If there was ever a film that definitively proves film is a universal art form that defies the roughly 6,500 languages in our world, it is this 38th directing effort from Chun-Ku Lu: This Life, I am a flower pot.
Unknown in the United States, outside of the most discriminating martial arts connoisseur, director Chun-Ku Lu is a respected, major star in China and the Pacific Rim territories with 80-odd combined credits as a writer, actor, and director. He’s best known to U.S audiences for his work during the martial arts heyday of ‘70s cinema for The Black Dragon’s Revenge, along with the popular ‘80s video rentals Bastard Swordsman (1983) and its sequel: Return of the Bastard Swordsman (1984).
After a 20-year retirement from the business in the late ‘90s, Chun-Ku Lu returns with this touching, beautifully-shot drama about a single mother and her portly, young son who leave Taiwan to live in the U.S. The title of this Mandarin language short out of Taiwan is pronounced Zhè bèizi, wǒ shì huā pén, which is also understood as: This world is a small bonsai.
Even without subtitles, this voiceover-related story is easy to digest by understanding the universal symbolism of the art of bonsai: a minimalist approach practiced in Zen Buddhism where one strives for peace, harmony, and balance; a maintaining and ordering of thoughts, so as to remove clutter from one’s life; an art that teaches man—like trees—must fight against the elements of nature (and his unbalanced fellow man).
The voiceover is provided—it seems—by Jimmy, who tells the story of how he and his mother left Taiwan for a better life in the United States. Of course, in their new land, they are “Guizi”: a xenophobic slang in their language to describe a foreigner. Jimmy quickly becomes the target of bullies; his mother is also a “ghost man”: one who lives an invisible existence, in her case, as a janitor, to provide for Jimmy; she can provide him only the simplest of birthdays (in Buddhism the candle represents the aware, enlightened mind). The receipt of a small wooden box—with three gold symbols—for his birthday from a relative in Taiwan becomes the catalyst for the next phase of young Jimmy’s life.
The Canadian cinematographer behind this stunner is Jimmy Wu. Relatively new to the film world, Wu made his debut three years ago with the 2017 Canadian-Chinese language short, The Molecule. He’s since shot seven shorts, served as an Assistant Camera and 2nd Assistant Camera on eight more, produced two, and has also composed music for the 2017 surrealistic, animated comedy, Love Ninja. You can view Wu’s superb reel featuring scenes from those projects on his You Tube page.
The bright lights of Hollywood aren’t far behind for Wu: we’ll be seeing more from him very soon. You can watch his and Chun-Ku Lu’s This Life, I am a flower pot in its entirety on You Tube.
Disclaimer: This movie wasn’t sent to us by its production company or PR department. We discovered the movie all on our own—courtesy of its Chun-Ku Lu connection—and genuinely enjoyed the movie.