet in more remote areas for several more decades until missionaries, early Chinese feminists and the Communists who came to power in the 1940s began anti foot binding campaigns. Ironically, the anti foot binding movements of the mid 20th Century turned women with bound feet into pariahs who were now set apart by the very limbs that had once been the height of beauty. In the 1990s, the last shops selling the traditional 3-inch “lotus shoes” for women with bound feet closed.

THE 2011 VENICE FILM FESTIVAL saw Asian films taking three of the eight top prizes - the Silver Lion for best director was awarded to Cai Shangjun for “People Mountain People Sea” , Hong Kong actress Deanie Ip won best actress for her role in director Ann Hui’s drama “A Simple Life” and special mentions in the Orizzonti section (awards that focuses on new trends in world cinema) went to Charles Lim Yi Yong’s “All The Lines Flow Out” have provided tangible evidence of its fast-growing recognition. Existing projects that are at the cusp of the Chinese Cinema invasion include Mike Medavoy/Ren Zhouglun (Shanghai Film Group’s President) co-producing a six hour English language feature and related six-hour tv miniseries on Jews in Shanghai, Lu Chuan’s City of Life and Death, Zhang Yimou’s $100 million dollar project - “The Flowers of War” (whose working title was “Heroes of Nanking”) stars Christian Bale in a story using the infamous Rape of Nanking as the backdrop and Mike Medavoy/Jonathan Shen’s Shineworks (in conjunction with Zhao Qizheng – chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Converence) are developing multiple projects. Films with an unique blend of European influence could lend additional credenence such as the Marco and Antonio Manetti (aka the Manetti Bros.) “L’arrivo di Wang,” or “The Arrival of Wang,” which is a modern-day morality tale for Western nations troubled by — and distrustful of — China’s growing economic power and influence in global political matters that ask the question “How much should we trust our neighbors?” and “What is a prejudice?”

MANY NEW AND ADDITIONAL CHINESE CREATIVE VOICES are being brought up within America’s creatively environment freed to explore their imaginations and vision while learning the narrative style that permeates successful Hollywood films . From China - UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television graduate applications were up 59% from the previous year, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts has 23 graduate students, School of Film/Video at the California Institute of the Arts doubled their enrollment (four to eight) and Northwestern University/Columbia University/Chapman University/AFI have a steady growth of students. Well-financed newcomers such as real estate magnate Jon Jiang’s $100 million dollars “Empires of the Deep” (3-D film mashup of “Avatar,” “Gladiator” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”) that includes ancient Greek warriors, pirates, underwater kingdoms, villain called “Demon Mage,” mermaids that kill men during sex and Olga Kurylenko - a sultry Bond girl and American actors are providing other efforts to bring Chinese Cinema to the world. With the encouragement of various advocates such as Yang Lun (China’s version of Oprah), intriguing stories of how the people of China are being transformed and how they are transforming the world will be told.

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Lisa See



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