The Family Table
The contrasting lives of two families — a traditional four-generation rural family in a Sichuan village and a modern, single-child family in urban Hangzhou — are viewed through the routines of their daily meals. In the process, the film illustrates how the Chinese family has endured and how it is changing.
This is the third film in the classic four-part series, “A Taste of China,” which remains perhaps the best introduction for Westerners to traditional Chinese culture.
In Sichuan, the four generations of the Za family work, cook, and eat together. Attention is focused on the 84-year-old patriarch of the family and his young great-grandson. At the Xu household in Hangzhou, however, the pressures of modern life have affected the attitudes and structure of the family. While his wife works in a nearby factory, Mr. Xu shops in a “free market” and prepares a fast meal for the family.
Interspersed with views of the two families are scenes in which a traditional itinerant storyteller evokes the ancient rhythm of agrarian life and contemporary urban sequences that suggest new patterns of living.