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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Eat Drink Man Woman
Eat Drink Man Woman
MGM // Unrated // March 5, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 19, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

The kitchen is an amazing place. While modern chefs have bellowed for the audience to "kick it up another notch!", there is a basic awe and comfort to good food, prepared with care and attention to presentation. The kitchens in the better or best restaurants of the world are often not relaxed places, as they almost feature a dance of sorts, a group of people working to provide a good meal for tens or hundreds, while making snap decisions about ingredients and trying to provide the best possible service at the same time. Recent bestseller (and overall terrific read) "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bordain is an example of an honest, occasionally funny and often fascinating literary tour of the world of one particular chef.

Ang Lee's 1994 film is a cinematic tour and certainly, one of the best of the "food" genre. Recently remade as an almost equally enjoyable Mexican-themed film called "Tortilla Soup" (there are similarities between the 2 films), Lee's charming and entertaining film revolves around master chef Chu (Sihung Lung) and his family of three different daughters. In the kitchen, Chu is a genius, as shown wonderfully in one sequence that has him solving a crisis after stopping at different points throughout the kitchen to check in. Yet, while Chu is a genius in the kitchen, he isn't as skilled socially, having trouble keeping track of the troubles of three daughters, each one announcing a new crisis at the dinner table, the only place where the father can bring the family together anymore.

As with "Soup", we bounce back and forth between the stories of the three daughters as well as the life of the chef; there's really nothing that extraordinary about their lives in theory - all of them face troubles that other characters have faced in other movies. Yet, the acting in this film is exceptional, the characters are human and their emotions and actions are not dictated by plot and there are - just like in life - many surprises. Lee's method of cutting between the stories is remarkable, allowing the audience to be compelled by each of the character's stories and moving on to a fresh thread if, and only when, the current one has been realized in a satisfactory manner.

Personally, I love the way that food is shown such respect in this film. As I grow older, I've come to really realize the true beauty and art of food preparation. "Eat Drink Man Woman" not only realizes the delicate and comforting nature of good, fresh food prepared with care, but also the way that it can bring people together. Lee's film is not only beautiful (as someone who adores Chinese food, I was definitely hungry afterwards), but very involving, as the characters are well-realized and complex. This is definitely a film well-worth seeing for those who haven't already.


The DVD

VIDEO: Given that MGM's treatment of their independent/foreign titles ranges from good to dismal (see "Jean De Florette" or the recent "Angels and Insects" for examples), I was particularly interested to see how they would fare with Ang Lee's terrific early film. To my pleasant surprise, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen edition is quite an attractive one, with only a few minor faults. Sharpness and detail are not always remarkable, but at least the picture maintains a consistently crisp appearance, with no noticable softness or haziness. While some sequences play in dimly-lit or dark rooms, the amount of detail still visible is very nice.

After being displeased with the kind of condition that "Angels and Insects" (a film from the same year) was in, I was very pleased to see that print flaws are not an issue here. Aside from one or two very minor specks, the film retains a clean and smooth appearance, with no grain. If anything, I did notice some minor edge enhancement on an infrequent basis. This didn't become much of a distraction at all. No pixelation was seen, either.

Colors remained warm and rich throughout, appearing most impressive during the film's many food sequences, as the photography captured the vivid colors of the various meals well. Colors did not show smearing or other problems and flesh-tones remained accurate and natural. This is very, very nice work from MGM.

SOUND: The DVD contains a Mandarin Chinese 2.0 soundtrack that is perfectly fine. This is a dialogue-driven picture and, as such, the fact that the score, dialogue and occasional ambience were nicely balanced is satisfactory.

MENUS: Very basic film-themed images serve as backgrounds.

EXTRAS: A very interesting and enjoyable 15-minute interview with director Ang Lee and producer James Schamus is provided, as are the film's teaser and theatrical trailers. The interview is a newly recorded one that exclusive to the DVD. Although the commentary from Schamus and Lee on "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was a bit dissapointing at times, I would have liked to have heard their thoughts throughout this picture, but oh well.

Final Thoughts: "Eat Drink Man Woman" is a charming, beautifully photographed and highly entertaining comedy/drama that definitely shouldn't be seen on an empty stomach. While it would have been nice if MGM's DVD edition had more in the way of supplements, the DVD does have a very nice low price as well as good audio/video quality. A definite recommendation - and some may want to even have a double-feature with "Eat Drink" and "Tortilla Soup".
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