May 27, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 19 New release examines Chinese generational issues by Dennis Seuling Director Wayne Wang (“The Joy Luck Club”) has the ability to elicit touching performances from his actors in stories about family relationships, cultural and generational differences, and the conflict between family devotion and independence. Two of his films, based on short stories by Yiyun Li, look at new Chinese émigrés to the United States and their desire to assimilate at the expense of traditional ties. The films are available as separate DVDs or as a double feature from Magnolia Home Entertainment. “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” begins slowly. Yilan (Feihong Yu), a woman in her early forties, has moved from China to Spokane, Washington, to start a new life. She works as a librarian at Gonzaga University. Her father, Mr. Shi (Henry O), a retired Chinese scientist, makes the journey to visit her, but she leaves him at her condo and rushes off to the American life she wants to hide from him. The film picks up as Mr. Shi, managing to make the acquaintance of several local people through broken English and body language, reveals how his life was altered dramatically by China’s cultural revolution. He and his daughter have made mistakes in the past, but their difficulty communicating eventually leads to greater understanding and empathy. This is a small film with strong characters and very good performances. In “The Princess of Nebraska,” a Chinaborn 18-year-old finds herself four months pregnant and interrupts her studies to travel from Nebraska to San Francisco to decide what to do. Her journey provides a revealing look at a young woman growing up under the new economic prosperity of China over the last two decades. Both films provide solid character studies of Chinese women who have moved from mainland China to study, work, and create a new life. Each film covers three generations: the elderly, who have endured a lifetime of social and political upheaval in post-World War II China; their children, who grew up after the death of Mao Zedong and during the era in which making money was almost religiously embraced; and the youths brought up with little sense of tradition or history, concerned with instant gratification. Extras on the double-feature DVD include interviews with the actors, a photo gallery, and a featurette on a day in the life of young Chinese women. “Falling Down” (Warner Home Video) is an unusual film with a terrific opening scene. On a sweltering day in Los Angeles, Bill Foster (Michael Douglas), caught in a traffic jam with a broken air-conditioner, abandons his car and walks into the city, calmly engaging in a series of violent acts Yilan (Feihong Yu) and her father, Mr. Shi (Henry O) attempt to reconcile generational and cultural differences in ‘A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.’ against innocent individuals, many of them minorities. He has been laid off from his defense plant job after many years of loyal service and is having difficulty accepting a separation from his wife (Barbara Hershey). Director Joel Schumacher never makes clear whether Foster has just snapped or is a closet sociopath waiting for the right moment to lash out at a world that seems to have it in for him. Douglas is good in a role that is the antithesis of his Gordon Gekko from “Wall Street.” It is hard to sympathize with him since initially he is an enigma, an averageseeming guy whose spate of violence belies his mild-mannered demeanor. 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