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Message from bklank

I particularly enjoyed watching the Red Violin again recently. Throughout the movie violin does almost take on its own life, or personality at least. The scene where the music teahcher is punished for teaching western music does illustrate the anti-western sentiments of the time. This is a powerful and beautifully sequenced movie, buI agree that it would not be appropriate to students due to the sexual content.

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Message from bklank

I watched this movie last night, and as I was watching it I realized I had seen it 10 or more years ago when it forst came out.

The cinematography in this movie was just fantastic, with the lighting and the weather often setting the mood. The emotions and determination of the main character, Songlian are very effective as they change throughout the movie. Very well acted. Makes you understand the frustrations of being a woman, educated, and a concubine as well. The twists the movie take are quite unpredictable and the ending is almost haunting.

I would reccommend this movie for showing to students to help them to understand what life was like in this young woman's shoes during this time period. Also, the set and costumes are very authentic.

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Message from smilanick

Raise the Red Lantern, a film by Zhang Yimou was an outstanding film about China in the 1920’s. According to the movie sleeve, it was originally banned in mainland China because it does not display Chinese society in a positive light. I highly recommend it.

The movie depicts the clash of modern with tradition. Songlia becomes the 4th mistress to a Chinese nobleman, but she is different from the others in that she has been to university and is educated. He is fastidious about following the tradition of his ancestors. The mistresses all try to sabotage each other to win the affection of the master. Whomever he chooses to share a bed with each evening, his servants raise the red lanterns at their home. Is this where “red light district” came from? Adultery on behalf of one of the wives is punishable by death. For the master of course, polygamy is his right and it’s just.

Songlia, in a drunken stupor accidentally lets the beans out about mistress #3 and the good doctor. The opera singer is hauled away to the death room and hung. Songlia goes mad and the nobleman takes yet another mistress, number 5. It’s a powerful commentary of how society is structured and its very patriarchal control.

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Message from jluesse

Through the use of color, subtle gesture, and artful cinematography Wong Kar-Wai has crafted a gorgeous slow burner. The lush colors highten the moods and characterization and overall texture of the film, which quietly builds into a crushing drama like a trickling stream that grows into a gushing torrent beneath the surface. The story revolves around neighbors, Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow, whose spouses are having an affair with one another. In an attempt to understand and cope with the situation, the two befriend one another and develop an unrequited love that highlights their integrity and loneliness. There are never blatant ovations of their growing affections, rather, delicate scenes where an expression or gentle movement expresses the increasing sexual tension.
There are some stunning shots combining rich colors and exquisite composition; drab alleys and common workplaces become striking tableaus. The care with which the movie was made is clearly evident in the settings-colors correspond with the characters, events, and moods creating a sensual whole.

I don't think the movie would be a success in most classes, it would seem ponderously slow and probably unbearable to students. It is a good film to check out and should whet enthusiasm for the excellent sequel 2046 (notice the room # where the two meet/write). Kar-Wai has established himself as an important young filmmaker, and In The Mood For Love could be a great introduction to those unfamiliar with his work.

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Message from jluesse

Battles Without Honor and Humanity begins with characters, in blood red, stylishly arranged over intense black and white photos in the opening credits. The movie is visceral and relentless, from the opening scene depicting an attempted rape of a woman by an American GI to the final funeral scene. Scenes are composed of grim off-colors: grays, muted browns, dark blues and bland tones, that is until bright red blood sears through the celluloid. Many cuts are sharp, causing some jarring sequences. There are portions where the plot is developed and dialogue dominates, however violence is looming above and around, always quick to step in for a bit. The editing never allows any shot to become stagnant and there are plenty of stylish shots.

The movie is a crime drama, a gritty look at the yakuza underworld. Fukasaku was one of the early filmmakers to portray the world of crime in Japan with some realism. The line between good and evil seems to be blurred in the film-there is a protagonist, but he is a criminal who engages in a bloody street war against a rival gang. There are moments of dark humor, for example when the chopped off finger is lost resulting in the yakuzas' comical search under the tables. It is an engaging movie and one I would never show to a class due to the violent nature.

It is clear that Fukasaku's legacy will not rest simply on the more recent success of the controversial Battle Royale movies or the novelty of picking up legend Kurosawa's Tora!Tora!Tora! but also on a series of important crime movies, which 1973's Battles Without Honor and Humanity would be prominantly included.[Edit by="jluesse on Jul 30, 2:30:28 PM"][/Edit]
[Edit by="jluesse on Jul 31, 3:33:53 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from jluesse

Mrs. Courtney Lockwood-This movie is a masterpiece, and I am glad you wrote about it, for it compelled me to check it out. Both visually stunning and intellectually challenging, it is an allegory for existentialism that could be used in conjunction with a unit on, you guessed it, existentialism. The film is based on Kobo Abe's novel (which I have not read but could be used in the unit). The use of extreme close ups create and hint at a world that is sensual and unsettling. There are gorgeous scenes of nature reminiscent of ansel adams images or something-but given the circumstances of the film these settings are married to an element of cruelty. Both abstract and bold images are complimented by a haunting score that render the viewer with a tangible sense of isolation. Basically, a man absurdly ends up stuck up in a hole occupied by a woman. By the end of the film both characters (the man doesn't start that way) are nameless, without any identity. They are both doomed to shovel sand indefinitely in order to survive.[Edit by="jluesse on Jul 31, 8:16:54 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from aarmas

I saw this film when it originally came out and was mesmerized by its content, suspense, and its gorgeous music. When I saw it the second time, I spent more time looking at the social conventions of each of its segments, and I agree that the depiction of the Communist times in Chinas were probably one of its strongest and most effective. My heart broke when I saw how beauty and originality were subjugated by the overall directive of the political times. Once again, the underdog kept on and managed to do everything within his power to protect the violin. It is a fantastic film and would be more suitable had it been designed with a little less of the sexual content. Maybe the producers would be willing to edit it in a more wholesome way to expand its audience. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to one of the most interesting, involving, and best scored movies of the last two centuries.

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Message from aarmas

This is one of those movies that you have in the right mood to enjoy, and if the conditions are perfect, you're in for a treat. A couple of years ago people were going over gaga over "Lost in Translation", a film that fell short in all accounts for its lack of execution and poor production values. What many people interpreted as subtlety and sparse acting style was just a strong desire to compensate for an art that many have considered lost. Here was a film that gave people an opportunity to dream, and suddenly most of us were analogous to the audience in "The Emperor's Clothes" tale. We were afraid to say the truth and just shut up, looking like fools in the end.

"In The Mood for Love" appears to be a source of inspiration for "Lost in Translation", at least vaguely. It follows the "relationship" between two characters who had the circumstances been different could have had the romance of their lives. The intensity of unfulfilled passions, combined with glorious cinematography, and a haunting score envelops you in the sadness of the two main characters. We accompany them as they yearn for each other, as they miss the opportunities to become one. Some people might run away from films like these, but I truly appreciate the movie that like a good poem uses a series of images and metaphors to deliver a vision and create a work of art that teaches and delights us.

clay dube
Topic replies: 1894
Topic Posts: 604
Message from Clay Dube

The recent Japanese film University of Laughs (screened at the New York Film Festival in 2005 and reviewed by Rowena Aquino in Asia Pacific Arts) looks at censorship in wartime Japan. Maintaining morale and stimulating loyalty were assumed by government bodies on both sides of the Pacific to be critical during the war. The Why We Fight series produced by Frank Capra for the US War Department for US soldiers was thought so effective that they were ultimately shown to the general public. They remain available on VHS and DVD and can be readily used in classrooms today to encourage discussions of how we talk about others.

[Why We Fight - useful outlines, notes, clips]

John Dower's War Without Mercy includes an extensive discussion of propaganda and censorship, the focus of which is conveyed by the chapter title: "Race War".

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Message from jmitchell

This sounds like an interesting film. I plan to try to find it and will offer a review. I found a beautiful and informative book on the Chinese opera by Siu Wang-Ngai. I was looking for images for "Flower Drum Song" and the book is full of incredible photographs by Sui Wang-Nui but the text by Peter Lovrick is equally amazing. It provides brief glimses of various performance traditions and their regional origins in China. It recounts a number of regional folk tales that have become traditional performance pieces. and discusses the connection between regional performance and regional culture. I wll find this extremely useful in the unit I teach on East asian theatrical traditions which has been limited in scope to say the least. I plan to have groups select a story/play from the brief synopses provided in the text. Discuss the historical and cultural context of the work and create a performance piece for presentation to the class that incorporates at least three of the "conventions" discussed in the text. For more advanced students I will have them examine this book and two texts on Commedia dell' Arte and compare the two theatrical forms and what they reveal about the respective cultures.
I'm new to tthis forum and to "forums" in general and so I don't know if this should be two entries, one on the film, one on the book or what? please advise or I guess I will figure it out as I spend more time in the forums

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Message from lmoakes

Hong Kong action films are amazing. Ang Lee, Tsui Hark and John Woo created an important and influential cinematic genre. John Woo made many films with Chow Yun Fat (A Better Tomorrow, A Better Tomorrow II, The Killer, Hard Boiled)
There is a wonderful book A Bullet in the Head about this gangster, action genre. I love to watch these when they are rereleased at revival theatres (like Nu Art)
Here ia a section of text from one website concerning this genre.
http://www.greencine.com/static/primers/hk.jsp

But there was more to the Hong Kong New Wave than just flowing robes, killer swordplay and fancy footwork. John Woo handed out automatic weapons to his actors and brought back the old Heroic Bloodshed genre with a vengeance in his gangland epics A Better Tomorrow (1986) and A Better Tomorrow II (1988), which made a movie icon out of the cool, effortlessly charismatic Chow Yun-Fat. The pair reunited for the explosive gunplay and slow motion carnage of The Killer (1989) and Hard-Boiled (1992), two of the best action films since Sam Peckinpah yelled "Cut!" on The Wild Bunch.
But Chow also found the time to team up with director Ringo Lam for the gritty City on Fire (1987), a heist film that some believe was the inspiration for Reservoir Dogs, and the outrageous comic book action of Full Contact (1992). Meanwhile, future Bond Girl and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Khan presented a strong image of pistol-packing, kung fu-equipped lady cops in the amazing In the Line of Duty series.

Thanks to all of you for the suggestions.
Linda

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Message from Arthur

I watched the DVD "From Mao to Mozart, Isaac Stern in China." This would be a great film for high school students who are into classical music, but excerpts could be used for social studies/Asian studies classes.
Part of it covers the effect of the Cultural Revolution, plus, in the video, the head of the Shanghai Conservatory is interviewed, and he describes how he was tortured for teaching Western music (Mozart, Beethoven, etc.).
It is a bit much for my middle school students, but some great topics for the older students could be generated. One thing I kept thinking is if the US is approaching its own version of the CR? Less funding for the arts. Readdressing the obscenity issue. Limiting freedom of speech....the list could go on.
The movie is old, from the early/mid 1980's, but it still was fun to watch.

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Message from ctchir

I, too, found "Shower" to be a sensitive and enlightening view of the old and the new in China. Although the main character clearly had left the old ways -- the bath house, being near his father and brother, the crumbling old architecture -- his guilt at having left is evident throughout. That he ultimately chooses to stay with his brother seemed to represent a coming home, a triumph of sorts for the old order -- reverence for family being primary. I don't think I would use this with middle school kids, but I recommend it to UCLA Asia Institute teachers.[Edit by="ctchir on Oct 16, 8:28:54 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from ctchir

I watched the King of Masks last night and was moved by the poignant story of this lonely, impoverished old actor and the young orphan he "buys" on the black market, so that he can teach his ancient art to a male heir--the only way tradition allows the art of the masks to be passed on. He tells the delightful young child to call him Grandpa, and for awhile both the grandpa and the child seem to have found the heaven each yearned for. But, that heaven disintegrates when the child confesses that SHE is a girl, masquerading as a boy so that someone would keep her. The acting is fabulous. The remainder of the film deals with the conflict between tradition/customs and the heart. This movie beautifully shows the strong influence of filial piety as well as the prejudice against girls in China as it was in the 1930's.I believe I could show portions of it in my classes to illustrate these two important moral strands in China; however, the movie's power develops out of the whole story. I strongly recommend it to my other Asia in the Classroom colleagues.

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Message from rterry

This is a little off topic ... but on the CBS series on Sunday nights, Gray's Anatomy, there was an Asian character who needed emergency back surgery. Her dad insisted that a Sharman (sp?) needed to restore the sick woman's soul or else she would die during the surgery. The American doctors and interns couldn't understand since she was going to die if the surgery was delayed. As the show continued, a Shaman was located and the ritual took place in time. The patient said to the doctors that they wouldn't understand & thanked them for their patience ... a cultural divide. As I watched it, I too couldn't understand but as the ceremony took place, I gained an appreciation for the need of what would be in non-Asian eyes an extreme decision.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I was struck by the story line on primetime television and immediately thought about this class. There are so many Asian cultural issues I am unaware of ... and this does affect my relationship with my students and parents. This show just reconfirmed these thoughts.

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Message from efoster

Tai Guk Gi or the Brotherhood of War is a great Korean film about two brothers whose lives and love for each other is torn apart as a result of their forced military service in the early stages of the Korean War. Best watched with English subtitles (for the English speaker), this film is rated “R” for fairly continuous war violence and is geared to a mature audience.

This Korean film has won critical acclaim in the Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Art Direction, and Sound Effects categories at the Beaksang and Deajong Awards Ceremonies.

Tae Guk Gi is a 148 minute story about two brothers love for each other and how war changes these boys into men with competing motivations. Jin-tae, the older and more physical brother, vows to protect his younger and more studious brother, Jin-seok, from the ravages of the war. (Jin-tae sees it as his sole responsibility since the death of his father to protect and nuture his younger brother so that he may attend college, as Jin-seok is the pride of the family and has the greatest chance at attending college.) At one point in the movie, Jin-tae even brokers a deal with his superiors to exhibit exceptional courage and bravery in combat in order to free Jin-seok from the bonds of military service. Jin-seok sees Jin-tae’s bravado and exceptional “acts of courage” during battle as loving war and the act of killing. Jin-tae disregards Jin-seok’s concern and continues to pursue the path to Jin-seok’s freedom despite a complete deterioration of their relationship. The ravages of war then effect the lives of their loved ones in their own village, and the brothers drift farther apart both physically and emotionally.

Without “giving away” the ending, Jin-seok ends up deeply affected by the loss of the relationship with his brother and seems to carry this despair throughout the rest of his life.

This DVD comes with a Special Feature disk that includes interviews with war veterans and historians (very interesting) and the usual making of the film features.

As stated earlier, this film, in its entirety, is not suitable for the school environment. Edited scenes from the film would be appropriate to show in a class that covers recent Korean and Chinese history and family relationships.

I would recommend Tae Guk Gi to anyone interested in the Korean War and/or people who enjoy war genre films like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.

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Message from kokoro

This is pretty outrageous, but here's the cite for the "Battle Royal" that I spoke about in our last meeting. Check out the manga links, there is so much for you to appeal to the students. While you can't show the movie in the class, you can bet that your students who are fans of J culture will have strong purchase of this film.

http://www.battleroyalefilm.net/

clay dube
Topic replies: 1894
Topic Posts: 604
Message from Clay Dube

It's been broadcast in the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years, but I only recently learned of Inside China, a weekly show seen on a number of public TV stations. CA stations include KCLS (ch. 58 in LA), KCVR (ch. 24 in the Inland Empire), KCSM (San Mateo), and KFTL (San Francisco).

The programs are short, 30 minutes, and feature a range of topics from paper making to aviation and prison life. It's soft reporting, but you'll find a good range of video that might be a nice addition to lessons.

The program website is at http://www.insidechina.org. Duffy Wang's outfit also produces another series, Land of the Dragon, which I haven't seen.

clay dube
Topic replies: 1894
Topic Posts: 604
Message from Clay Dube

Teachers in the Torrance 2005 forum have been talking about the film The King and I. It's a popular film and one that we might take up here as well. It seems to me that (ignoring its historical accuracy for a moment), there are a few topics stimulated by the film that teachers and students might find interesting.

1. The interesting role played by Western tutors in Asia the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are books and films that might be drawn upon, not only The King and I, but also The Last Emperor for China (Reginald Johnston). Another interesting story is that of Elizabeth Gray Vining who died in 1999 at 97. She tutored the current emperor of Japan for 4 years and wrote Windows for the Crown Prince about it.

What does it mean that these countries imported teachers for future rulers? Of our own future presidents, what international training have they received? [Remember how Bill Clinton's time at Oxford actually made some suspicious of him -- in part because of his anti-war activities and in part because of his "not inhaling" while there. Clearly the candidate who speaks fluent Spanish will be attractive to a growing segment of the electorate. Some see Russian-speaking Condi Rice as a potential candidate, though only a few folks have been able to successfully run for the presidency without having been elected to others offices - think Hoover and Eisenhower, both wartime heroes.] In an increasingly global age, can we be content with monolingual and monocultural leaders? Or is it possible that only leaders such as those can be trusted to put American interests first?

2. The King and I offers cultural clash, gender issues, and the hint of romance. One might also compare the Yul Brenner/Deborah Kerr version (1956) with the more recent Chow Yun Fat/Jodie Foster version (Anna and the King of Siam (1999). One could also track down the Rex Harrison version (1946) and a Warner Brothers cartoon version.

Why has the story of Anna Leonowens so interested movie makers?

Here are a few links that may be helpful:
Dialogworks - ideas for teachers
http://www.dialogueworks.co.uk/newswise/months/nov/siamj.html

World Royalty - outline history of King Mongkut
http://www.royalty.nu/Asia/Thailand/Mongkut.html

Amazon - take a look at the customer reviews of the Chow/Foster version.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00003CWLF/002-6441553-5048814?v=glance&n=130&v=glance

clay dube
Topic replies: 1894
Topic Posts: 604
Message from Clay Dube

I'm looking forward to teacher evaluations of this new film, which is already out in Los Angeles. Please do share your thoughts about the story, the performances, and settings. Can any portion of it be effectively used to teach about Japan?

Certainly the various controversies surrounding the film provide many teachable moments. These include:

-- debates about the best-selling book, including whether or not the male American author unethically "used" his principal source

-- Steven Spielberg's original plans to make the film, including his frustration with not finding actual geisha for the roles

-- the decision by director Rob Marshal and others to cast Chinese actresses in the lead roles rather than draw upon American actresses of Asian descent or Japanese actresses

Who can "rightfully" write about a culture or a society? Must one be an insider to offer an assessment or a narrative? Is it inappropriate for actors of other ethnicities portray Japanese? Should a Texan such as Renée Zellweger be permitted to play a Britan such as Bridget Jones?

The image below is from the Hello Ziyi fansite and shows a billboard for the movie in Japan.

clay dube
Topic replies: 1894
Topic Posts: 604
Message from Clay Dube

Teachers in the Los Angeles-area may be interested to learn that some scenes from Geisha were shot in the Japanese garden of the Huntington Library. Here's a link to still photos in the garden from a Michelle Yeoh site:
http://michelleyeoh.info/Movie/Mg/mg_102204.html

Here's the official Huntington Library site:
http://www.huntingtonbotanical.org/Japanese/facts.htm

clay dube
Topic replies: 1894
Topic Posts: 604
Message from Clay Dube

Scholar and author Liza Dalby is an American who became a geisha and subsequently wrote her dissertation about the experience. She's since produced a number of interesting works, including a rich website which includes information about her book. Go to http://www.lizadalby.com/ and click on the "geisha" button. (The Tale of Murasaki section of the site is also recommended.)

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Message from cashb

JuWei and I went to see the movie the day it was released. Attached is what I thought.

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Message from jwchen7

Becky and I went to see the Memoirs of a Geisha..please see attached..

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Message from mhogan

I, too, was mesmerized by The Red Violin. It was a beautiful incorporation of artistry and history. I felt the Communist China part of the movie was particularly poignant. Even though the entire movie is not classroom appropriate, the Chinese portion would be an interesting and striking introduction to a discussion of Maoist China or even an example of Chinese legalism brought into modern times.

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Message from mhogan

The popularity of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has opened up a western market for more Chinese-style action films. Hero is one of these. Directed by Quintin Tarantino with star actors Jet Lee, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziya, Chen Dao Ming, and Donnie Yen, it is quite a feast for the eyes. Color and intricately coordinated fight scenes are combined with spectacular music to truly fill the senses.

The story is set in the beginning of the Qin dynasty, where a nameless soldier seeks revenge against the emperor who has massacred his people. Along the way, we see Zhou assassins who would also desire this revenge. The movie mentions the paranoia of Qin as well as the duality of his great accomplishments and brutal methods. From a history teacher's perspective, I think it would have been nice to make these more prominent in the story. Of course, I wouldn't use this movie in my classroom, due to its violence and sexual content. From a historical perspective, I do not find it terribly enlightening. From an artistic perspective I find it truly appealing and delightful.

There is an interesting cultural component though, that may be difficult to comprehend from a western perspective - How can a king order a man to be executed as a criminal and yet buried as a hero?

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Message from fisakson

Clay wrote---- "Is it inappropriate for actors of other ethnicities portray Japanese? Should a Texan such as Renée Zellweger be permitted to play a Britan such as Bridget Jones? "


Does anyone remember the movie "Sixteen Candles"? Granted, it was not an award winning epic but in it, there was a Chinese character, "Long Duck Dong" (yeah, I know ;] ). This character was criticized because he was played by a Japanese actor, Gette Watanabe, and also in one scene he is wearing a Japanese robe/kimono?

Let's not also forget the famous "Breakfast at Tiffany's", a film that I adore, but cringe at every time I see Mickey Rooney's horrible imitation fo a Japanese.

There are no rules written about who can play who, yet we it seems now it is not appropriate for a Caucasian actor to play an Asian character, yet an Asian actor of one culture playing a character of another culture (like Memoirs of a Geisha), while uncomfortable for some, is not unacceptable to all.

Clay brings up a good point, can we really exclude all, some or any, of the actors for parts that are "cultural?"

[Edit by="fisakson on Jan 5, 10:00:06 AM"][/Edit]

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Message from dnakashima

There was also a controversy concerning an actor named Jonathan Pryce playing an Asian man a while ago (Miss Saigon, I think). I don't really think it's right to create more borders in a world already saturated with imagined borders between individuals, groups, and nations. I find non traditional casting interesting but something like the Mickey Rooney role or the minstrel blackface is offensive because the intent is to ridicule a group of people. There's no malice in Zhang Yiyi playing that part from the actress but I find it interesting that (and I only heard this) that the director did not feel that he could find a single Japanese actress to play the part. What does that mean exactly?

I have not read the book, seen the movie, nor have I read much about it. I have heard that the author is a white guy (is he American?) speaking from the voice of a Geisha woman from Japan. Now that's a more bizarre circumstance than a Texan playing a Londoner but I still feel like it's his right to write. This is first amendment stuff here. I haven't heard that his intent was to mock or caricature the Geisha. However, there was a professor at grad school who proclaimed that he spoke from the voice and took the positionality of a poor, black lesbian. What I think he wanted to mean by that was he was down with the most oppressed of the oppressed. The funny feeling I had about him saying that was that what he said is what he wanted that group to say. He wanted to put words in their mouths. I also sort of felt sorry for him because I think he felt he lacked credibility because of his white man identity. See what I mean? too many borders.

I would not want to think that I could not write a book from the point of view of anyone: animal, vegetable or mineral. By the way, I'm writing all your autobiographies. dan[Edit by="dnakashima on Jan 6, 5:20:51 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from kllewellyn

I also saw this movie and really enjoyed it. I loved the fact it was four different scenerios with each telling a different story and a different perspective. The love story between Flying Snow and Broken Sword kept changing with each scenerio although it was the relationship and conversation between Nameless and the Qin Emperor that I found the most fascinating. The Emperor comes across as a brutal leader but very smart and his respect for those trying to assassinate him is obvious, including his decision at the end (I don't want to give it away for those who have not seen it!). The film touches on his reasons for unification of the seven major kingdoms (one kingdon, one language, one writing) which is important as it, in some way, legitimizes his brutality. I also wish that more time was spent on this because I would love to be able to use some clips from the conversation in my classroom. I may use some scenes from the caligraphy school when they write in the sand as it shows how important calligraphy was and how long it took to master this skill..... and the respect the pupils had for their teacher!

I found it fascinating that, like Crouching Tiger, the role women played in the movie. Who would have thought that the respected and renowned sword fighter Flying Snow was a woman? It interests me that many of the Chinese movies portray woman in strong fighting roles during this time period. The role of women always comes up in the classroom and this may give students the wrong idea that women were often warriors.

I truly enjoyed this movie and it kept me glued to the T.V. I highly recommend it. However, I agree that it is more for enjoyment and it does not offer much in a way of academic use which is a real shame.

By they way, I also thought it was directed by Tarantino but it was not. He was a producer (not even Executive Producer!) and the director was Zhang Yimou. The movie has Tarantino's name all over it so I can only assume they did this to try and appeal to American audiences. This is movie has a full on Chinese cast and crew.

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Message from rpastor

I first used "Mulan" as a time filler/killer in my 7th grade World history class. My students are ESL 1-4s and most are "below basic" readers. While they consider themselves to be a very sophisticated movie audience, they thoroughly enjoyed "Mulan" and I extended the showing to finish the video due to the excellent discussions we had of the movie and the facets of Chinese culture shown (ancestor worship, status of women,etc). It worked so well, I've extended the video and associated work to 3-4 days of class time.

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Message from rpastor

One of the last classes I took to "clear" my credential was in Asian studies. During one of the sessions, the instructor covered the portrayal of asian characters in film from the early days of "talkies" to the present; from Warren Toller as "Charlie Chan" to present day. Bottom line: non-asians playing asians and Chinese playing Japanese, etc is more common than Chinese playing Chinese, etc. I'm afraid the reason may be that most americans can't tell Chinese from Japanese from Koreans, so it doesn't really matter. This is something most Native Americans can relate to.

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Message from rpastor

I sat through "Last Samurai" with thoughts of using portions dealing with the samurai culture (avoiding the battle scenes that give it the "R" rating that makes using the entire movie out of the question for my 7th grade classes), but found them to be too few and far between for my editing abilities and equipment.

For those who have classes that need a visual explanation of the samurai culture, I recommend a TLC video from the "Ancient Tribes" series "The Samurai" (Vol.15) released by Ambrose Video Productions. I found a copy in the LA County Library. My classes are Esl learners of varying abilities and this video is perfect for them. It's 26 minutes long with lots of visuals, no "talking heads" other than the narrator. It covers the Taira/Minamoto civil war and uses it as a vehicle to explain the samurai culture and beliefs. The vocabulary used by the narrator is appropriate for most of my students and the video moves at a pace that is slow enough to follow yet fast enough they won't become bored.

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Message from scampbell

I've seen discussions on this topic specific to Memoir of a Geisha. The guy who cast these actresses said he chose them because he felt they would be best for the part. He also cast Queen Lateefa in Chicago. He was well aware of the fact that there would not have been an African American woman as the matron of a prison during the time period; but she WAS the matron in his mind (and as it turned out--a great choice

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Message from ctchir

Just to throw in one other idea about the issue. Remember, in ancient Greek drama, all roles were played by men. Acting, it seems to me, should be more about conveying the message of the author than about being the exact match in "real life". That being said, I realize the cultural and national pride that accompanies having "one of our own" in key roles about "our own" culture. Will we ever get beyond our borders?

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Message from ctchir

I scrolled through all of the films in this thread and didn't see a review of The Emperor and the Assassin, and so checked it out and forced myself to watch the whole thing. It is supposedly about China's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi; but I'm not sure how many liberties this movie took with history. The producers/directors seemed most intent on showing large spectacles and huge and gory war scenes. I didn't find the acting or the story line convincing. The plot is that as a young boy, the emperor lived in the kingdom of Zhao and was cared for by a kindly family there. He also fell in love with a childhood friend and ultimately married her and brought her with him and his mother back to the kingdom of Qin. Once back in Qin, he is commanded by his ancestors to unify China. This he does, even to the extreme of killing his mother's children (by another father) and destroying his marriage to his childhood sweetheart. In the end he is alone and reviled, but victorious. I was disappointed, and don't think there's much here to show my students.

Can anyone recommend a good movie on Qin Shihuangdi or the building of the Great Wall? I'm going to have my students compare and contrast the building of the Great Wall with the present day building of the Three Gorges Dam. So, in addition, if you know of any good sources about the Three Gorges Dam, that would be appreciated, too. Thanks, Cheryl[Edit by="ctchir on Jan 8, 12:44:35 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from ctchir

A few nights ago, a friend came over with the video "Double Happiness", knowing that I have been reading and watching all things Asian. It's the story of a first-generation-in-the- U.S.young Chinese woman, who is having trouble integrating her Chinese parents' demands to be a "good Chinese daughter" with her own "Americanized" desires to make her own choices in work and love. I think it's a situation many of our students will identify with. The content is more high school rated than middle school.

clay dube
Topic replies: 1894
Topic Posts: 604
Message from Clay Dube

Malynn brought up the film Hero (not directed by Tarantino, though, but by Zhang Yimou) and I thought you might enjoy reading reviews of the film:

http://www.asiaarts.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=14271

A Chinese review in English translation: http://www.asiaarts.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=14740

http://www.asiaarts.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=14301

University of Redlands prof. Robert Eng's analysis of the politics of the film:
Is Hero a Paen to Authoritarianism?

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Message from tbarbarossa

Movies
Posted: 01-08-2006 11:42 AM
Ang Lee's 1994 movie, Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is a feast of the senses! This is the first film in which the director and writer, Ang Lee, was able to use true cinematographical means to achieve more depth and richness of portrayal. His former movie, The Wedding Banquet was a public success which gave him the means to develop technically. This film is on my top-ten list of great films of all times!
The story setting is modern day Taipei, Taiwan, where a generational clash is depicted in a new and inventive way. A widower of 16 years is a renown master chef who brings his culinary talents to the habitual Sunday dinner table with his three daughters who live at home but go to work daily in Taipei, leaving their father to attend to domestic duties. The food is beautifully prepared and reflects the ancient ways of cooking Chinese dishes. The viewer salivates to the close-ups of recipes in their prepratory stages and finally at the 12-course display at the dinner table every Sunday. The daughters' casual responses to the tantalizing dishes at first garner sympathy for the father and seem insulting to him after watching his long days of preparation. But Ang Lee wants the viewer to see in the character of the father a Confucian patriarch who is using food as a substitute for emotional closeness and
communication. Mr. Chu loves what he does, but it is rote for him at this stage in his life. Moreover, food seems cathartic for Mr. Chu who has repressed inner desires to lead his own life. His daily routine also reflects Confucian adherence to discipline and correct acts of parenthood. For example, every morning he runs, even though running hurts his back, and he washes his daughters' clothes, but unconsciously, or not so unconsciously, places them in the wrong drawers. Mr. Chu has no wife to ameliorate the emotional needs of his daughters, who care for him because they have been taught to be dutiful and obedient, but are frustrated by their own needs for love and independence. There is little understanding and communication between generations. The movie, then, becomes a journey for understanding and enlightenment for all involved, particularly the father who must change to adapt to a modern view of reality.
Ang Lee's own background is fascinating. In the DVD interview he tells of being the first son of a father who fled to Taiwan during the Communist Civil War. His grandparents had been executed in China. Therefore, Lee felt overwhelmed when he failed the college entrance exam, dashing his father's expectations, especially since he had been educated at a top school in Taiwan. Nonetheless, Lee was now able to pursue his life-long passion for filmmaking (not looked upon as a high profession in those days). It wasn't until Lee was 37- years-old that he made any money at all. Seems amazing for such a talented director, doesn't it?
If you haven't seen this film, please do so. You won't be disappointed. Ang Lee, who gave us the film version of Sense and Sensibility is a true master of family drama!
Edited by - tbarbarossa on Jan 8, 4:14:22 PM




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Total Posts: 33
The Joy Luck Club



tbarbarossa


Joined: 30 Aug 2005

Re: Movies
Posted: 01-08-2006 02:37 PM
Some thoughts on another movie: If you haven't revisited Oliver Stone's The Joy Luck Club, now is a good time while we are studying East Asia. What a family drama this one is! The ever-engrossing clash of generations is played out in mother-daughter relationships, the older generation molded by Confucian values and painful heritage in China, and the younger generation expressing Western values. The interweaving of the symbol of the swan feather throughout the story with the daughters' failures to meet their mothers' expectations suggests how instrumental heritage is in directing the lives of progeny. The swan feather represents the conveyance of good intentions, but good intentions are never enough; it's action that expiates. The choices which were made by the mothers in the past influence almost genetically the choices made by the daughters. When June travels to China to reunite her mother's family at the end, her mother's expectations are exceeded in a way her mother could never have imagined during her life. The story comes full circle with her daughter's act of expiation for her mother when the twins are reunited with their sister.
This film may be used to teach literary elements, such as, characterization, theme, symbol and much more for the 8th grade (gifted, I think) to adult English or history classes. The film is a rich source for the classroom either in clips or otherwise.


Edited by - tbarbarossa on Jan 8, 4:14:44 PM




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A Great Wall



tbarbarossa


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Total Posts: 33

Re: Movies
Posted: 01-08-2006 03:14 PM
One more movie I want to comment on, and I'm not sure I'm doing this thread thing correctly, but here goes again.
In the 1986 film A Great Wall, Peter Wong directs and stars in this meeting-of- cultures comedy. The film crosscuts events happening in a poor section of Beijing with events occurring in upscale San Francisco. A younger brother loses his job with a computer company and is at last free to take that month's vacation with his wife and very Americanized son to visit his older sister and family in China. The film underscores lively differences in culture, but also presents universal similarities between generations, while seemingly outweighing the factor of cultural dominance. Some interesting highlights include:
*The generational gap in both cultures
*The insouciance of youth
*The wage differences of the time
*The role of discipline through exercise, i.e., Tai Chi Chuan (spelling?) vs. the fast run
*The competition between cultures represented in a championship table tennis game
*Bored teens in the classroom
*Prejudice across the board
*The importance of college entrance exams, especially in China
*Varying customs, especially in the expression of the relationship between the sexes
The movie reveals how Confucian principles guide the customs of the older generations in Beijing, but even have a residual effect on the brother, too, who has been living in America since he was ten-years-old. The Boston Globe called this film, "A comedy of culture collision," but I think the director was portraying more similarities than differences. What's your opinion?
Edited by - tbarbarossa on Jan 8, 4:15:10 PM




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[Edit by="tbarbarossa on Jan 8, 6:27:48 PM"][/Edit]

Anonymous (not verified)
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Message from jwchen7

I agree with Ctchir's point. In my opinion, if the actors or actress can convey the message of the author's story line, then I think the performers who are not the exact match in "real life" doesn't really matter at this point.

Anonymous (not verified)
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Message from jwchen7

Please check out two different languages' (Chinese and Japanese)movie preview for Memoirs of a Geisha

http://www.sonypictures.com.tw/movie/geisha/
http://www.movies.co.jp/sayuri/

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Message from dnakashima

I have shown a bit of Hero to my class as an example of the Qin dynasty and the unification of the Warring States. I was surprised at first at some of the harsh reviews Clay posted links to. But I guess that anything that passes state censors in China are going to succumb to harsh reviews anywhere.

This brings me to a question: how much control does the state exercise in the creation of pop culture these days?

Another question is how historically accurate can any of these movies be? Surely the textbook I use in class does not have too much about the Shang and the Qin. One review Clay linked us to refers to the Emperor and the Assassin which (I think) dsenteno panned for us in the forum. The review says this is more historically accurate. How much is "true"?

As far as the Emperor and the Assassin movie, is that readily available in video stores or libraries? Where did people find that?

My two bits about Hero is that it's one of the most visually stunning films I've ever seen. I especially liked the horrific room where Nameless meets the Emperor. But the movie dragged on for me and I could not get into the romances much. In fact, I think I conked out in the theater when I first saw it, but just to give a look at an idea of what ancient Qin times were like, it was good 'nuff.

dan

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Message from rrustamzadeh

Memoir of a Geisha is on my list to see. But I want to talk about a movie that I borrowed from Mr. Ball a few weeks ago ,”From Mao to Mozart ” I have been having a hard time putting my feelings to words about this movie, that is why I’m writing with a big delay, about this documentary.
This movie, although is educational, but it makes you cry, makes you sad, makes you angry, makes you smile, makes you laugh, and makes you wonder about life.
In 1979 Isaac Stern visited China as an official guest of the government to give concerts, travel the countryside and say hello with music.
Filmmaker Murray Lerner documented this trip, and the resulting movie won the 1981 Academy award for the Best Documentary. Although the focus is more on Stern and not on China, but It gives you some good ideas about what it means to be locked in behind those high mountains, plateaus, deserts and seas, and not being able to share all the goodness that existed behind the great wall. Isaac admires the talented young musicians who are thirsty to learning.
It is nice that a second movie is attached to this CD which shows the return of Stern to China some twenty years later, and the audience gets a chance to see the eager faces of the children during the first visit, as successful adult musicians.
What was most interesting to me was the story of a professor which was told with a genuine honesty and a great deal of emotions. The fact that he was thrown in jail by the son of his friend, and the fact that he was treated like an animal and degraded for no crime was heartbreaking.
There is more history to learn in this movie than anything else.
I watched it four times. I think you might want to see it at least once.

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Message from rterry

I was hoping to read more in your review of Memoirs of a Geisha ... apart from you saying that you have been influenced since you were a little girl regarding Asian culture, you do not mention specifics. I am curious as to whether or not the film created an accurate atmosphere for the time period.

I found the movie to be visually dark ... often when we use the term "dark" for a film, we mean psychologically. This however, wasn't the case. Don't get me wrong, the opening scene when the girls are sold and then separated was a dark scene (although predicable) the movie overall was perhaps, just as I mentioned, predictable. The attempt to create a period piece with character depth was there but it didn't work for me. The Hollywood ending was the clincher for me to feel that I could have written it!

I love films -- and love having good discussions afterwards ... but I just didn't feel inspired to comment or wonder ... the story just flowed. It was okay, but not great.

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Message from fisakson

Reza mentioned a film,”From Mao to Mozart ” that won the 1981 Academy award for the Best Documentary. He also mentions a second movie attached to this CD which shows the return of Stern to China some twenty years later.

Is this a film that I am able to rent at Blockbuster or Hollywood? It sounds very interesting and I would like to rent it for my personal viewing. Can you give some info as to where is the easiest place to find it and hopefully, find it on DVD not VHS?

Also, is this a film that is just for personal use or do you use it with the students? If it is used in class, how do you incorporate it into the curriculum?

I'll try bugging you in class tomorrow, too. If you can bring the film, that would be even better!

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Message from fisakson

jwchen wrote:
Please check out two different languages' (Chinese and Japanese)movie preview for Memoirs of a Geisha

http://www.sonypictures.com.tw/movie/geisha/
http://www.movies.co.jp/sayuri/

I checked the Japanese and Chinese previews of the movie. Very interesting. Here's one opinion:
Chinese: It appears to focus in the harshness that she endures to become a geisha. She must use manipulation to influence those around her and try to achieve being the best.
Japanese: This preview seems to focus on the love story. She is a little girl and sees a man that she must be with. She risks it all to be a geisha and eventually sacrifices all to try and be with him.
Am I talking about the same movie? I recomend others to go and check out the two movie previews. I would like to hear others interpretations. I have not seen the movie yet so obviously some of my assumptions from the previews are not completely accurate.

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Message from crieder

I know I saw The Last Emperor years ago, but since I am now so immersed in Asian culture, especially that of China, I decided to revisit this film. I viewed it with my sixth and seventh graders in mind considering how I might incorporate it in someway into our studies of China. Since the movie itself is three hours long I obviously will not be showing the fillm in its entirety. However, if you can wade through it there are several scenes which would visually enrich middle school children studying China.
The film by director Bernardo Bertolucci is the life saga of Emperor Pu Yi, the last emperor of China who is taken from his mother at the age of three to the Forbidden City where he lives like a prisoner until he is finally expelled, bescomes the puppet of the Japanese, is imprisoned by the Communists and finally dies a peasant gardener.
Particularly spectacular are the scenes which take place in the maze of the Forbidden City. Spectacularly filmed was the vastness of the city, the oppulence of the art, and the thousands of courtiers who served the emperor indulgling his ever whim. The scenes of daily life in this historical drama would give a middle school student the visual images needed to understand the great power of the emperor. The movie portrays how he was treated as a God and respected by his subjects. His food is tasted in an elaborate ritual to make sure he isn't poisoned, his servant is punished for his bad behavior (a concept to surely appeal to 12 year olds), and he is wealthy beyond belief. The film goes beyond scenes of daily life into much deeper political and social issues which might not be discussed with middlle schoolers but could be analyzed by high school students in a world history or government class.
Picking out the scenes to show students would be a lot easier with a DVD. I think showing clips of this film would be especially powerful in creating a visual image of the importance of the emperor in the lives of the Chinese people. Watching the film after appropriate instruction about the role of the emperor and his position in China would be a worthwhile use of time in my opinion.

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Message from crieder

I have always wanted to watch The Little Buddha, but have never taken the time. It surely is not a classic film, but in the eyes of middle school students it would be engaging. It is another film by the director, Bernardo Bertolucci who directed The Last Emperor which I also watched this week. The Little Buddha can not hold a candle to The Last Emperor for its dramatic appeal, but I think it would be worth showing some of the scenes when teaching about Buddhism. The film depicts the life of Siddhartha in his quest to find Enlightenment and the contmporary quest of Lama Nurbu who believes he has found the reincarnation of his former teacher in a Seattle child. The story unravels as the child learns about the teachings of Buddism. In classic Bertolucci style, the viewer is served a visual banquet. The cinamatography is beautiful, the costumes are suberb, and the acting is adequte. Tthough the plot is rather unelievable in part it will appeal to a 12 year old. The film could be shown in its entirety or just certain scenes could be shown. Some of this might even appeal to an elementary student.
The film may seem too simplistic to a Buddhist, but to the novice who does not know the story of Siddharha's life it can serve as a good introduction into Buddhist teachings. Buddha/Siddhartha who was a prince forsook courtly life and his family at age 30 and began fasting in a secluded way of life. There are four signs that lead to his inner struggle to search for a meaning to life. Once he sees suffering, he is changed and gains compassion. Eventually after observing the middle path, he reaches enlightenment under a bodhi tree. He then spends the next forty years known as the Buddha or the "awoken one" teaching others.

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Message from jwilliams

I too, saw Memoirs of a Geisha and absolutely loved it. Prior to seeing the movie I had not read the book and now I look forward to reading the original version of this fascinating story. I have read numerous reviews on the forum and have had alot of my lingering questions answered. I am still fascinated at the unique culture of a geisha as depicted by this hollywood film and continue to wonder if it is a somewhat realistic portrayal. I am attempting to compare the life of a geisha to life of young women in our western culture, and cannot seem to find a culture that exists within our society that is similar to that of a geisha.... which I find to be the best part of the story! I look forward to reading more reviews.

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Message from rrustamzadeh

I used to think that my wife was strange every time I found her watching Chinese or Korean movies in their original languages. Sometomes I would sit there and watch whatever she was watching just because I did not want to be selfish and ask her to change the channel. Did I understand any of it? Ofcourse not!

A while after starting the NCTA seminar, we purchased an internationa dish and receiver (The majority of channels are East Asian). Now I find myself doing what my wife used to do. The only difference is that instead of following the story and laughing or crying. I watch the details, like what they eat, how they do things, what the home decorations look like. what kind of cars are driven, and many other cultural and noncultural deatails. Now my wife is not strane to me because I'm doing the same thing she used to do. It is interesting, and it is all Clay's fault.

Try it. You will enjoy it too.

Reza

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Message from mhogan

Thank you for the correction on the director. For some reason, it gives more credibility to me that it was entirely created by a Chinese crew. I'm sure we could have a discussion iwhether my response is a good or bad thing

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