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姨媽的後現代生活 (2006)
The Postmodern Life of My Aunt

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 07/01/2008

Ann Hui's The Postmodern Life of My Aunt is a bittersweet look at growing old in Shanghai. The titular character, Ye (Siqin Gaowa), is a divorcee living by herself, with her only companion being Shui (Lisa Lu), a gossipy neighbor that she really doesn't like, but keeps a relationship with in order to save face. So when Ye's sister asks her to take care of her troubled nephew, Kuan (Guan Wen-Shou), Ye readily accepts.

Ye tries to make Kuan comfortable, but he soon runs away, and then goes so far as to hatch a kidnapping scheme. Distraught, Ye sends Kuan back to his mom, and, in her vulnerable state, is made into a mark by several con people, most notably the suave Pan (Chow Yun-Fat). After she is bled dry both financially and mentally by the con artists, Ye soon finds herself in the care of her daughter, Liu (Vicky Zhao), but their long-ongoing rocky relationship doesn't make an easy time of things.

The Postmodern Life of My Aunt is a bit of a strange picture. The above plot synopsis would lead you to think that this is a very depressing movie, and at many points it is. But there is also a extremely cheerful energy running throughout the film, brought to life mostly via Siqin Gaowa and Chow Yun-Fat's wonderful performances. Usually, when movies try to mix comedy and tragedy, the results are like the proverbial oil and water and come off as overwrought twaddle, but Ann Hui's smart direction lets both of the worlds co-exist off of each other in a solidly made symbiotic mix.

If there is fault to be leveled at The Postmodern Life of My Aunt, it would be the utter lack of any resolution by the end of the film. Of course, Hong Kong and Chinese movies are well-known for often not tying up everything and presenting an ending wrapped in a pretty package. But it did come off as more than a bit disappointing here, since the characters were so interesting -- it seemed a shame to leave the audience hanging. True, that sort of "lost" feeling was probably one of Hui's intents, and the ending (or lack thereof) doesn't ruin the film, but it would have been nice to see what eventually happened to Ye and her family.

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 08/11/2007
Summary: british english is more elegant...

mrs yu (siqin gaowa), is the aunt in question; a divorcee who left her husband in manchuria and moved to shanghai. auntie lives a simple life, but finds complications when she has a visit from her grandson, kuankuan (guan wen-shuo), when she becomes involved with the charismatic, yet morally suspect, pan zhichang (chow yun-fat) and, ultimately, when her daughter, liu dafan (vicky zhao), comes back in to her life.

the film swings between comedy, drama and tragedy as it tells the story of mrs yu, the life she is trying to make for herself and the one that she ends up with.

well, for a film that is directed by ann hui, written by li qiang, with cinematography by kwan pun-leung and nelson yu, a joe hisaishi soundtrack and stellar cast; expectations should be pretty high. it'd been a while since i digested this information and my expectations had been lowered by its lukewarm reception, so i'd pretty much forgotten the details when i picked it up last month. i remembered that i'd wanted to watch it, but i wasn't expecting anything particularly good...

i really enjoyed this film and was happy to discover that all involved had done a grand job. ann hui and li qiang create an interesting and original portrait of a woman who is trying to make a good stab at living her life, portrayed with warmth and gravitas by siqin gaowa, who gives a great central performance.

vicky zhao does well in a relatively small role, whilst chow yun-fat is perfect in his role and the decidedly questionable pan zhichang, suggesting that he could enjoy a fine renaissance in more character driven roles. meanwhile kwan pun-leung and nelson yu ensure that the film is quite beautiful to look at and joe hisaishi weaves his usual magic, with a nicely under-stated score.

good stuff, i'm surprised that a lot of people seem to have let this one slip past them...