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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan | 2011 | PG-13 | - 5.5.2

In 19th-century China, two young girls (Gianna Jun and Li Bingbing), like many of their contemporaries, suffer crushed and broken bones during foot-binding to maintain their tiny feet, as they learn how to please their future husbands. During their lives they are allowed one female bond-friend, and may correspond with her through secret messages written along the staves of a Chinese fan that moves back and forth between them. These messages are the only relief in a world of objectification, cruelty and enslavement. A contemporary young woman (Gianna Jun) and her friend (Li Bingbing) decide to find out what it was like. Also with Hugh Jackman, Vivian Wu and Archie Kao. Directed by Wayne Wang. In English and in Chinese with English subtitles. [1:35]

SEX/NUDITY 5 - From an upper room, we briefly see through a hole in the floor a husband thrusting with his wife under him: we see his bare shoulders and back, and hear grunts and groans from both.
 A new groom kisses his new wife's (both are clothed) tiny bound foot as she pulls away in horror and the scene ends. In a nightclub scene, a male singer brings his girlfriend to the stage where they kiss for a prolonged time in an embrace, while he places his hand on her buttock. A man and a woman kiss briefly in several scenes.
 An engaged 19th-century woman asks a girlfriend about sex and the second woman says, "It cannot be as bad as embroidery and cleaning." A woman says that husbands show their love through physical abuse in bed and by hitting them other times. We hear that a woman miscarried her boyfriend's baby, left the man and disguised herself as a man in order to visit a male bathhouse; we briefly see her from the nose up only in a large sunken tub of water. We hear that Chinese women with the tiniest bound feet are the sexiest and find the best husbands via matchmakers. We hear that when a Chinese woman has a daughter for her first child, she must keep trying until she has at least one son.
 One party scene includes 3-4 women in sleeveless, V-necked dresses that reveal some cleavage. An art gallery features several large, plastic figures of faceless, fat, nude bright-yellow females; no details are shown.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - Two little Chinese girls in a 19th-century home are forced to sit still while an older adult breaks the bones in their feet, folds the feet in half at the arch, and binds them with bandages; we hear crunching and see some binding completed as the girls cry and their mothers yell at them, and the mothers grab the girls up from the chairs and push them around the room to walk on the damaged feet.
 Chinese rebels attack another Chinese village with screams and the sounds of horses as people grab their children, a few possessions and cows, and crowd down a pathway out of town; we see two families hide in ruins, an abusive husband arrives at the ruins and finds his 3-year-old son dead in the snow, he pushes his wife hard against a wall and we hear punching and screaming (we later see the woman crying and with bruises and cuts around her eye and cheek).
 A twenty-something woman on a bicycle is hit off screen by a taxi; we hear a crash and see only blurry lights against darkness, we see the woman covered in bandages head to chest, breathing with a huge oxygen mask, and attached to a blood transfusion bag and a beeping machine in a hospital.
 We see an adult woman remove a tiny shoe to reveal her foot bleeding slightly through bindings. Typhoid fever infects a Chinese village and we hear that many people die; we see a body carried out of a building and it is wrapped in a heavy quilt, we see and hear a woman scream over a dead baby and we see a dog sniffing around the body of a dead man.
 A woman lies dying on a pallet in a home; her friend arrives, lies beside her, and waits as she dies silently after they both shed tears. A woman lies down in a hospital bed next to her injured friend and waits for her to awaken from a coma; the injured woman is shown with her face bruised and cut over the cheeks (she awakens). We see two funerals; one in Old China and one during modern times, and the walls in both are covered in black cloth with incense burning and the wives of the dead husbands crying.
 A stepmother argues with her stepdaughter and the daughter's girlfriend several times. A woman argues with her husband over money and he throws knick-knacks across the room. A young woman argues with her parents about money and her mother says that the daughter will ruin the family unless she gets a high-paying job. We hear that a man died and left his wife penniless. We hear about the funeral of a woman that died of an unknown illness.
 Throughout the film, we see two girls stumble every time they walk after they feet have been bound; they hold on to female servants and use canes.


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LANGUAGE 2 - Name-calling (silly, disobedient, nobody, no-good), stereotypical references to girls, women, marriage, having male babies, money, businessmen, foot-binding, stepmothers, 1 religious exclamation.


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SUBSTANCE USE - An old man lies on a small couch and smokes opium with a vacant look in his eyes and we hear that he ruined his family and lost their fortune. Several restaurant and nightclub scenes show glasses of wine on tables and people sipping from them, and a restaurant scene depicts two women in dim light dancing together and drinking shots of liquor and later drinking glasses of vodka (they are shown intoxicated and they stumble slightly).


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Culture-based cruelty, traditional rituals, abusive husbands and mothers, traditions, arranged marriages, money, duty, family, business, friendship, loss, sadness, reconciliation.

MESSAGE - Strong friendships are very important in life and help ease the pain.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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