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'Long Life' has a sweet sincerity

May 01, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

The 19th edition of Visual Communications' Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film & Video Festival opens tonight at the Directors Guild with Mina Shum's gentle comedy "Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity," which is that rarity in a time of runaway production: a film shot in Vancouver that is actually supposed to be taking place there.

Set primarily in Vancouver's Chinatown, it stars Valerie Tian as 12-year-old Mindy, who has recently come upon a book of Taoist charms. Since her mother, Kin (comedian Sandra Oh, in a fine primarily serious turn), is a stressed-out, overworked single parent, Mindy would like to bring a little magic to Kin's life.

Shum then deftly introduces some others in the community who could also benefit from some magic.

This slight but sweet film plays out with both a sense of humor and a genuine concern for its beleaguered people. Best of all, Shum has cleverly left it to her audience to decide whether magic exists.

Mei-Juin Chen, an established and gifted documentarian, has joined forces with the equally experienced Martha Burr, who recently stepped down as editor of Kungfu magazine, to make the refreshing "Shaolin Ulysses: Kungfu Monks in America." They introduce us to five Shaolin monks who are spreading the famous temple's combination of martial arts and Zen Buddhism in such diverse places as Flushing and Brooklyn in New York, Houston and, of all places, Las Vegas.

The festival closes May 8 with the Southern California premiere of Chen Kaige's "Together."

The UCLA Film Archive presents a rare screening of Josef von Sternberg's 1928 silent "The Docks of New York," a typical tough-sentimental saga of low life exuding the pungent atmosphere that would become a Sternberg hallmark. What is most striking about this and virtually all other Sternberg films is his ability to elicit genuine emotion amid the most artificial settings and contrived circumstances.

Alfred Hitchcock exclaimed, "Thar's hills in that thar gold!" to Edith Head when he saw Grace Kelly in the beautiful bosom-enhancing golden gown Head designed for Kelly to wear in the costume ball sequence in "To Catch a Thief" (1955). The American Cinematheque will screen it Tuesday as part of a tribute to Head, preceded at 6:30 p.m. by a book signing with David Chierichetti, author of "Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer."



Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film & Video Festival

"Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity": Tonight, 7:30 p.m., Directors Guild of America Theatre, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (213) 680-4462.

"Shaolin Ulysses: Kungfu Monks in America": Friday, 7 p.m. DGA Theatre.

"Together": May 8, DGA Theatre.

Other screenings

"The Docks of New York": Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. Melnitz Hall's James Bridges Theater, UCLA, Westwood. (323) 206-FILM.

"To Catch a Thief": Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-FILM.

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