Chinese Take-Away

90 mins
Comedy, Dark comedy, Drama
★★★★★ ★★★★★ by 1 User
In the opening scene of this Argentinean comedy, a cow drops out of the sky and kills a young woman on a rowboat just as her lover is about to propose marriage. It's a gag straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but somehow writer-director Sebastian Borensztein manages to enlarge the movie's scope beyond the narrow parameters of farce. The irascible owner of a Buenos Aires hardware store (Ricardo Darin of The Secret in Their Eyes) grudgingly takes in a lost and confused Chinese tourist who speaks no Spanish but has a local street address tattooed on his arm. Both men are haunted by traumatic pasts, and the fact that this story element works at all says a great deal about Darin's magnetic presence and the breadth of Borensztein's black humor. In subtitled Spanish and purposely unsubtitled Mandarin.

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This first line of this review is exactly the kind of information I like from a movie critic, revealing key plot points in detail, to ensure that there is zero surprise or delight in the moviegoing experience. Thanks!

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Posted by Alan Mangers on 04/23/2012 at 5:23 PM
★★★★★ ★★★★★

“Chinese Take Away” (“Un cuento chino”) by Ivette Fred-Rivera
“Chinese Take Away” (“Un cuento chino” in Spanish) is a comedy written and directed by Sebastián Borensztein, and winner of the international awards of Best Film by the public at the Festival in Rome and Best Latin American Film at the Goya Awards, both in 2011. It is the third time that excellent Argentinian actor Ricardo Darín stars in a film of Borensztein, the other two, Oscar winning "The secret in their eyes" and Oscar nominated "The Son of the Bride".
The title in Spanish is curious because a Chinese story means a story improbable, incredible, I hink because it's a place so far away, that we cannot believe, how do we know if China exist?
The film opens in Fucheng, China, in Hebei province —we can enjoy the already well-known beauty of the Chinese landscape— when a Chinese man, Jun (Ignacio Huang), takes his girlfriend on a boat trip on a picturesque lake surrounded by mountains to propose to her when a cow falls from the sky, killing Jun's girlfriend. Ironically, what falls from the sky is usually a sign of good luck in Latin America.
A reverse shot makes the transition to hardware "De Cesare" in Buenos Aires, Argentina because it is going around the world. In the beginning, Roberto (Ricardo Darín) shows that theft is a string, a trader sells him fewer screws per box and he sells his client less per pound. But as Mari (Muriel Santa Ana) explains, Roberto, although suffered, is noble. A chance encounter in the street prompts Roberto to help Jun. Roberto sees Jun being expelled from a taxi after being robbed while he was watching the landing of airplanes in the airport. The toy plane flying inside of Roberto’s car takes him to China.
It is the story of Roberto and Jun brought together in Buenos Aires where Jun goes in search of his only living relative. For the Chinese, even in the diaspora, the family is sacred, as it is stipulated by Confucianism ancient texts. Jun insists on finding his uncle to start a new life after his tragedy. Both Jun and Roberto are orphans, but Jun has insisted that his tapo (uncle) is his family.
Though Roberto's life is totally dominated by repetition, he is fascinated with coincidence. Roberto collects quirky news from around the world and permutes the characters with the people he knows in his imagination, taking revenge on their enemies as Dante did in the “Divine Comedy”.
Through the stylish Chinese food delivery guy – looking like the Chinese youth dressed in the cities in China, very modern —who serves as a translator, Roberto explains to Jun that life is absurd, does not have any sense, and shows the news he had collected, including one about some men stealing cows in China with a plane and how a group of peasants follows and shoots the plane in flight, the plane’s back door is opened, and two cows are dropped, one of them killing a girlfriend in a boat, who happens to be Jun’s, as the translator then explains to Roberto. On the other hand, for Jun, everything in life has meaning. It all makes sense. The absurd is for those who can’t understand meaning.
Very touching the drawing Jun makes for Roberto before he departs to meet his tapo with a frontal cow head on the wall that he had repaired and cleaned. He is an artist who worked painting toys in China. Jun draw it with what was left of a pencil that Roberto discarded. The Chinese are very resourceful people, indeed. No waste, the most hardworking people in the world.
I liked the film very much because it is a proof of the universality of body language. In China itself, being so vast, there are several languages in the different regions, that’s why Jun is not understood by the Chinese he met in Chinatown. However, when he talks on the phone with his uncle in Chinese, we understand perfectly what he is saying because of the depiction of emotion. Language is really a matter of our genuine interest to understand each Other. I have just returned from China, I can assure you that.
By Ivette Fred-Rivera

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Posted by Ivette Fred on 07/28/2012 at 1:43 PM
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