Persistence of Besties in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Nina (Li Bingbing) is a Shanghai career girl who drops plans to move to New York when she learns her estranged bestie, Sophie (Gianna Jun), is in a coma. Soon Nina discovers the manuscript of a novel that Sophie had been writing, which turns their long-term friendship (cemented as teens dancing to contraband Faye Wong tapes, fractured by diverging adult choiceslike Sophies ostentatious romance with Hugh Jackman) into the tale of the lifelong bond between two 19th-century Chinese women, Lily and Snow Flower (also played by Li and Jun). In squeezing the raw material of Lisa Sees 2005 period novel through a partly contemporary frame, director Wayne Wang adds a charge of relevance to a story otherwise hinged on the dated traumas of foot binding and arranged marriages, playing up Chinas rapid modernization while effectively suggesting that the secret rituals of female friendship transcend generations. While the constant cross-cutting between past and present draws attention to the productions inconsistencies (in the olden days, people apparently made a lot of declarative expository statements like Now the typhoid epidemic is upon us; in the modern sections, the women speak in stilted English thats sometimes indecipherable), when Wang very occasionally allows the two periods to merge, its strangely provocative. As the parallel friendships evolve over time, both push and pull between platonic and erotic; its to the films credit that it never definitively suggests that love can only be one or the other.
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