Thursday, May 17, 2012
There is love, and then there is deep-hearted love, an emotion that can be bruised and battered but never truly diminished once the contract between two hearts has been written. Life for women in China was, and probably still is, difficult. Even the wealthy or high-born women suffered, as in olden times some girls were forced to bind their feet to create dwarfed sculptures, which were considered beautiful in the culture (though today one might argue it was an extreme form of patriarchal control), but the practice was painful and limiting. Upper-class men seemed to covet the tiny feet more than the women to whom they belonged. Women often married men they did not know and sometimes never loved; they also had to conform to the homes and domains of older mother-in-laws, who demanded obedience. In response to the reality that they might never develop a truly loving relationship, some girls formed lifelong bonds with a favored playmates, known as laotong, and this relationship (sometimes actually arranged at first) apparently could become what some would call a soul-mate bond, along chivalrous lines, as there does not seem to have been a sexual element (although it was hinted at). In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011), a movie based on the novel by Chinese-American author Lisa See, the director portrays the generations-distant parallel relationships between two women (both pairs played wonderfully by Gianna Jun and Bingbing Li), as they struggle to maintain their bonds despite different fates, and to overcome strains caused by divergent fortunes. Beautifully filmed, with wonderful scenes and good acting, the movie is sad, and melancholy, and touching. It is hard to to cry. Hugh Jackman has a minor role. There are some good scenes of modern China, depicting the rapid development and destruction of traditional areas, as well as some glimpses into the lives of young modern upwardly mobile Chinese. I don't think this movie did well at the box office and I don't know what the critics thought, but I really liked it and think people should give it a chance on dvd.