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Food is, for all its beauty, essentially fleeting — and plants nearly equally so. While food plants can be described and discussed, they cannot be captured. Yet the visual media, even without the capacity to convey taste, can remarkably evoke the pleasures and problems of eating, at the same time locating food practices within cultural and historical contexts. Below we review some films which succeed in bringing the table to the screen.

Red Sorghum
Zhang Yimou's first film, adapted from Mo Yan's novel, an excruciating and beautiful book, permeated with sorghum, that builds to an eloquent statement about our modern situation. One of the greatest novelists of our time, Mo Yan's later turns his attention to another monocot in the Garlic Ballads, and explores culinary excesses in the Republic of Wine. Rather that abbreviate the entire novel, Zhang Yimou has used only the first part for the film, but the film works as a complete, contained narrative.

Beijing Rocks
Although this film gives scant attention to food, it is notable for a small song which actress Shu Qi sings:
煮 豆 燃 豆 萁 zhŭ dòu rán dòu qí Beans are frying in a beanstalk fire
豆 在 釜 中 泣 dòu zài fŭ zhōng qì Out from the pan the beans sadly cry:
本 是 同 根 生 bĕn shì tóng gēn shēng We sprang from the same root, brother
相 煎 何 太 急? xiāng jiān hé tài jí Why do you give me such a hard time?

Grass Radicals | P.O. Box 62223 | Honolulu, HI 96839
Revised 6 Jun 2005