snow-flower-and-the-secret-fan-movie-photo A spin-off from the sci-fi anime television series, “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” reintroduces its primary characters against a landscape that appears to be the American West in outer space. Based on the original story line created by Naito Yasuhiro, this English subtitled adaptation features a menacing, muscular man with the unlikely name of Gasback — pronounced Gah-su-bah-ku in Japanese.

A big man with big shoulders, big coat, big hat and big guns, Gasback is a professional criminal along with his sleazy cohorts. In this episode, several bounty hunters are hired by the mayor of Macca City to stop them from overtaking the town, especially its “plant” and a gigantic light bulb.

Vash the Stampede, aka The Humanoid Typhoon, employs an interesting brand of air-headed pacifism to hinder Gasback’s carnage — which is plentiful. Two women insurance agents, Meryl Stryfe and whiny-voiced Milly Thompson, follow Vash around to assess the damage claims he triggers.

Then, there’s Wolfwood. Loyal to Gasback because he once rescued him from dying in the desert, Wolfwood sports ubiquitous dark shades, a dangling cigarette and spiky hair; all proof of his cool. Further, he’s a priest bearing a giant cross on his back that doubles as a gun.

Then, there’s beautiful and bodacious Amelia, a fierce fighter not opposed to battling men, all of whom she’s physically allergic to. Of course, that only angers the thugs among them, and they resort to calling her the b-word while attempting to rape her.

Directed by Nishimura Satoshi, Trigun has a built-in following of loyal fans. But while the characters are quirky, the story is predictable even with its theme of Japanese space cowboys.

Meanwhile, in 19th century Hunan Province, two 7 year-olds named Snow Flower and Lily are matched as “laotong”, or sisters for life. Besides sharing the same birth date, they also have in common their bleeding and broken toes bound tightly to cripple them into being more desirable marriage partners for some future men of importance. Provided a secret language (nu shu), they’re able to communicate with each other by writing letters on a silk fan throughout their mostly miserable lives.

Based on the novel by Lisa See, “Snow Flower” is directed by Wayne Wang who also directed ”Joy Luck Club”. At the risk of labeling it the “Asian Color Purple”, it’s safe to state that all the men in the film are portrayed as callous, coldhearted and cruel. And, like in “The Color Purple”, two bright and capable women attempt to stay bonded through writing letters.

For Snow Flower, it’s a reverse of fortune that plunges her from wealth to marrying a lowly butcher. And, while Lily’s folks are poor, her precious tiny feet eventually land her a rich merchant.

Through their disappointments at giving birth initially to daughters and not sons, to enduring typhoid fever and the Taiping Rebellion, to the death of a child that Snow Flower is blamed and beaten for, it’s a wonder these women found the will to survive. But they did, and their descendants Nina (Li Bing Bing) and Sophia (Gianna Jun) end up becoming laotong in modern-day Shanghai.

It’s Nina and Sophia’s story that introduces the idea of lifelong sisterhood, but theirs is not nearly as interesting as Snow Flower and Lily’s, told simultaneously.

The two actresses portraying both sets of characters are amazing and Gianna Jun’s accented Mandarin is explained by disclosing that Snow Flower, like Jun herself, originally came from Korea.

With a sweeping orchestral soundtrack, dazzling period costumes, hairstyles and make-up, astounding set designs, and acting beyond reproach, the scenes shot in old China are mesmerizing. But the women speaking stilted English while living liberated lives under the bright neon lights of Shanghai don’t quite convey the same sense of urgency about being laotong. Would two highly independent career women with influential boyfriends (Hugh Jackman is one) really feel the need to lean on each other as did their helpless counterparts of another century?

Wendi Deng (Mrs. Rupert Murdoch) is a co-producer through her company Big Feet Productions. Despite her reputation as a “gold digger”, she has helped unfold a woman’s fan to reveal some important truths of sisterhood hidden inside.

“Trigun: Badlands Rumble” opens Friday, July 29 for a weekly run at Grand Illusion Cinema, 1403 NE 50th St., Seattle. “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” opened in Seattle on Friday, July 22, 2011.

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