Ask any horror fan and they’ll tell you that the only sub-genre making quality horror nowadays is J-Horror which includes filmmakers from Ch...
J-Horror Takes it to Three Extremes
Fruit Chan’s Dumplings is delectable short film sure to peak the taste buds. An elite housewife and former actress, Mrs. Lee seeks out Aunt Mei, a woman reported to make the best dumplings in town. What makes her dumplings so special is their ability to preserve a woman’s youth. Aunt Mei calls herself “[her] own best advertisement” as she is sixty four years old, but doesn’t look a day over thirty five. Mrs. Lee is in the market for such a product in the hopes that it will revive her failing marriage. It might seem easy enough, but the secret ingredients that give the dumplings their power are the aborted fetuses of human children.
In this sense the film reverses the typical mores of the mother-child relationship and is built on the following premise: If most women give up their youth and beauty to raise offspring, might it stand to reason that some of that youth and beauty can be recaptured through the devouring that offspring? It’s a shuddering thought and one that Mrs. Lee accepts upon Aunt Mei’s urging not to “think about what it is, only the result.”
The result is a split between the two activities of eating and food preparation. There is literal veil between Aunt Mei’s dining room, where she serves her customers and the kitchen where she makes the dumplings. It is when Mrs. Lee crosses this veil that she becomes disgusted by what she is actually eating, but the lure of beauty is too much to resist and she returns for another taste. It seems that in Dumplings just because you want a hamburger, that doesn’t mean you want to meet the cow.
As a short film I felt the development of Dumplings was stunted and it didn’t fully explore several of these compelling themes that would have flourished in a longer film. Imagine my satisfaction when I discovered the full length feature of Dumplings conveniently included in the two disc special edition of Three Extremes.
The two films have different endings and the longer feature takes more time to explore Mrs. Lee’s addiction to the dumplings and we get more of the husband, including a sexual encounter between Mr. Lee and Aunt Mei. As for the endings, in the short film Mrs. Lee discovers she’s pregnant, thanks to all the fetuses she’s been eating, and her hunger drives her to carry out a self abortion in her bathtub with a metal spike. The film ends with Mrs. Lee licking the blood from her lips in a grotesque motion.
In the longer version things are a little more complicated, and instead of devouring her own child, Mrs. Lee pays for the mistress of her husband to get an abortion. The mistress is five months pregnant with a boy and the ending satisfies both Mrs. Lee’s hunger and her desire for revenge against an unfaithful husband. As a whole, both films explore J-Horror's preoccupation with women who rebel against their traditional roles which leads to a break down of the family. Aunt Mei, who performs an abortion to get rid of a child of incest and Mrs. Lee who eats her husband's child are two prime examples.
Up Next: Chan-Wook Park’s Cut and Takashi Miike's Box
About author: Monster Scholar
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