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Jia-Qian, as a child, would follow her father and her uncle Wen around the restaurant they worked at, learning recipes and the methods of preparation. However, she resents her father for not allowing her to go to culinary school, or even cook in the family kitchen, because he would never accept a woman chef. Chinese cuisine has travelled to Taiwan for forty years. Although he is reassured by Wen that food is cooked through feelings and not through the taste buds, he is still further disillusioned due to his loss of taste.

In a way, his loss of taste also represents the growing alienation of his daughters from him and Chinese culture.

Eat Drink Man Woman

It is Jia-Qian especially who feels the most distant from her father, wishing to move out as soon as possible. She says that the family communicates through food; however, the daughters view the Sunday night dinner as a ritualistic obligation rather than a celebration, with large quantities of the food going uneaten, and having to be stored for later. Food is thus a metaphor for love and acceptance; when Jia-Qian is visibly upset over finding out that she is a victim of real estate fraud, Zhu quietly tells her that she may continue to live at his home, while handing her a piece of crab from the hot pot.

The acts of cooking, eating, and serving others are all constructed as acts of love. The divergent members of the group draw the meaning in their lives from their relationship to the parental figure at the head of the table p. All three daughters draw meaning from this ritual — despite wanting to be independent, they are all still closely connected to traditional values. They become comfortable in their individualism, coded to be a Western attribute, but are nevertheless shocked when Zhu decides to marry someone who is considerably younger than him.

The fixed meaning that Zhu represents is now untethered, quite literally so, as he plans on selling the ancestral home and moving in with Jin-Rong. None of the family members except Zhu are able to come, but they are all content in their own lives and their relationships with each other, showing that the ritual is not required to maintain familial bonds after all. Zhu and Jia-Qian clasp hands at the end, calling each other father and daughter, in a meaningful moment of vulnerability Figure Eat Drink Man Woman is a tale about family and preserving relationships that are in danger of being ceded to a capitalistic society where one must first be a labourer, and only then an emotional being.

The demands of modern life exist under this illusory system, where families are sold the idea of mechanical ritual as bonding. The coming apart of the ritual in the Zhu household does not undermine their relationships with each other, but instead strengthens them. Above all, the film is a story about the beauty of Chinese cuisine that acts as a system of signs, holding deep and meaningful connotations with its emphasis on balance and harmony.

While the visual impact of the food may be exotic for the non-Chinese spectator, it conjures nostalgia and desire for a Chinese or Taiwanese native. Keller, J. Food, film and culture: A genre study. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Laine, T. Family matters in Eat Drink Man Woman: Food envy, family longing, or intercultural knowledge through the senses?.

Staat Eds. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.


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Ma, S. Journal of Popular Culture , 30 1 , — Become a member. Sign in. This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. Show all Cannes Film Festival Directors' Fortnight. Locarno International Film Festival Independent Spirit Awards 6 nominations including: Best Feature. Ang Lee Director and Screenplay.


Lung Sihung Cast. Wang Yu-Wen Cast. Wu Chien-lien Cast. Yang Kuei-Mei Cast. James Schamus Screenplay.

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