Book Reviews · DVD Reviews

Chinese New Year Reviews

Book review – Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang (BOOK ZONE 951.05)

wild swansWild Swans is a history of Jung Chang’s family through three generations, through the lives of Jung Chang’s grandmother, her mother and herself.

First she tells the story of her grandmother who became a concubine to a high-ranking General and lived a life of luxury but also isolation. Second is the story of her mother, the daughter of the General who joined the Communist Party of China as it rose to power and met her future husband while serving in Mao Zedong’s Red Army. Finally, Jung Chang writes her own autobiography, against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao Zedong’s violent and oppressive regime.

Wild Swans is a fascinating insight into the history of China during its most turbulent century through the lives of real people who experienced it and in some cases suffered for it. The three generations show the movement from traditional Chinese culture (Jung Chang’s grandmother) through the rise of the Communist Party and Mao’s attempts to dismantle the traditional structures of China, to his eventual death.

Jung Chang does not try to give too much context for the events, which means the story never gets bogged down in details and dates, but still helps the reader understand the events that have created modern China. A wonderful (and true!) family saga which humanises major shifts in a country’s culture and politics.

From the filmy perspective…

Celebrating Ang Lee, one of China’s greatest film directors. 

Ang-Lee-3D-Life-of-PiAng Lee was born in Chaochou, Pingtung, Taiwan, in 1954. He attended university in the American state of Illinois where he became friends with Spike Lee, director of Old Boy, and met his future wife.  His films Shades of the Lake and Fine Line were made while he was still a student and both of which won respectable awards. He submitted a screenplay called Pushing Hands to a competition in Taiwan which he won resulting in Pushing Hands becoming his début feature film in 1991.

The reputation garnered by these three dramas brought him to the attention of Hollywood and he was asked to direct Sense and Sensibility for Columbia TriStar. His transition from Taiwanese cinema to English language was smooth and unfaltering of his ever growing talent. Since then Lee has gone on to direct some of cinema’s greatest works including Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi.  The variety of films which Lee has made over his impressive career so far are so varied. He will take on novel adaptations, original screenplays, historic events, fantasy tales and comic book characters and each time will produce a fantastic piece of work. Each of which pay tribute to the talent he possesses. His most recent accolade Life of Pi earned him the Best Director Academy Award at last year’s ceremony, which will sit amongst his previous Director win for Brokeback Mountain and Best Foreign Language film win for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

1024x1024 life of pi 13Ang Lee is not one to jump on any old project, his filmography spans thirty years and during that time he has only directed 13 feature length films. He will choose his next subject carefully and even turned down an opportunity to direct Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. He isn’t working on anything at the moment, I’m sure he is taking a well-deserved rest and polishing up the latest addition to his Oscar family.

“You can’t move forward without changing, and that’s why I try to stay open to new perspectives. I want to keep learning. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can never learn enough.” – Ang Lee

Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Lust, Caution are all available to borrow in the DVD ZONE in the Information Store.

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