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Time Out says
Tue Jun 13 2006After moving to Hong Kong from mainland China, former abortion doctor Mei (Bai Ling) has established a highly profitable black-market career selling dumplings from her small apartment in an ordinary housing block. Not just any dumplings, mind you: made with special stuff that Mei picks up on regular trips back over the border, these can halt or even reverse the ageing process – an irresistible proposition to former TV soap star Mrs Li (Miriam Yeung), already afraid of losing her looks and her husband (Tony Leung Ka Fai [the ‘other’ Tony Leung]). There’s just the small problem of what's actually in them…
‘Dumplings’ originated in the shocker compendium ‘Three… Extremes’, alongside work by Takashi Miike and Park Chan-Wook. Expanded to feature length, it remains a claustrophobic, queasy piece of work, relying less on supernatural horror, gross-out effects or even narrative suspense than on slowly curdling human relationships and heightened social realism. The womb-churning central premise is heavily signposted from the start but – a few deadpan cookery scenes notwithstanding – it’s used for satire rather than visceral exploitation: Mei’s cool-headed, border-hopping enterprise is a case study in market pragmatism, servicing the requirements of the HK vanity industry with the waste products of Chinese birth-control policy. Regular Wong Kar-Wai collaborator Chris Doyle’s photography offers a fine balance between shabby naturalism and improbable radiance while Bai Ling’s Mei is sexy, canny, flour-dusted and wise, but not quite real; Miriam Yeung’s Mrs Li is more plausible, vanity and compulsion gradually overtaking her initial revulsion. Like most elixir-of-youth fables, ‘Dumplings’ never seems actually credible and the plot baggily dissipates towards the end, but it leaves a lingering and distinctive aftertaste.
Author: Ben Walters
Fri Jun 16 2006