SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN
MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
I am not Chinese. Nor am I a woman. So I suppose I’m not the best judge of a film like “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.” The story does not particularly interest me, and as beautifully shot as the film is, it’s not the kind of movie I’d really ever like.
The story follows two sets of Chinese girls. one takes place centuries ago, with two “sworn sisters,” bonded together with a secret pact. They support each other through the ups and downs of their village, dealing with harrowing traditions like foot-binding and arranged marriages. The same actresses play their descendents in modern-day Shanghai, similarly bonded together but facing much more modern challenges.
Even if I didn’t know “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” was based on a best-selling book, I could have guessed it. This relationship-that-transcends-generations is exactly what you’d expect from a housewife book club selection. That’s not to say this is a bad story; it’s just not of interest beyond that fan base. But more power to you if you love these stories. In fact, if you do, get your hands on this movie fast because you’ll adore it.
One of the big challenges of “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” is in its adaptation. Director Wayne Wang chose to produce this film in multiple languages, which adds to realism but can be difficult to follow as the viewer shifts from English listening to subtitle reading. Additionally, the choice to cast the same actors for both generations can be a bit confusing. On one hand, it keeps the relationship straight. On the other hand, it left me wondering if there was a certain spiritual level that showed the girls bonded together over different times.
It’s a well shot film with beautiful cinematography, though it does feel a bit too constrained at times. But as beautiful as it was, the story and characters failed to grab me.
The Blu-ray comes with a featurette called “The Sworn Sisterhood of the Secret Fan,” which interviews the author and other filmmakers, examining Chinese traditions that serve as the basis for the story.