On Our Screens:
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)

Film: Eat Drink Man Woman

Year: 1994

Country: Taiwan

Director: Ang Lee

Starring:  Fung Sihung, Yang Kuei-mei, Wu Chien-lien, and Sylvia Chang


Master Chef Chu Tao is about to announce important and shocking news to his three disinterested daughters, who are quietly complaining about their father’s dinner.

But when he is about to speak, his second daughter, Chu Jia-chien interrupts.  As a young, attractive and successful career woman, she deserves a home of her own.  So Jia-chien tells her father that she will soon move to a trendy apartment uptown.  The conversation stops.

In the next family gathering, the Master Chef’s youngest daughter, Chu Jia-ning declares that she is now to  live with her new “cutie” boyfriend.

Jia-ning, of course, does not say she steals this “cutie” boyfriend from her co-worker.  And the real reason for her rush to leave is that she is carrying cutie’s baby.  The family is obviously not ready for any more messages from Master Chef Chu.

In yet another family feast, a regular treat that Master Chef Chu ritually prepares for his daughters, the eldest child, Chu Jia-jen, a thirty-something spinster, pleas, in a desperate tone, that she must leave the family immediately to live with Chou Ming-dao, a sports teacher with whom she has recently fallen passionately in love.

Pre-marital pregnancy is not the issue here.  The problem is, as Jia-jen puts it, that Ming-dao “wants”, but as a Christian, she must keeps her vow of chastity, and cannot “give”.  A quick fix would be to get married.  And get married they quickly do, as they manage to wed the same afternoon before supper.

Chu Tao decides he must recapture the stage.  He summons his daughters and the newly acquired in-laws to the next gathering.  On this occasion, Chu foretells his guests that they are to come to receive his announcement: about himself.

And among the guests, Chu also invites Jin-rong, a divorced single mother, and Jin-rong’s witch-like mother.

The announcement will stir a boisterous commotion.

“Eat Drink Man Woman” is an old idiom from the Confucian classics, the Book of Rites, meaning that sexual pleasure is as primordial a desire as eating and drinking.

In his 1994 Taiwanese film of the same title, Director Ang Lee tells a light-hearted and exceedingly funny story about how Master Chef Chu Tao, who spends his whole career crafting gourmet dinners to satiate his gluttonous guests, but only manages to fill his bland sexual life with an enchanting relationship in the end.

“Eat Drink Man Woman” stars Fung Sihung as Chu Tao, Yang Kuei-mei as Chu Jia-jen, and Wu Chien-lien as Chu Jia-chien, with the versatile Sylvia Chang who plays Jin-rong.  The film is the second of Ang Lee’s so-called “Father Knows Best” trilogy, which includes “The Wedding Banquet” and “Pushing Hands”.


Rating (one to five whistles, five being the best): Three Whistles


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