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Lillian Lee author of Dumplings

o Raised Chinese films from something schlocky to more respectable cinema


Cannibalism in Chinese culture
o Tang Period herbalist Chen Tsang-chi published popular medical text that suggested
human flesh could be used for medicinal purposes
o So children would cut off pieces of their flesh and feed them to ailing parents, but it had
to be voluntary.
Appearance of characters in Dumplings
o Mrs. Li is nervous; always dressed in upscale clothes. Fidgety.
o Aunt Mei is always dressed in casual, skintight clothing; messy and uncontrived. Relaxed
and natural.
o Set as opposites to each other.
Mrs. Lis transformation
o Why did she abort her baby?
It would have given her leverage over her husband, since hes a powerful
capitalist who wants an heir.
But this would have been a sign of growing old.
Also, it could have been for revenge on her husband.
Its a choice between the two forms of feminine power.
o Becomes less fidgety over time; eating of fetuses less off-putting to her.
Economic system as killer and weapon
o Free-market capitalism causes both men and women to be concerned with their
exchange value
In the longer version, Mr. Li eats partially fertilised eggs because theyre
believed to increase their virility.
o In longer version, Aunt Mei says to Mrs. Li, You may be rich, but Im free.
Existing on the edges of the free market (i.e. the black market), her fortunes are
not tied to a man.
o As a result, no sisterhood possible to rebel against the system.
Example of Mrs. Lis friends making catty comments about her newfound youth
when shes just outside the room.
Aunt Mei isnt actually concerned about Mrs. Lis welfare in any way.
o In longer version, Aunt Mei was successful gynecologist in mainland, but had to start
from the bottom again in Hong Kong.
Terrible place in Dumplings
o Aunt Mei goes to Shenzhen, a Special Economic Zone, to get her fetuses
o Aunt Mei lives in Kowloon public housing; Mrs. Li in a third space a hotel
o Hong Kong itself is a Special Administrative Region which has never been fully
independent or autonomous, and has changed hands several times over the course of
history.

Park Chan-wook is part of post-political mode of New Korean Cinema


o Melodramatic mode (moral legibility), social realism absorbed by ironic imagination to
create some distance between what youre seeing and feeling.
o Characters espousing class/political ideology are masking ulterior motives or limited to
deranged, hypocritical or otherwise meaningless actions.
Clues something is amiss
o Why would you have your film set be the exact same thing as your home?
o The vampiress looks like his wife.
o The image of his wife in the directors mind is nice; not at all like he describes her in real
life.
o When the camera pans around, the extras body is nowhere to be seen.
o Why would the extras son want to take revenge?
o Possible interpretation: All in directors mind? His own private morality play?

Miikes interpretation of Box


o Entire film is dream except for last 5 min.
o Their dreams express desire to live separate lives.
o Early scene where he talks about not being able to type and being left-handed can be
seen as foreshadowing.
o Box is metaphor for their claustrophobic situation. Fire is desire to be split from other
half.
Alternatively, tale of sexual abuse
o Shoko is metaphor for guilt of sexual abuse Shoko is still 10 years old.
o OR Shoko was sexually abused and Kyoko carries around the memory of 10 year old
Kyoko being abused.

Common Asian elements


o Planimetric images flat, seen from the front, as in the Box stage scene.