Dumplings - Gaau Ji (Hong Kong)

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Dumplings - Gaau Ji (Hong Kong)

Postby trevor826 » Mon Jul 31, 2006 4:34 pm

Dumplings (2004) Gaau Ji

Directed by Fruit Chan

Starring Bai Ling, Miriam Yeung Chin Wah, Tony Leung Ka Fai

A double review, the long and the short of it, a starter or main course, you decide!

What would you do to stay looking and feeling young and beautiful? How far would you be willing to go?

Dumplings comes in two flavours, a 35 minute short in the Three Extremes collection and a 90+ minute feature film, both are good and there are enough little changes plus totally different endings to justify seeing them both. But beware! This film may put you off from eating Chinese dumplings ever again.

Exquisitely tasteless, Dumplings takes you to extremes, Mrs Li (or Lee), a former actress knows that her husband has an eye for the younger woman. She has put up with the knowledge that he has messed around but is concerned that one day hell leave her. She wants to recapture her youth and as such has learned about the mysterious Mei, a woman who creates dumplings that can seemingly stop the ageing process even turning the clock back.

Mei, a former doctor in Mainland China creates her special dumplings in her apartment, the cost is high but she is the living embodiment of the success of her product. After much hesitation Mrs Li eventually tries some of the dumplings wary of the contents, after the first visit she returns time and again for further helpings. Although she can see and feel a difference it isnt happening fast enough for her, she wants quicker results and is willing to pay whatever it takes.

By a stroke of luck (for Mei and Mrs Li) providence provides the highly prized ingredient (but at a very high cost to someone else), Mrs Li gobbles down the dumplings and is temporarily satiated. At a dinner party a while later, the guests comment on the rather strange smell emanating from (what they suspect is) the food, Mrs Li knows the cause of the smell and realises she has a nasty rash on her neck. Taking a bath she rings Mei to confront her with her condition, Mei tells her not to worry, everything will be fine but Mrs Li goes to see her doctor, he re-affirms that there is nothing to worry about, its all down to stress.

Comforted by the doctor, Mrs Li heads to Meis apartment only to see the police searching it, Mei has already left for China and.

As already noted the endings are different, Ive also omitted including details about the contents of the dumplings and had to cut down or leave out other information because of it.

The feature length version is far more fleshed out, you see far more of Mrs Lis husband and his latest young lover (which is dealt with very briefly in the shorter version). Obviously with near enough an hour extra, the longer version gives you so much more to sink your teeth into and overall feels more balanced yet it doesnt feel too long at any time. Both endings are quite disturbing though I guess for most, the ending on the shorter cut will be the most gruesome.

I love the use of sound and facial close-ups in Dumplings, you almost feel as though youre trying to eat them yourself, the cast, especially the central pair are excellent and Bai Lings singing was a surprise.

The story plays on the desires of a lot of women to stay young and beautiful in an image conscious society and the lengths they will go to achieve their aims. It also plays on a major Chinese policy of recent times but to say any more would spoil the story.

I like both versions but if I had to rate them Id say the feature wins over the short. Both are deliciously disturbing, you have been warned.

Cheers Trev

BBFC rated 18

R2 dvd. Dumplings is available in feature length from Tartan with an exclusive interview with Bai Ling. Very good picture quality and excellent sound particularly DTS. Three Extremes will also be available from Tartan soon.

I have R3 versions of both and they are of an excellent standard, both have DTS tracks and more surprisingly, the making ofs and other extras have English subtitles.

Re: Dumplings - Gaau Ji (Hong Kong)

Postby justindeimen » Fri Aug 04, 2006 6:04 pm

Watched this last night after finding the DVD tucked somewhere in the mess that's my house. Quite a trip, I especially like how unflinching it all was. You can definitely see the distinction in Asians handling this sort of psychological horror as opposed to Western influences.

Re: Dumplings - Gaau Ji (Hong Kong)

Postby trevor826 » Sat Aug 05, 2006 6:46 am

Chris Doyle's cinematographic style really comes out in the feature length version with the camera making the most of Mei's apartment in particular. As you point out, it is unflinching which only adds to the psychological horror of the story. This distinctly Asian film owes nothing in its style to Western horror at all but the quest for everlasting youth and beauty is one that has been the subject of many stories and films from all around the world.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Dumplings - Gaau Ji (Hong Kong)

Postby A » Thu Aug 17, 2006 10:57 pm

Well, I saw the film (longer version) at the cinema here in germany about a year ago. I already knew what it was about, and having seen and loved Fruit Chan's last film, I had high hopes for this one.
Unfortunately I was quite bored by it, didn't find the story-line very engaging, and also wasn't disgusted or disturbed by any scenes. I find the plot really too thin, and the satire not complex enough in the issues it raises. It seemed quite predictable where the whole thing was going. I thought this would have been much better fitted for a 10/15 min. short, as it had imo overall too little substance. It felt like a Also, I didn't find the direction interesting, and the camerawork by Doyle was for me the most "mainstream" I have seen by him so far. If I hadn't known he was responsible for it, I wouldn't have guessed.
As a whole I found the movie above average. Watchable but also soon forgotten - in fact i can't recall many images from it anymore.
Maybe it's just me, but the film told me just old news.

Re: Dumplings - Gaau Ji (Hong Kong)

Postby trevor826 » Fri Aug 18, 2006 7:17 am

Hell A!!......I'd be seriously concerned if we agreed on every film.

My reviews or comments are purely my opinion and I certainly don't believe for one second that my thoughts and feelings are more valid than anyone elses, I remember we had a little digression about a certain French film not that long after I'd joined the site and I'm sure there are many films we wouldn't agree on, certainly makes life a little more interesting.

Anyway just one point, re Chris Doyle, I was surprised, nay shocked (slight exaggeration there) at your remark but only because I found his work on "Rabbit Proof Fence" to be his most ordinary or mainstream.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Dumplings - Gaau Ji (Hong Kong)

Postby A » Fri Aug 18, 2006 3:35 pm

Don't worry, there will be more difference of opinions in the future
It's just that the regular visitors on this board seem to have very similar taste most of the time, so it's usually an interesting exception, if this isn't the case. But I'm usually careful when writing about films I didn't like or found average, as every first viewing is always more of a starting point for me.
The camerawork by Doyle in this one was very good, just not as remarkable as in some of his other films (you need to see his recent work in Invisible Waves ).
Haven't watched Rabbit-Proof fence as a whole, but from what I remember, I'm shocked! Mr. Doyle, don't sell out to Hollywood (no offense Mr. Noyce)!

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