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Eat, Drink, Man, Woman Review


Submitted By kaylag06
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Film Analysis 1 -Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman reminds us of universal wants and needs through the lives' of a father and his three daughters. The family struggles to keep their bond while dealing with individual challenges and hardships. In the end, these struggles are worked out with the help of family, as we see each character grow and develop; which causes the family to be redefined all together.

Interesting to me, was the theme of tradition versus modernization. This was central to Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, and it is shown in the development of the characters, in the symbols and motifs, and even in the use of light and sound. I would like to further explore this theme and the implications.

The characters develop through conflict resolution, and each conflict presented shows some spectrum of tradition versus modernization. Let's begin with the conflict between Senior Master Chef Chu (Chu) and his middle daughter Jia-Chien (Chien). Chu is traditional in his ways -he prepares food traditionally, he was matched with his wife traditionally, he was faithful and committed to his wife, and even after her death, he is incredibly slow to remarry,he provides and cares for his family, he values family tradition, and he does not talk about his feelings. Chien is a representation of modernization -she is a powerful woman in the workplace who seemingly does not place high esteem on family values. She is not committed to any one man, even though she longs to be wanted and desired. She wants to break away from her family and she displays this through her actions, as she buys an apartment with her life savings and when that doesn't work out, she decides to take a promotion in Germany. She announces her decision at the table during Sunday dinner. Chien does not value the family tradition of Sunday dinners. She is also slow to talk about her feelings. The conflict between Chu and Chien arises because Chien was very similar to Chu. She enjoyed cooking, much like her father, and she valued the time they spent together. Chu saw the similarities, and he wanted more for his daughter. In a way, he pushed her towards modernization when he sent her to school and demand that she stop cooking. He asked her to look for herself outside of her passions and to make a life he thought would be more desirable. Even though Chien has more power and a better paying job, she is no more satisfied and even bears resentment against her father as she delves further into a life with little meaning. Her work defines her life, similarly to her father's life. They both lack luster, and are looking for something to fill their void.

Next we see the youngest daughter, Jia Ning (Ning), and the conflict that takes place between her and her friend as a result of a guy. Ning is the picture of modernization, and in one of the first few frames, we see her work in the developing world being juxtaposed to traditional work, as she takes orders and prepares food at a fast food restaurant while her father prepares an exquisite traditional Chinese dinner at home. She has become a product of society, and its fast paced trends. At one of the first few Sundayt dinners shown, she announces that she's going to move in with her friend's ex-boyfriend, because they are in love and he is the father of her unborn child. Not only does she neglect to take the time to let the relationship develop, she also decides to become intimately involved, which has repercussions, so she subsequently decides to move in with her lover without first seeking the permission of her father. Everything moves rapidly in Ning's life, and this causes ripples in the family water, which allow for even more ripples to occur.

Chien and Jia Jen (Jen) have a deep seated conflict. The women's mother dies when they are young, and as a result, Jen steps up to take her place. Jen might be viewed as one of the most traditional characters in the film, second only to Chu. She cherishes family values and traditions of old. Consequently, she fabricates a story about her life during college, saying that she had a boyfriend who decided to go to America after graduation leaving her heartbroken and lonely. This story allows her to take on her responsibilities without being questioned about her lack of a boyfriend. This is ideal, since she thinks she will be the one left to take care of her father. Thus she makes this her mission, and watches as her sisters live their lives as they please.

Jen and Chien's lifestyles are also juxtaposed and although Jen is more pious, reserved and traditional and Chien is more scandalous, racy, and modern, neither sister is satisfied with the life they are leading. Jen is jealous of the freedom of her two younger sisters. Although she accepts her traditional responsibilities with grace, it is understood that she would like to have the freedom to make her own choices and do something different. She feels trapped. Likewise, Chien is unsatisfied with her new, modern, prestigious job and varied relationships. They may seem more glorious, but in the end she doesn't feel any better. Both Jen and Chien desire the middle ground -somewhere between tradition and the modern world. They have never been able to speak candidly with each other because the dynamic of their relationship completely changed when their mother passed away, and instead of talking as sisters, they talk as a mother and daughter might. With this lack of communication, each sister harbors negative feelings towards the other. This is introduced after a Sunday dinner following Chien's announcement to move. Jen discusses tradition and taking care of their father, while Chien takes the modern side of the discussion, saying that their father is taking care of them and is probably looking forward to the day they move out. In all Jen and Chien's interactions, the subject of tradition versus modernization is centerfold.

There is resolution in the end when a balance is struck between tradition and modernization. Each person does what is best for them, maybe not for the family, and as a result the family unit becomes stronger as prior barriers are breached. Communication is much better, and in the last scene, we see Chien cooking Sunday dinner for her father.
A common motif of the film was the Sunday dinner table. This was the symbol of tradition, where everyone came to value their time together and share their lives while sharing delicious food. However, in the beginning, there is very little conversation; and if there is any, it's small talk or an announcement. The announcements are a symbol of modernization infiltrating the lives of each family member, trying to take over the tradition of the family table and in large, the family. With each announcement comes a change and a new family dynamic. Interestingly enough, in the end, the father has moved toward modernization when he marries Jen's best friend, and Chien moves toward tradition as she buys the house from her father and continues the traditional family dinners. Food is also a motif, although it is a symbol for love, which is felt whether tradition or modernization takes precedence.

Finally, the light and sound also play a significant role in displaying the themes of tradition versus modernization. The scenes are usually more lighted when focusing on Jen and Chu's characters, and less lighted in scenes focusing on Chien. This might display the director's feelings about the industrial movement, as society changed it's focus.The noise is also more pleasant when dealing with Chu while he is preparing his Sunday evening dinners, and more boisterous when focusing on the noise of the city and industrialization.

In the end, there is a balance between tradition an modernization. We see that the family can handle whatever life throws their way, and deal with it keeping both themes in mind. And we also understand that although Taipei is rapidly changing, and modernizing, other families can also strike a balance between tradition and modernization. Modernization is a type of change, and just as shown in the movie, change is shocking and usually poorly received initially; however, over time people adjust and slowly make their own changes.

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