Pushing Hands | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Pushing Hands 

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The thematic concerns of Ang Lee's recent hits The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman--familial obligation, misunderstanding between generations, cultural displacement--are also evident in Pushing Hands, his 1992 feature debut. Played with remarkable depth and stoicism by Sihung Lung, a former Taiwanese matinee idol whose career Lee has helped resuscitate, Chu is a tai chi master who's left Beijing to live with his son's family in an upscale New York suburb. Unable to speak English and lonely and morose much of the time, he begins to get on the nerves of his non-Chinese daughter-in-law, a spoiled would-be novelist. What ensues is a poignant and at times comic tale of how Chu copes in a world whose values are drastically different from his own, and as usual with Lee, who wrote the script while still a grad student at NYU, corny moments abound. Chu finds refuge working as a dishwasher in Chinatown, but when he gets fired for ineptness he refuses to leave, using a tai chi move (hence the film's title) to remain stubbornly immobile and becoming a local celebrity for his passive resistance. Presaging Lee's future success with heartwarming yet bittersweet endings, the finale is worthy of Capra. On this project, which was funded by Taiwan's Central Motion Picture Studio, Lee assembled most of the creative team that has given his later efforts visual sleekness and acting pizzazz. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, July 22, 6:00; Sunday, July 23, 2:00; and Tuesday and Thursday, July 25 and 27, 6:00; 443-3737.

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