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Eat, Drink, Man, Woman

Even if it weren't a good movie, Eat, Drink, Man, Woman would still be a mouth-watering advertisement for Chinese food: The only way this film won't make you hungry is if you've gorged yourself on dim sum before you pop it in the DVD player. But happily, Ang Lee's 1994 family dramedy is as warm and insightful as it is tasty. Sihung Lung stars as Master Chu, a widowed chef who cooks an elaborate Sunday dinner every week for his three adult daughters (all of whom still live at home). There's Jia-Jen (Kuei-Mei Yang), a spinsterish chemistry teacher who's found God; Jia-Chien (Chien-lien Wu), a hard-working but frustrated airline executive who thinks living with her father is too stifling; and young Jia-Ning (Yu-Wen Wang), a student who stumbles upon love in the form of her friend's boyfriend. Each finds both solace and pain in her relatives, a true measure of how well Lee (who also co-wrote the script) taps into the authentic dynamics of family ties. Over the course of the movie, all three women stretch those ties to their breaking point, only to find them rebounding stronger than ever. Recently remade with a Latino twist as Tortilla Soup, Eat, Drink, Man, Woman ultimately is a stronger film because it portrays its characters authentically, relying more on acting and less on cinematic shortcuts to tell its story of love, life, and deeeelicious dinners. The actresses playing Chu's daughters make their characters' feelings and reactions utterly genuine, not capricious or feisty for the sake of feistiness (Chien-lien Wu and Kuei-Mei Yang give particularly strong performances). And Sihung Lung is wonderful as their emotional center; he's a doting father mystified at how to communicate with these three headstrong women who happen to be his children, as well as a master chef who's lost his ability to taste the elaborate dishes he concocts every day. But he, too, has his secrets, proving that age is no barrier to craving the basic necessities and desires of life: eat, drink, man, and woman. Foodies will delight over the crisp anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) on MGM's DVD, while the Dolby 2.0 audio track (in Mandarin) is clear. However, chances are that you'll be reading more than you're listening; English, French, and Spanish subtitles are available. Both the teaser and theatrical trailers are included, as well as a new 14-minute featurette entitled "A Feast for the Eyes: Ang Lee in Taipei," which is an engaging "making-of" interview featuring the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director and associate producer James Schamus. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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