Four Chefs and a Feast
I can’t cook a whit – boiling rice and heating
up some sauce to put on it is about the limit of my capabilities – but
I sure love cooking movies. Watching a master chef slice, dice, sizzle
and simmer can be as thrilling as any kung-fu film to me. Two of my favorite
films are Eat Drink Man Woman and The Chinese Feast. Though this film doesn’t
quite reach that standard, it mixes ingredients from both films to create
a warm, tender and humorous dish of a film.
The May Lung Chun restaurant has been in operation
in Shanghai for over fifty years and was judged once as one of the best
in the world. Now it is partly resting on its reputation; the spark and
creative energy a thing of the past. One day an elderly gentleman, Lee
(played by Sihung Lung, the father in Eat Drink) comes to dine and orders
“Four Happy Families” a dish that has not been made since the Victory Dinner
in 1945 – over fifty years in the past. The owner Chun (Kam Si-kit) attempts
to make it but the result is lackluster. Lee tells Chun that only the reuniting
of the May-Lung-and Chun families can restore the restaurant to its former
glory. So Chun sends for members of the other two families with an offer
to join him.
Lung (Jordan Chan) is the “Fish Ball King of Hong
Kong” and May (Wu Chien-lien) from Taiwan has just had her heart broken
by a bowl of warm sesame noodles. The three of them along with Lee come
together to try and recreate the lost dishes of the Victory Dinner for
a gala event. The relationships that develop between the four characters
is sweet and warm and their interplay generates a low key but consistently
The acting is terrific. It’s wonderful to see
Sihung Lung again. I enjoyed his performances so much in Eat Drink, Pushing
Hands and The Wedding Banquet – and being teamed up with his daughter in
Eat Drink, Wu Chien-lien, makes this a double treat. If you think that
Wu Chien-lien has one of the most glorious faces in the universe, you have
to see this film. She looks unbelievably lovely and the film treats us
to many ravishing close ups of all facets of her face. Her acting is near
perfect as she is able to convey so much with the subtlest change of expression.
In the end though this film is about a love for
food. At the beginning of the film Chun narrates that “Chinese love food.
All their decisions are made, issues settled and life events are made over
food. Sometimes food brings people together, other times it breaks them
apart”. Lee rhapsodizing about his love of food or Wu Chien-lien's eyes
lighting up when drinking Magnificent soup can bring tears to your eyes.
Damn, I’m getting hungry. I think its time for
some warm sesame noodles. I just hope no one’s heart gets broken.