ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
How to stay
forever young? That's the sixty-four-million-dollar question.
In the case of Dumplings: Three... Extremes (2004), it is not
a question of being young at heart or even reverting to an earlier
time when one is young. It is all about LOOKING young, at whatever
age the person is. Given the enormity of the cosmetics industry
and the recent mushrooming of health spas, this Fruit Chan movie
is definitely for anyone who is beauty-conscious.
is a has-been TV star who wants to recapture some of her youthful
looks. She is hoping that if she still had her looks, her husband
Tony Leung Ka-Fai won't need to stray (he is at present having
an affair with his secretary). Miriam then meets up with Bai Ling,
a surgeon from Mainland China who does not have the license to
practise in Hongkong. Living in a rundown housing estate, Bai
Ling has come up with a dish that will make anyone look young
- she uses aborted foetuses in her special dumplings (jiaozi).
While the dumplings don't necessarily make Miriam yearn for more
sex, she does wish for quicker results. So, instead of waiting
to collect her supply of aborted foetuses from across the border
in Shenzhen, Bai Ling carries out an abortion on a neighbourhood
schoolgirl who had been made pregnant by her father. The result
is a radiant-looking Miriam with a fishy smell about her as a
Tony Leung discovers Bai Ling (and her secret) and the two begin
a torrid affair. A police investigation finds Bai Ling missing
from her apartment and Miriam pays her husband's secretary to
have an abortion, leaving her with the foetus. For
those who enjoy their wanton mee and jiaozi soup,
this will put you off the dishes for a while.
The yuck factor rates high in this movie and one can imagine the
groan (from the audience) that accompanies the first crunching
bite Miriam Yeung puts into her dumpling. It is also the controversial
subject matter (and one that is so closely involved with a common
food) that the film has a somewhat nauseating air about it. To
counter the unpleasantness, the film does have a hot sex scene
between Tony Leung and Bai Ling.
to his performance in Election, Leung is somewhat subdued here
but it is Bai Ling and Miriam Yeung who shine.
In her Hollywood
walk ons (basically that's what they amounted to), Bai Ling the
actress is easily overshadowed. Here,
the spotlight is on her. She may not be scheming but there is
a determined streak in her. She is no mere innocent caught unaware
nor is she the hardened cynic. She walks the fine line between
understanding what women want and clinically offering them what
they so desperately need. And then there is her big sex scene
- she would have been a contender if she had come forward during
those Category III days in the '80s.
in Dumplings is really Miriam Yeung. The Canto-pop singer is usually
seen as a Sammi Cheng wannabe and her movies, such as Love Undercover,
rely more on slapstick than on her acting though she does a credible
job in Dry Wood Fierce Fire opposite Louis Koo. While she isn't
haggard enough to look really over the hill, she does manage to
convey a sense of desperation about her looks that can only be
compared to an itch she cannot quite scratch.
started life as part of a compendium of three movies called Three
Extremes. As anyone who had been infected by the Ringu virus,
that 1998 Japanese movie had led to the rise of a new J-Horror
and K-Horror (Korean Horror) franchise. Three, made in 2002, was
one of the horror films that was produced in Ringu's wake. As
the title implies, the movie is made up of three short films -
Peter Chan's Going Home; Kim Ji-woon's Memories and Nonzee Nimibutr's
The Wheel. Though hardly scary, the film did well enough to spawn
a sequel: Three Extremes, featuring Takashi Miike's Box, Fruit
Chan's Dumplings and Park Chan-wook's Cut. But the inventive Fruit
Chan and writer Lilian Lee not only delivered a startling episode
(many regard it as the best of the three stories), they also managed
to expand it into a feature-length movie with a different ending,
and one that is quite a dish.
The Dumplings: Three... Extremes DVD is banned in $ingapore.