Thursday, 30 August 2007

Song of the Exile (1990)

I mentioned a few times in other reviews that Ann Hui is 1 of the few HK director who makes a number of films that explore social issues, especially those where the protagonists whose lives are clearly shaped by historical contexts/events. I.e. the fates of the principal characters are intertwined with history. In this case, WW2.

This is a story about an estranged relationship between a mother (Tan Lang Jachi Tian) and daughter (Maggie Cheung). The daughter's few days trip in Japan with her mother for the 1st time is fraught with difficulty that led her to appreciate - an epiphany if you will - what her mother must have lived through all these years in an foreign land that was further alienated by her in-laws due to her Japanese nationality.

(Well, the daughter could've communicated with the local Japanese via Chinese writing. I was surprise by how much I could read Japanese Kanji based ONLY on my knowledge of Chinese writing. I knew that Japanese used a mixture of Chinese characters (kanji), hiragana, and katakana before my holiday trip to Japan. What surprised me was the percentage of kanji being used. I was able to 'talk' (made myself understood) to many Japanese by writing Chinese. This is a good tip for Chinese who wants to travel by themsevlves in Japan. Bring a pad and pen. Few Japanese speak English).

But this isn't a plot hole at all. It could also show how little she understands her mother's mother tongue, and culture. Indeed, if her relationship with her mother is good, she could very well speak Japanese with her mother.

It's also not surprising that her daughter didn't discover her mother's Japanese heritage because of how much she had turned herself into a Chinese. Interestingly, or naturally, that only when you go to a foreign land that your own cultural upbringing would be highlighted. In her case, she didn't realise that she has eventually owned a Chinese stomach (a stomach that accustoms to only hot - temperature wise - food. Chinese stomach wouldn't even like to drink cold water). Also, when the daughter was young, she remembers her mother as a silent type like a typical obedient Japanese wife as well as inability to communicate with her in-laws in Chinese. With the decades of living in Macau/HK, she has became fluent in Chinese and quite outspoken like a typical HK/Macau woman.

Not the kind of commercial fare that usually associates with HK cinema (well, strictly this is a HK - Taiwanese film. This is more of a typical Taiwanese film).

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