Food in Chinese Cinema | New Year Special


Happy Chinese New Year Let’s talk about food Yes, food is how Chinese people celebrate To Chinese people, food is never just food Food is an integral part of our culture It can be funny Or romantic Or sexy Or scientific Or even dangerous Today we will take a look at examples of food in Chinese cinema See beyond the appearance and talk about the philosophy and meanings behind So, let’s dig in Our first dish of the day will be wonton From Wong Kar-wai’s seminal film In the Mood for Love Set in 1960 song Kong The film tells the story of two neighbors Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow Whom their spouses are cheating on them with each Chow and Chan find solace by befriending each other Amid gossips and moral judgments In the film, we repeatedly see Mrs. Chan going out for wonton noodles It hints at the constant absence of her husband He’s not home, so she’s not cooking On her journey, she often passes by mr. Chow Who is out dining alone for the same reason In here, wonton serves as a replacement for love and comfort It’s a comfort food that fulfills the desire to be with their spouses And enjoy the dinner like a family A food to stop hunger and loneliness It is at their emotionally most vulnerable These two cross paths At the beginning of their friendship They hang out in Western diners Where they can each have their own dishes Proper space is maintained Very deliberately But as their intimacy crosses the line The food of choice reverts back to wonton noodles Only this time, they are sharing Through food we see how these to go from strictly platonic To extramarital romance In this one-shot we see that they are sharing comfort with each other Effectively replacing the absentee spouses with each other food is much more than just food Our second dish is barbecue pork rice from Stephen Chow’s comedy classic God of Cookery In the film, Chow plays a famous cook and food critic nicknamed the God of Cookery High and mighty, he finds flaws in any and all food And he finds flaws in any and all human It’s only when his business partners all betrayed him When he lost everything When he has to sleep on the street That he finds the most delicious food ever a humble bowl of barbecue pork rice Offered to him for free In real life, Stephen Chow is of grassroot origins He spent over a decade working as extras and minor characters To him barbecue pork rice probably have a very special meaning As is typically the lunch for working-class people But then in the 90s he got a starring role on TV And he practically became an overnight sensation In just a few short years He became the undisputed king of comedy in Hong Kong Perhaps at that moment, there was this human connection he felt was lost to him In the world of the rich, everyone is all business In the world of the rich, food looks glamorous But tastes terrible It just so happened that Chow’s life mirrors that of Hong Kong Starting from the 70s, Hong Kong saw a massive economic upturn By the 90s, Hong Kong has cemented his status As the financial center of East Asia Everyone’s topic of discussion was money Everyone in Hong Kong wanted to ride the wave and be rich Human relations was replaced with cold hard cash But barbecue pork rice is fulfilling, is
comforting It reminds people of the days Where money can be earned by hard work It’s filled with longing and nostalgia for the simpler time It connects Chow with his grassroot friends A pure connection not tainted by money or power Where people are free to be Where gestures of goodwill had no
ulterior motives When his character returns to a cooking competition to right his wrong His opponent prepared a dish called “Buddha jumping wall” It’s said to contain so many rare and expensive ingredients Even nearby monks have to jump over the wall to take a look An expensive treat for the upper class And Chow’s character, having learned his lesson Prepare his own food The best dish he has ever had A working-class meal Our final dish of the day is egg fried rice From the film The Story of David The Story of David is, in short, the Chinese Forrest Gump In the film, David is a slow-witted cook Whose great-grandfather was rumored to be an imperial chef Going through life, David only once two things To get together with the love of his life And to have his own place Where he can cook his egg fried rice The simplest dish in Chinese cuisine despite times are changing drastically He lives by his father’s advice Things has to be done slowly In a deliberate social commentary on current Chinese trend Everybody around David is desperate for
success Some lose their lives in the chase Others choose to betray David Hoping to reach a shortcut to fame and wealth But David’s single-minded devotion Eventually earns him everything he wishes for When those who betray him lives a life of
success They are also living in fear and struggle Their lifetime of dirty deeds haunts them And just when they are falling from the top David finally reaches the top It took David 30 years But he was able to recreate the imperial egg fried rice From his family’s legend Every grain of rice is separated Evenly coated by a layer of egg Like David, egg fried rice is simple To many, it lacks the glamour people desired But Chinese people believe, it is the simplest thing in life That is the most difficult It’s a family legacy It’s David’s faith It represents happiness Something that has to be earned And has to be earned slowly One step at a time To Chinese people, food is never just food It means much much more It can be the way people fall in love It is seen as important as sex To a point, where you can manipulate people’s behavior But my favorite portrayal of food is in Ang-Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman In the film, the elderly father has been cooking for his three daughters As a way of family bonding As his daughter’s grow up And begin to leave the family behind The old father finds it harder adjust But one daughter decides to stay behind And maintains the family tradition So she prepares the dinner for him The joy of this old grumpy father experiences When he gets to taste the food she made… is nothing short of breathtaking Food in Chinese culture is much more than just food

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