Friday, July 03, 2015

"Shun Lee and the Poet", a film

We watched this mostly low key and gentle film last night and enjoyed it thoroughly.  It fit us.  The film is set in an island fishing village near Venice, a city of experienced dreams, and is the story of a Chinese immigrant working in a Chinese owned osteria to pay for her passage out of  China and to arrange for the eventual possibility of having her 8 year old son in China join her.  The film has subtitles and the languages used are of course Italian and Mandarin.

Because K's eyesight has trouble with sub-titles, I read parts of them to her, and while somewhat diminished she has more understanding of Mandarin than she acknowledges, both literally and intuitively.  She likes to hear the language and that kept her engaged for the entire film even though it was definitely not action packed.

The film was first released in 2011 or early 2012, and won recognition at several European film festivals.  Tao Zhao, who played Shun Li, won best actress at a prominent Italian film awards event.

The basic story is one of fitting into a role in an Italian village without in any way getting too friendly or involved with any of the Italians whose sensitivity and, among a few, some small town prejudice that could lead them to misinterpret the Chinese residents' intentions.  Shun Li becomes platonic friends with a regular customer, an aging retired fisherman who is nicknamed the "Poet".  They are both lonely and isolated and they enjoy chatting when possible in the osteria and infrequently meeting at public places in the small town to talk and console one another.  They even take a ride in his antiquated fishing boat, an action which ignites unfounded rumors.

Through a town bully's miserable behavior this eventually ends badly, but that leads to one of the village's few quietly well off residents who witnessed what happened to anonymously pay off her debt to the ubiquitously predatory snakeheads and have her son as ransom successfully brought to her safely and legally. That is surely a happy ending.

While there are only brief glimpses of Venice during an unusual one day off visit by Shun Lee, the filming of the coastal village is charming in its own right.


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