Sunday, September 18, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

A beautifully made movie set in Shanghai and based on Lisa See's 1995 novel. It tells the story of two seven-year-old girls, Snow Flower (Gianna Yun) and Lily (Bingbing Li) who on the 19th century are matched as laotong ("old sames") , and bound together for eternity. Furtively they communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language (nu shu), between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina (Bingbing Li) and Sophia (Gianna Yun), struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. Just as Snowflower and Lily faced footbinding, so too Nina and Sophia contend with the constraints of modern life. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever. Rather slow and complicated to follow but a joy to watch.

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