×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt

Based on a popular novel, Ann Hui's "The Postmodern Life of My Aunt" turns its affectionate gaze on a woman of humble origins from the provinces struggling to carve out a dignified life in the unaccommodating urban tangle of Shanghai, where seemingly everyone is focused on personal profit.

With:
Ye Rutang - Siqin Gaowa Pan Zhichang - Chow Yun-fat Mrs. Shui - Lisa Lu Jin Yonghua - Shi Ke Dafan - Vicky Zhao Wei Fei-fei - Wang Ziwen Kuan-kuan - Guan Wenshuo

The awkward intersection of traditional values with a modernized world has informed countless Chinese films of the past decade. Based on a popular novel, Ann Hui’s “The Postmodern Life of My Aunt” turns its affectionate gaze on a woman of humble origins from the provinces struggling to carve out a dignified life in the unaccommodating urban tangle of Shanghai, where seemingly everyone is focused on personal profit. Better when it acquires a melancholy strain than in the early, more comic action, the film’s warm humanism and Hui’s standing as a director should secure festival play, but its most receptive audience will be at home.

Ye Rutang (Mongolian thesp Siqin Gaowa) is an appealing central character: A woman in her 60s who came to Shanghai years earlier from remote Manchuria without a husband or family to lean on, she’s pragmatic, frugal and self-reliant. But her old-fashioned ways and trusting nature are an ill fit with the increasingly impersonalized world.

Ye loses a much-needed tutoring job because her standard British English is considered less desirable than American; her visiting nephew (Guan Wenshuo) fakes his own kidnapping to scam money from her; she takes pity on an unfortunate woman (Shi Ke) only to be shocked by her dishonesty; and she’s gently romanced by an amateur Chinese opera singer (Chow Yun-fat), a charming shyster who lures her into investing in a bogus scheme to buy and resell cemetery plots.

Hui and screenwriter Li Qiang have a knack for humorous observation, but the film rambles, the actors tending for too long to overplay the comedy and ignore the underlying poignancy.

It becomes more satisfying when, after Ye has endured financial ruin, emotional hurt, physical injury and guilt over her role in the sad fate of a gossipy neighbor (Lisa Lu), the action takes a more sorrowful turn as her hard-edged daughter (Vicky Zhao Wei) arrives, forcing Ye to confront her past.

The closing scenes in post-industrial Manchuria usher in a welcome, somber change of tone, the dusty streets and rundown buildings looking like a ghost town — a past marginalized almost to the point of eradication.

The contrasts between that setting and the sprawling city, its street markets side by side with upscale hotels and neon-fronted international franchises, are well harnessed by cinematographers Kwan Pun-leung and Yu Lik-wai.

Frequent Takeshi Kitano collaborator Joe Hisaishi’s melodic score embraces both the film’s playful spirit and its more emotional undercurrents.

The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt

China

Production: A Cheerland Entertainment Organization, Polybona Films production. Produced by Er Yong. Executive producer, Yuan Mei. Directed by Ann Hui. Screenplay, Li Qiang, based on the novel by Yan Yan.

Crew: Camera (color), Kwan Pun-leung, Yu Lik-wai; editor, Liao Ching-song; music, Joe Hisaishi; production designer, Wu Lizhong; sound (Dolby Digital), Tu Du-chih; assistant director, Q Dagang. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentation), Sept. 9, 2006. Running time: 113 MIN.

With: Ye Rutang - Siqin Gaowa Pan Zhichang - Chow Yun-fat Mrs. Shui - Lisa Lu Jin Yonghua - Shi Ke Dafan - Vicky Zhao Wei Fei-fei - Wang Ziwen Kuan-kuan - Guan Wenshuo

More Film

  • Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent

    Box Office: 'Men in Black: International' Ranks No. 1 Overseas With $74 Million

    Sony’s “Men in Black: International” is making good on its title, leading overseas box office charts with $74 million from 56 foreign territories. Combined with its disappointing $28 million start in North America, the latest chapter in the sci-fi action series debuted with $102.2 million globally. “Men in Black: International” sees “Thor: Ragnarok” co-stars Tessa [...]

  • Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent

    'Men in Black: International' Leads Box Office With Muted $28 Million

    Hollywood seems to be coming down with a contagious case of franchise fatigue this summer, as “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft” become the latest sequels largely dismissed by moviegoers in North America. Sony’s “Men in Black: International” led ticket sales at the box office this weekend with $28.5 million, but still fell short of [...]

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Festival Signs Double Deals With Shanghai

    The International Film Festival & Awards Macao on Sunday signed twin agreements with institutions in Shanghai. The IFFAM, which is building towards its fourth edition in December, struck a collaboration agreement with the Shanghai International Film Festival. Separately, it is solidifying an existing informal arrangement with the Shanghai Film Art Academy concerning an exchange of [...]

  • wanda Movie Metropolis Qingdao

    Why Simon West Is Making Movies in China (EXCLUSIVE)

    British director Simon West (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Con Air,” “The Expendables 2”) is set to dive further into the Middle Kingdom at the helm of his second Chinese action-adventure blockbuster. The Wanda-backed “The Legend Hunters,” hits theaters next summer. West was brought onto the project by veteran producer Eryong, who had approached him about [...]

  • The Eight Hundred

    Chinese Research Group May Have Caused Cancellation of 'The Eight Hundred' Premiere

    Chinese authorities may have abruptly yanked the $80 million patriotic war epic “The Eight Hundred” the day before its opening-night premiere at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival because it didn’t portray rivals of the ruling Communist Party in a sufficiently negative light, local reports said. Huayi Bros., which produced the film, had on Friday attributed [...]

  • Simon West

    Simon West Directing Chinese Tomb-Raid Movie 'Legend Hunters' (EXCLUSIVE)

    British director Simon West, who made the Angelina Jolie-starring “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” is now co-directing a Chinese tomb-raiding film. “The Legend Hunters” is the next installment in the “Mojin” universe, based on the popular fantasy novel series “Ghost Blows Out the Light.” Backed by Wanda Pictures and Beijing-based Saints Entertainment, the film is set [...]

  • Emu Runner

    Sydney Film Review: 'Emu Runner'

    Writer-director Imogen Thomas’ debut feature “Emu Runner” has and probably will play in designated family-themed strands of film festivals, and given its story of a 9-year-old Aboriginal girl who deals with grief in the wake of her mother’s death by bonding with a lone female representative of Australia’s largest native bird species, this programming strategy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content