WONG YI CHIAN (PHOENIX)

Assignment 2: Critical Review and Bibliography
18 April 2008
MED231 Australian Cinema
Garry Gillard

 

THE HOME SONG STORIES

(Australia / Singapore – 2007)

 

home-song-stories-poster-0.jpg

 

“How far do you have to journey to find home?”

MAIN CASTS

 

Joan Chen.jpg

JOAN CHEN                 …Rose

           

Chen is a talented actress who got the world’s attention with an amazing discovery story. She was discovered on the school rifle range by Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing. Chen soon secured her position as ‘the Elizabeth Taylor of China’ with her the film LITTLE FLOWER (1979) and HEARTS FOR THE MOTHERLAND (1979). At age 20, after moving to the United States, she starred in Bernardo Bertolucci's THE LAST EMPEROR (1987), HEAVEN AND EARTH (1993). She once again displayed her skill and talent in Stanley Swan’s RED ROSE WHITE ROSE (1994) and Ang Lee’s LUST, CAUTION (2007). She tried her hands on writing and directing her first film XIU XIU: THE SENT DOWN GIRL (1998) and then directed a Hollywood film AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (2000) starring Winona Ryder and Richard Gere. Regarding her character in the HOME SONG STORIES in an interview, she said:

            “It’s a great character to play. She's a drama queen. I don't want to lead her life but I did want to play her.”

Moving on, Chen has her hands full on filming THE LEAP YEARS (2008) and MAO’S LAST DANCERS (2010) among others.

 

[Source:                 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Chen

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/06/08/1181089322470.html]

 

Joel Lok2.jpg          

JOEL LOK                       …Tom

 

            This 13-year-old boy is a first time actor with a natural talent in acting as proved in the HOME SONG STORY. He even won the Inside Film (IF) Awards on Best Actor and came out as the youngest winner playing Little Tony Ayres, Tom. Lok then appeared in Australian Comedy Game-Show ‘Thank God You’re Here’.

 

[Source:                 http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2428319/

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/11/17/2093616.htm]

 

 

irene Chen.jpg

IRENE CHEN               …May

 

            At Seventeen this Melbourne based actress starred in her debut film the HOME SONG STORY. She was nominated in AFI Award, Young Actor’s Award and FCCA Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role as May. Chen, from early age developed an interest in acting by taking up speech and drama classes and participated in various school productions. Prior to the film, she appeared in an Australian Crime Reality TV show ‘Sensing Murder’ in 2004.

 

[Source:                 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irene_Chen

                                    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2428350/]

 

 

C:\Users\Phoenix Wong\Desktop\Qi Yu Wu.jpg

YU WU QI                      …Joe

           

Qi is a Singapore actor who was born in China. He starred in numerous tv series in China and Singapore before the HOME SONG STORIES and he was awarded many awards for his natural acting skills. In 2007, Qi starred in the film THE LEAP YEARS (2008) opposite Joan Chen again and he made a guest appearance in film PROTÉGÉ (2007), acting with Louis Khoo and Daniel Wu. His latest film PAINTED SKIN (2008) is set to release somewhere this year.

 

[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi_Yu_Wu]

 

 

Steven Vidler.JPG

STEVEN VIDLER      …Bill

 

            As an actor, writer and director himself, Vidler has years of experience in acting in television. His works include HOME AND AWAY (2007/2008), MCLEOD’S DAUGHTER (2006), SALEM’S LOT (2004), LOVE MY WAY (2006), THE LOST WORLD (2001), among others and before the HOME SONG STORIES, he starred in BAD EGGS (2003) and LENNIE CAHILL SHOOTS THROUGH (2003). His famous directorial films were BLOOD RUNNER (1991) and the critically acclaimed BLACKROCK (1997). His upcoming movie HOW TO CHANGE IN 9 WEEKS is set to release sometime in 2008.

 

[Source: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0896509/]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerry Walker.jpg

KERRY WALKER      …Norma

            Walker is no stranger to Australian with credible works under her belt such as THE GIRL WHO CAME LATE (1991), THE PIANO (1993), COSI (1996), ROAD TO NHILL (1997), HOLY SMOKE (1999), THE DISH (2000), MOULIN ROUGE (2001), SWAY (2002), PETER PAN (2003) and others. She also did many television series such as KICK (2007), GRASS ROOTS (2000) and AFTER THE BEEP (1996). Walker is also starring in the long awaited Baz Luhrman film AUSTRALIA (2008) alongside fellow Australian Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

 

[Source: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0907942/]

 

 

REST OF CAST

 

GABRIELLE CHAN        …Winnie

IVY MAK                             …Kim

PEARL TAN                       …Agnes

HAVEN SO                                     …Wing

DARREN YAP                …Adult Tom

ANNETTE SUN WAH    …Adult May

 

 

FILMMAKERS

 

Tony Ayres.jpg

DIRECTOR / WRITER:     Tony Ayres

 

Ayres directed his first feature film, WALKING ON WATER in 2001 and in 2006, Tony Ayres not only directed his second feature film THE HOME SONG STORIES but also wrote it. Previously, he wrote and directed a few documentaries and won multiple awards with the documentary SADNESS (1999). Ayres’ auteur ship seemed to be on social realism and especially on controversial issues such as homosexuals, race and sexuality as seen in DOUBLE TROUBLE (1992), CHINA DOLLS (1997), EXPOSED (1997) and HOME SONG STORIES (2007). He loves to explore the immigrant and minorities issues in this country such as homosexuality and race. For instance, Double Trouble is about the minorities among the minorities – gay people among Asian. Tony is also one of Australia’s most sought after script editors, having edited numerous feature films including MALLBOY (2001), SOFT FRUIT (1999), and WALKING ON WATER (2002). After THE HOME SONG STORY, Ayres’ company, Big and Little Films Pty Ltd produced WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BRENDA HEAN (2008) that is set to premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2008. The story explores on Brenda Hean – one of the first leaders of an environmental political party in the world – whose fight to save Tasmania’s Lake Pedder lead to her mysterious disappearance in 1972.

 

Source: http://bigandlittlefilms.com/about-us/tony-ayres

 

michael_headshot.jpg

PRODUCER:     Michael McMohan

 

Michael McMahon has produced several award winning documentaries and short dramas including the AFI award winning SADNESS (1999), the AFI award winning THOMSON OF ARNHEM LAND (2000) and WILDNESS (2003) which won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Sydney International Film Festival, Best Documentary in the 2003 AFI Awards, Best Documentary in the 2003 IF Awards and the Best Documentary (Science and the Environment) at the 2004 ATOM Awards. He executive produced MAN MADE - THE STORY OF TWO MEN AND A BABY (2003) which was nominated for a 2004 Logie for Most Outstanding Documentary. In 2005 Michael produced CALL ME MUM, a feature length telemovie for SBS Television, and Executive Produced THE LAST VALLEY, a one hour documentary for ABC Television. THE HOME SONG STORIES (2006), which he produced with Liz Watts of Porchlight Films, is his first feature film.

 

Source: http://bigandlittlefilms.com/about-us/michael-mcmahon

 

 

 

 

LWatts_list.jpg

PRODUCER:                 Liz Watts

 

            Before the HOME SONG STORY, Tony Ayres’ first feature film WALKING ON WATER (2002). She also produced ONE THAT GOT AWAY (1997), PITCH (1998), ISLAND STYLE (1999) , HELP ME (1999), BURIED COUNTRY (2000), DELIVERY DAY (2001), MARTHA’S NEW COAT (2003), JEW BOY (2005) and LITTLE FISH (2005). She was also the executive producer assistant for various television series such as SPELLBINDER (1995), THE GUNPOWDER PLOT (1995), BREAKOUT (1995), HOSPITALITY (1995), LOST AND FOUND (1995) and THE BIG BANG (1995).

 

[Source: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0915192/]

 

 

Nigel Bluck.gif

CINEMATOGRAPHER:    Nigel Bluck

 

            Bluck’s first feature film was STICKMAN (2001) and went on working in LIKE MINDS (2006), NIWEMANG (2006) and THE HOME SONG STORY (2007). He was involved in some major films as the director of photography for THE LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001), THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWER (2002), THE LORD OF THE RING: RETURN OF THE KING (2003) and wilb be working with Kerry Walker again in AUSTRALIA (2008).

 

[Source: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0089458/]

 

 

Melinda and Cappi Ireland.jpg

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Melinda Doring (left)

COSTIME DESIGN:          Cappi Ireland (right)

 

            Doring has designed for FLOWERGIRL (1999), DELIVERY DAY (2001), WHAT GROWN-UPS KNOW (2004), SOMERSAULT (2004), JEWBOY (2005) and THE SILENCE (2005). Apart from production design, Doring also did costume design for a few prominent films such as WALKING ON WATER (2002), LITTLE FISH (2005), SUBURBAN MAYHEM (2006) and in charge for Wardrobe and Costume department for BENEATH CLOUDS (2002) and MOULIN ROUGE (2001). Her upcoming work will be $9.99 set to release in 2008 and she is now working on another film TRIANGLE (2009).

            Ireland on the other first designed for the television series SMALL TALES & TRUE (1998) before trying her hands on major films. Her previous works include SO CLOSE TO HOME (2003), STRANDED (2005), MAN-THING (2005), FOOTY LEGENDS (2006) AND SEPTEMBER (2007). She was also in the Costume and Wardrobe department for YOLNGU BOY (2001), THE NIGHT WE CALLED IT A DAY (2003), DANNY DECKCHAIR (2003), KILL BILL: VOL 1 (2003), KILL BILL: VOL 2 (2004) and LITTLE FISH (2005). The only Production design she did was HALF WINDSOR (2007). She has just completed the film THE TENDER HOOK (2008).

 

[Source:                 Doring – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0233694/

Ireland – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1172352/]

 

 

 

REST OF CREW

 

ORIGINAL MUSIC            …Anthony Partos

FILM EDITING                  …Denise Haratzis

CASTING                            …Anousha Zarkesh

SET DECORATION          …Glen W. Johnson

SOUND                               …Craig Carter, John Wilkinson, James

Harvey & Andrew Neil

 

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL INFO

 

RELEASE DATE:             23 August 2007 (Australia)
ALSO SCREENED AT:
Country                     Date
Germany                     9 February 2007 (Berlin International Film Festival)
Australia                    24 February 2007 (Adelaide Film Festival)
France                         16 May 2007 (Cannes Film Market)
Australia                     9 June 2007 (Sydney International Film Festival)
New Zealand               17 July 2007 (New Zealand International Film Festival)
Australia                     4 August 2007 (Melbourne International Film Festival)
Philippines                  8 August 2007 (Cinemanila International Film Festival)
Australia                     23 August 2007
UK                               23 August 2007 (Edinburgh Film Festival)
Singapore                    6 September 2007
Canada                        12 September 2007 (Toronto Film Festival)
Canada                        21 September 2007 (Calgary Film Festival)
USA                             9 January 2008 (Palm Springs International Film
Festival)
Belgium                       14 May 2008
 
GENRE: Drama, coming-of-age
KEYWORDS: Immigrant / Chinese in Australia
LANGUAGE: English / Mandarin / Cantonese

CLASSIFICATION: M (Australia)

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

PRODUCTION COMPANIES:

DISTRIBUTORS:

SPECIAL EFFECTS:

OTHER COMPANIES:

BUDGET: $ 84,330*

EARNING: $371,000^

GAUGE: 35mm (Anamorphic)

SALES & DISTRIBUTION: Fortissimo Film Sales (World), Dendy Films (Australasia)

 

[Source:               http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0452631/companycredits

*http://afc.gov.au/funding/approvals.aspx?view=results&keyword=home+song+stories&area=all&type=Film+Development&start_month=&start_year=&end_month=&end_year=

^http://blogs.smh.com.au/sit/archives/2007/12/tribalmovies.html]

AWARDS:

 

Best Feature Film

Nominated

 

Best Director Tony Ayres

Won

 

Best Actor Joel Lok

Won

2007

Best Actress Joan Chen

Won

Inside Film Awards

Best Cinematography Nigel Bluck

Won

 

Best Music Anthony Partos

Nominated

 

Best Script Tony Ayres

Nominated

 

Best Production Design Melinda Doring

Won

 

Best Sound Craig Carter, John Wilkinson, James Harvey & Andrew Neil

Nominated

 

 

L'Oréal Paris AFI Award for Best Film

Nominated

 

L'Oréal Paris AFI Young Actor Award Joel Lok

Nominated

 

L'Oréal Paris AFI Young Actor Award Irene Chen

Nominated

2007

Macquarie Private Health AFI Award for Best Screenplay Tony Ayres

Won

Australian Film

Best Direction Tony Ayres

Won

Institute Awards

Best Lead Actor Qi Yu Wu

Nominated

 

Best Lead Actress Joan Chen

Won

 

Best Supporting Actress Irene Chen

Nominated

 

Best Cinematography Nigel Bluck

Won

 

Best Editing Dennis Haratzis

Won

 

Best Sound Craig Carter, John Wilkinson, James Harvey & Andrew Neil

Nominated

 

Best Original Music Score Anthony Partos

Won

 

Best Production Design Melinda Doring

Won

 

Best Costume Design Cappi Ireland

Won

 

 

Best Feature Film

Nominated

 

Best Leading Actress Joan Chen

Won

2007

Best Supporting Actor Joel Lok

Nominated

Golden Horse Awards

Best New Performer Joel Lok

Nominated

 

Best Original Screenplay Tony Ayres

Won

 

Best Art Direction Melinda Doring

Nominated

 

Best Makeup & Costume Design Kirsten Veysey & Cappi Ireland

Nominated

 

2007 Asia Pacific Screen Awards

Best performance by an Actrress Joan Chen

Nominated

 

Brisbane International Film Festival

FIPRESCI International Jury Award

Won

 

Hawaii International Film Festival

Halekulani Golden Orchid for Best Feature Film

Won

 

Torino International Film Festival

Best Actress Joan Chen

Won

 

 

2007 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards

Script Writing Award

Won

 

[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Home_Song_Stories]

Further readings: http://www.if.com.au/PR/View.aspx?newsid=528

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF INTERVIEWS

 

TONY AYRES

 

Interview: Tony Ayres, Director of The Home Song Stories

Interviewed by Tim Millfull for M/C Reviews (text)

22 August 2007

[http://reviews.media-culture.org.au/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2193]

 

Disobeying conventions

Interviewed by Andrew L. Urban for Urban Cinefile (text)

23 August 2007

[http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=13428&s=Interviews]

 

The Home Song Stories Interview

Interviewed by Margaret Pomeranz for At The Movies, ABC TV (video & text)

[http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1996201.htm]

 

 

JOAN CHEN

 

Joan Chen films closes festival

Interviewed by G. Gellen Johnson for San Francisco Chronicles (text)

9 March 2008

[http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/09/PKI4V9FLM.DTL&type=movies]

 

Chen finds resonance in tale

Interviewed by Garry Maddox for The Sydney Morning Herald (text)

9 June 2007

[http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/06/08/1181089322470.html]

 

The Home Song Stories Interview

Interviewed by Margaret Pomeranz for At The Movies, ABC TV (video & text)

[http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1996201.htm]

 

 

 

 

 

 

YUWU QI

 

The Home Song Stories: Qi Yu Wu & his stories to tell

Interviewed by Zhiwei for Youth.Sg (text)

24 August 2007

[http://www.youth.sg/content/view/3196/28/]

 

 

 

NOTES:

In the DVD of their film there are Special Features that includes Interview with the director Tony Ayres, producer Liz Watts, actress Joan Chen, Irene Chen and Kerry Walker, actor Joel Lok, Yu Wu Qi and Steve Vidler, costume designer Cappi Ireland, production designer Melinda Doring and make-up artist Kirsten Veysey. It also has the Making of, deleted scenes, screen tests with Joel Lok and Irene Chen and different trailers.

I would really recommend watching it because it explains the movie in great details allowing the audience to know where it came from and what does it which to achieve. Also, the screen tests showed how far the two little actors have come in achieving the final product and the deleted scenes answers certain question that left unsaid in the film such as Uncle Joe’s life after that and how deep was the affection May and Joe has for each other.

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF REVIEWS

 

 

RICHARD KUIPERS

Variety

9 Feb 2007

[http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=festivals&jump=review&id=2478&reviewid=VE1117932728&cs=1]

 

SANDRA HALL

The Sydney Morning Herald

18 August 2007

[http://www.smh.com.au/news/film-reviews/the-home-song-stories/2007/08/17/1186857747075.html]

 

JULIE RIGG

ABC Radio National

23 August 2007

[http://www.abc.net.au/rn/movietime/stories/2007/2013535.htm]

 

 

 

JAKE WILSON

The Age

23 August 2007

[http://www.theage.com.au/news/film-reviews/the-home-song-stories/2007/08/23/1187462400423.html]

 

JUDITH HATTON

City Search Canberra

August 2007

[http://canberra.citysearch.com.au/film/viewContent/1119945819575/1137511032489]

 

BENTLEY SMITH

Superciliciousness

9 September 2007

[http://superciliousness.com/movies/2007/9/9/the-home-song-stories-2007.html]

 

ANDREW L. URBAN

Urban Cinefile

Updated 17 April 2008

[http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=13419&s=Reviews]

 

 

 

LOUISE KELLER

Urban Cinefile

Updated 17 April 2008

[http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=13419&s=Reviews]

 

NATHAN HOBBY

2 September 2007

[http://nathanhobby.wordpress.com/2007/09/02/film-review-home-song-stories/]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONLINE PRESENCE

 

This movie has a decent collection of websites. A basic search in any search engine should lead you to its main website which is temporary unavailable, but there are other sites to look on for the film, cast and crew’s information. However, this film is too new to be found in any books or journals which are unfortunate.

 

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

http://www.homesongstories.com/

 

 

 

GENERAL SITES

 

Š      WIKIPEDIA

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Home_Song_Stories

Š      THE INTERNET MOVIE DATACASE

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0452631/

Š      AUSTRALIAN FILM COMMISSION

http://afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes07/feature_218.aspx

Š      BIG & LITTL FILMS PTY LTD

http://bigandlittlefilms.com/

 

OTHER INTERESTING SITES

(Should really check it out, it adds the authenticity of this film.)

 

‘Home Song Stories Wins $15,000 Script Prize’

Andrew L. Urban

June 2007

[http://sydney.citysearch.com.au/film/viewContent/1119945819575/1137498594831]

 

Summary of Record Information

Sue Ayres (Rose)

[http://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/details.php?id=FC00004118]

 

Summary of Record Information

William Ayres (Bill)

[http://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/details.php?id=FC00005994]

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASES

 

‘The Home Song Stories wins FIPRESCI Awards’

Released from Dendy Films

13 Aug 2007

[http://www.if.com.au/PR/View.aspx?newsid=225]

 

‘The Home Song Stories is announced as Australia’s official entry for nomination consideration for Best Foreign Language Film at the 80th Annual Academy Awards®’

Released from Avviso PR for the AFC

19 Oct 2007

[http://www.if.com.au/PR/View.aspx?newsid=443]

 

‘Home Song scores at Golden Horse and Hawaii Int. Film Festival’

Released from Film Victoria

9 Nov 2007.

 

[http://www.if.com.au/PR/View.aspx?newsid=512]

‘Joan Chen wins Best Actress Award for The Home Song Stories at the Turin International Film Festival’

Release from Big & Little Films

5 Dec 2007.

 

[http://www.if.com.au/PR/View.aspx?newsid=583]

 

 

‘Australian successes at Asian Oscar’

Release from Big & Little Films

10 Dec 2007.

[http://www.if.com.au/PR/View.aspx?newsid=595]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CRITICAL REVIEW

 

PLOT

        

            This is a true story of the director/writer’s mother Rose, a glamorous Shanghainese nightclub singer, who married an Australian sailor, Bill, and migrated to Melbourne in the 1970s. After a week, she left him and had a string of men looking for a place called home with her young two children, Tom and May. After 7 years, Bill welcomes Rose back into his house but unbeknownst to Rose, his mother, Norma is living there too. Bill left for the Navy and Rose soon started an affair with a younger man, Joe, a chef at the local Chinese restaurant. Norma found out and kicked them all out of the house. Unable to bear the huge burden and responsibility for being the bread-winner of a family, Joe resents the family and leaves only to cause Rose to commits suicide. Joe returns and things start to perk up but Joe starts to develop an interest for May. Suspecting Joe and May of having an affair, Rose snapped and slapped May causing her he commits suicide in the bathroom. Both mother and daughter reconcile after that and they return to Bill. However, by then the relationships between mother and daughter, mother and son has been severely damaged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

 

            The story opens with a man (Darren Yap) typing his life story stating ‘If everyone has one story that defines them, which shapes who they are, then this is mine.”

            The year was 1964, his mother Rose (Joan Chen), a very elegant and glamorous looking, was singing in a nightclub in Hong Kong. Among the audience, there was a Navy, Bill Ayres (Steve Vidler), who fell in love with her and offered her a better life in his home, Australia. Rose, along with her two young children, May (Irene Chen) and Tom (Joel Lok) migrated to Melbourne and married Bill. She was happy, youthful, and hopeful with dreams of searching the perfect home for her family therefore after 7 days of marriage, Rose and her children left.

            For the next 7 years, she hopped from one man to another hoping that the next one will be better than the previous ones. It is apparent that Rose is straining and is coming to the end of the hope she had when she first arrived as none of her plans go accordingly.

In 1971, Rose and her children return to the warm and forgiving arms of Bill who was clearly still smitten with Rose. And that is the year where all their lives changes. However, he failed to inform her beforehand that his mother is living with him but he promised her that things will be sorted out and wants to provide her a good and stable life. Although reluctant, Rose stayed but Bill left the next day for Navy, leaving little money. Here we are able to see the first sign of Rose’s despair, depressed and violent behavior.

Watching all that, an observant Tom sees things that he felt were not right yet do not understand why. He resorts to reading the whole encyclopedia in hope he will “know” and understand everything. He subconscious thinking led him to dream that he is a martial art expert like, the comic he reads and fights of his enemy – Norma.

After Bill’s departure, Rose strut the Melbourne suburb street in her tight-fitting blue cheongsam and into a local Chinese restaurant, looking out of place but demanding attention at her every glide. There she met a young chef, Joe (Yu Wu Qi) and begins to flirt with him and soon started an affair with him. She even brought him back into Bill’s house, introducing him to Norma (Kerry Walker), Bill’s mother, as her an aunt’s son. But they were kicked out of the house after Norma found them in bed together.

Rose, Joe, Tom and May then moved into a shabby neighbourhood where Tom expressed his dislike for Joe and questioned his mother’s actions. Rose comforts little Tom that from then on everything will be okay. Unfortunately, things started to turn sour when Joe felt he got more than he bargained for. The burden and responsibility as the bread-winner of the family was evidently too much for him and slowly he retreats from Rose by staying out late playing mahjong with his co-workers but soon, he leaves.

His departure was too much for Rose to bear that she commits suicide. Fortunately, Tom found her just in time and she was sent to the hospital. After this incident, Rose realized that the children is all that she has and promised never to allow the same incident to happen again. They returned home to find Joe waiting for them, willing to work things out. He appeared to have turned over a new leaf by getting involved in family matters and helping out. But the peace did not last long.

Rose may have healed physically, but mentally and emotionally she was broken. She walked down the same street, only this time without the same air of confidence and beauty, with no make-up, no heels, modest and conservative clothing. She was ashamed of her state and plunged deeper into depression as she stared at her face in the mirror unbelieving what she sees and tries to apply make-up.

Matter at home got worse when Joe seemed to have taken an interest in May by giving her guitar lessons alone in her room. May, a growing young woman, starts to dress nicely and at the banquet, compliments were given to May for her prettiness. Rose sensed something amiss after Joe and May display some playful affection. Reaching home, Rose accused Joe of having an affair with someone and they fought. After Joe left, Rose vent her anger on May, yelling and slapping May for stealing her man. May runs into the bathroom, locked herself in and commits suicide but was found in time by Joe and, was sent to the hospital.

At the same time, Rose plunged deeper into depression and lies on the bed all day not caring if Tom has food or not. Tom visits May in hospital and expresses his hatred for their mother. When he got home, his attitude was indifferent towards Rose although sensing something is not right by playing cards. But he dialed for an ambulance in the end.

After hearing that her mother was vacated in the same hospital as she, May visited Rose and they reconcile. Rose revealed that she was not always like that and told May of her life when she was younger and her meeting with May’s father. The incident brought both mother and daughter closer than before thus May was unwilling to risk it all when Joe ask her to leave with him to start anew somewhere else.

Bill came after being contacted by the social service and was heartbroken at the Rose’s state and asks her to go back with him. She agreed and as things start to look better for Tom who has made a friend, Rose ruined it by appearing in a filthy dressing gown exposing her chest, looking haggard. It embarrassed Tom and he was made a laughing stock when his friends insult his mother. He puts on a brave face and walked into the toilet to cry.

Back at home, Bill left once again for the Navy and Rose is making new plans. This time, she decided to go back to Hong Kong as her previous boss told her she could have her job back. Tom snapped at his mother, shouting that he hates her, wishes she was dead and to go back to Hong Kong by herself. He stormed into his room, followed closely by his mother trying to comfort him and promise that this time she will right the wrong. Tom has another dream, this time he dreams of flying off to the outer space.

Waking up from his sleep in the middle of the night, Tom found his mother hanged herself. Both Tom and May were frantic trying to bring their mother down while sobbing and yelling. Rose passed away a few days later and May blamed Tom for wanting Rose dead. Tom sat on the bed, dazed, and telling himself that he should cry but he could not. After that, Bill retired from the Navy to take care of Tom and May but died unexpectedly of a heart attack 3 years later.

Moving forward, the adult Tom tells that he writes this story about his mother over and over again, trying to understand the complex woman that haunts him until today, to forgive and to love.

 

PERSONAL COMMENT

 

            This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever watched. Maybe it is due to the fact that the story is a real life event (director/writer Tony Ayres’ childhood) that gives it even more character and feeling. After the movie ended, it leaves a tight knot in my throat and chest but it is not the kind of feeling where I want to brawl but rather, think about a lot of things. As an immigrant who is illiterate in both Chinese and English, surviving in the suburb of Melbourne where Asians were so foreign, it must have been very difficult for Rose. Also, she seemed to believe that when a woman gets old, she is like 3 legged dog – useless and unwanted. Perhaps that is why her beauty is very important to her, almost as if her sanity depends on it. She is a very insecure woman due to the events that took place in her life that leaves her without stability. Although Bill seemed to want to provide her that, he was not there long enough to prove to her. Like all women, she only wanted to attention and care and searches for it at all the wrong places. Also, the last suicide of Rose somehow indicates the same notion May’s father had when he committed suicide too. They both wanted to leave so that they can bring freedom and happiness to the person or people they love and care most. Though the method may be unaccepted but their objective is for the “better for the world” or so they thought. May’s father, Wen Xuan, knew he was burdening Rose and chose to end his life in hope Rose will not suffer while Rose ended hers because she knew she had to set things right. I believe she felt that she was spinning out of control and have to do something before she brings more tragedy to her children.

One of the beauties of the film is that it is very real and honest. It is not overly melodrama to make audience sympathize or pity the characters but rather understand that it is a fact, that life is like that because just like in real life, a person would not understand and know everything that happens around him or her about everyone. Sometimes, there are just no answers to some questions. My favourite part of the film is when Tom cries in the toilet. He tried so hard to make the tears go away because he hated the tears and hated his mother and the world even more. Also, the design team did not set the background too dramatic in hope of giving the seventies feel by putting too much retro props. But rather, mixing and matching many generations together and it comes across as a down-to-earth. As mentioned, it gives a very real feeling making one feel nostalgic of one’s past.

 

CRITICAL UPTAKE

 

            The Home Song Stories had difficulty gaining popularity in the mainstream compared to other fellow Australian films that is similar to it such as CLUBLAND (2007) and ROMULUS, MY FATHER (2007). Clubland scored $1.4 million and Romulus, My father hit $2.5 million ticket sales as compared to the Home Song Stories’ $371,000. Although low in ticket sales, this film secured itself as a critics’ favourite and received many great reviews from newspapers, articles and blogs especially on Joan Chen and Joel Lok’s acting. It is also an international art film with its multiple winning (20 wins & 21 nominations) at the AFI Awards, IF Awards, Golden Horse Awards and many more.

PRODUCTION

 

            Prior to this film, the director/writer Tony Ayres has been writing and telling the story about his mother for a long time. In 1996, he wrote a version of it as a television drama called Ghost Story, as part of the ABC series Naked. [1]

            Originally, the film was set to view as an adult’s point of view but the Ayres felt that:

(…) I couldn’t go into the adult’s story at the end of the film. It felt like we were going into another film, so I had to cut that part of it out. For me, it was always important to frame the story as an adult trying to remember his childhood, and through excavating those memories come to an understanding of someone who is essentially unknowable. [2]

Also, Ayres said that he had to change the names of the character because he did not want to be confused as the character especially when people speak to him and also to focus as his role as a director better. [3]

The story is very close to real events except for some details changes such as moving the background from Perth to Melbourne. The seemed that Screenwest did not have enough money to fund the movie beyond filming and Arts Victoria stepped in with some money on the condition that the shooting has to be based in Melbourne. [4] It would have been a great collection for Western Australia if it could have been filmed here.

 

Source:

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/rn/movietime/stories/2007/2013535.htm

[2] http://reviews.media-culture.org.au/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2193

[3] http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=13428&s=Interviews

[4] http://nathanhobby.wordpress.com/2007/09/02/film-review-home-song-stories/

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN FILM – CONTEXT AND GENRE

 

            This film is classified as a coming-of-age genre film but I personally felt there is an overlap with the genre social realism. Coming-of-age is about the young character matures or learned something in front of the eyes of the camera and social realism is about issues related to the society such as racism, homosexuality, family tragedy, environmental and interpersonal relationship. In this film I felt that it has elements on both the genres and in fact, a little of autobiography.

            Although the movie is told through the eyes of a little boy, it focused more on his mother’s ups and downs. As it is well known, this story is an actual event of the writer/director’s childhood. He wrote this story in hope of understanding one of the most important women in his life. She was too complex as a person for him to understand and is way out of league for him to reach when he was younger and he now seeks the answer from the film he made. Despite the “late effect”, this film does fit into the bill of a coming-of-age film because the writer/director did gain something from the events that happened even though it may be well 20 or 30 years after that.

            Furthermore, as Kerry Walker said in the interview in the film’s DVD, Australians are the descendants of immigrants and there are many of the similar problems out there, just that people do not regard it as a problem because it happens every day and everywhere and to every family. Also, almost all coming-of-age films focus on the child’s survivor or through his or her point-of-view regarding its family and its surrounding. But in reality, there is no correct definition of a ‘normal’ family because every family is “dysfunctional” in one way or another. Every family is different in its own peculiar and weird way as it has its own set of pattern to run on. It is almost impossible to get a Brady bunch kind of family. And in Tony Ayres’ interview, he related his mother’s experience and others of the same background:

“…a result of generations of damage. What’s extraordinary is that it’s not just her mother and my mother and how she affected my sister, but I’ve heard so many stories since making the film of Chinese mothers and their daughters who have had this recurring theme of Chinese women migrants who have been frustrated with their life, who felt that they made such huge sacrifices for their children. Then they vent their anger upon their daughters, and it’s like I know that story time and time again, and the number of women who come up to me after various screenings we’ve had around the world and say, “You know, my mother wasn’t as crazy as that, but that was my mother. My mother had those issues!” [1]

In the film, Australia’s rock and roll music were played in the house’s radio and in the car’s radio. It was even used as a medium to connect people as seen in Joe and May. Despite the film centralizing around the Chinese community in the film, it is indeed a true Australian film as this story will not be the same it were taken place at another country. It reflects the country, the people of Australia towards Asian or Chinese in the seventies. The Chinese were still foreign to the whites and they see them as exotic creatures just as how Bill regards Rose. Tony Ayres mentioned in an interview that:

“... (the) environment is a player in shaping what happens in the story. For a woman like Rose to come to Australia in that time—actually, the story was [originally] set in Perth, and Perth in 1971 was even more ‘white’ and isolated place than Melbourne was. That added a level of pressure and contributed to the madness and compulsiveness that led my mother to her multiple suicide attempts.” [1]

In addition to that, the development of friendship between two different races at that time was scarce and difficult as shown with Tom’s difficulties in making friends. It is almost similar to the relationship that the whites and the aborigines share.

Besides that, the market horizons of this film showed that this type of movie holds little value to the Australian cinema as it is not commercialized enough. The ending was not a typical Hollywood one because if it is, it would have a happy ending with Rose picking up her life and living happily ever after. As Tony said in the same interview:

If I had done the Hollywood ending, it would have been a total act of forgiveness. For me, it didn’t feel truthful. As an adult, Tom wants to feel, to reach out and find her again. For myriad reasons, that’s what he wants. For me, that was more poignant, more moving than to have the more sentimental resolution. That’s also my taste as a filmmaker. If I was a different kind of filmmaker, I would have made it more resolved—I’d probably be having a Hollywood career by now!” [2]

 

Source:

[1] & [2] http://reviews.media-culture.org.au/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2193

 

 

 

 

 

 

红颜薄命

~ A Great Beauty has a sad and short life. ~

 

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