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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wayne Wang's film adaptation of Yiyun Li's A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS

A Thousand Years Of Good Prayers

Caught a free screening of A THOUSAND YEAR OF GOOD PRAYERS in uni yesterday evening (a day before it opens in Japanese theaters, check out Kaori Shoji's review on Japan Times). Went because I read Yiyun Li's anthology of short stories of the same name just a couple of weeks earlier (which I really enjoyed).

I liked parts of it, but the rest, I had mixed feelings. The original source material's pretty sparse, so I did enjoy some things that director Wayne Wang had expanded upon from the short story, like Mr Shi's comedic interaction with other people (aside from his conversations with the Iranian lady at the park, I don't think his misadventures with the Mormons, and the shopping for his daughter's present, were in the original text), but not so much with the others (most notably the somewhat hopeful ending). Even so, I was a little distracted by how characters would, you know, say one line in Mandarin, and then conveniently translate it into English (...for the non-Chinese speaking audiences). Or during a fight, one suddenly shouts something in English, then repeats line again in Mandarin. Kinda took me out of the film.

Henry O's a good actor, and yeah, he won the Best Actor award at the San Sebastian Film Fest 2007 (film was also honoured with the Golden Shell Award, as in, Best Film). Yet I started wondering whether the film would have benefited from a lead actor who, ya know, really had limited command of English.

trailer of A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS (click here if cannot see embedded video)

Wayne Wang actually made a companion piece for this film called PRINCESS OF NEBRASKA in the same year, also an adaptation of Yiyun Li's short story of the same title, which was actually an inspiration of sorts for my last short film, the unreleased AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY. I liked the PRINCESS OF NEBRASKA short story more, so am still quite intrigued to check out its film adaptation. Think the only person I know who had seen both was Sebastian (who disliked both films, didn't like one much, and was somewhat indifferent to the other. Read his review).

Most reviews regarded this as the lesser film, and I think it seemed to take more creative liberties from the original text. Still intrigued. Will try to hunt this film now.

Princess of Nebraska trailer (click here if can't see embedded video player)

For the time being I'm going to continue watching the remaining 3.5 hours of Bela Tarr's 7-hour-film SATANTANGO (which I've been seeing on and off the past two weeks, not a recommended way to enjoy this film, I'll say)