Year of the Fish (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:53 PM
It’s Cinderella in New York’s Chinatown. But this Cinderella isn’t a daughter-in-law put to work for the evil stepsisters, she’s a immigrant from China that refused to do the usual work at a “massage” parlor, thus she was forced to do all the cleaning and cooking. Add to this a unique visual effect also found in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, and this is a shoe-in for the “most indie film ever” award. Also, the fair godmother isn’t as much a nurturing figure as she is a creepy old witch that runs a sweatshop. Besides the intriguing visuals only, possible through painting over top of what was filmed, The Year of the Fish has a wonderful soundtrack created from within the film. The romantic interest is a professional accordion player, and his music becomes the music of the modern fairy tale. Just as the melody sung by Mercedes becomes the theme of Pan’s Labyrinth, the accordion consumes each scene’s mood and is then elevated when the full orchestra builds on what the accordion began. Unfortunately, this film does play on many stereotypes. All the Asian characters fall into the normal categories of bitch, slut, and innocent/ignorant/weak. While it may be argued that the leading lady defies these stereotypes because she is stronger, she begins from this stereotype and is really only elevated with the help of another man. And the conclusion does not defy the system of oppression that allowed Asian immigrants to be imprisoned in places like a “massage” parlor. It actually makes light of the system. However, it might be more appropriate to say that the film does not try to answer the question of oppression, but simply states that amidst such tragic circumstances people can still find love and happiness.

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