A Snippet of Conversation between Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese

MARTIN: Continuing our special show on the best movies of the ’90s, my choice for Number 3 is a 1994 Taiwanese film called “A Borrowed Life,” directed by Wu Nien-jen. The Chinese title is “Do-sang,” which means “Father.” It’s an autobiographical story about a poor family in the Taiwanese countryside during the 1950s, right after the end of Japanese rule and the nationalist secession from the mainland.


MARTIN: The camera remains still, it lives with the characters, and it observes their most difficult emotional interactions with a restraint that often becomes painful. This is a movie that forces you to re-think how you view movies. If you go with it, if it clicks for you, the results are very rewarding.

ROGER: The camera holds back, it doesn’t become a protagonist along with the characters. And here’s the mother —


ROGER: — and here’s the father —


ROGER: — and here’s the kid.


ROGER: It says here they all are and here is this period of time they’re living through and you begin to realize that you’re like another observer there in their house.

MARTIN: Exactly. You become part of the family —


MARTIN: — whether you like it or not. Because the picture has a lot of domestic violence in it. In fact, in one scene the camera’s inside the house and the husband and wife go outdoors and you hear them fighting outside. The camera stays inside and in a way you don’t want to go out there, but you’re part of the family.

ROGER: It stays inside, like the narrator who was the little boy —

MARTIN: — as a little boy. Yeah.

ROGER: — and he probably stayed inside and he heard his parents fighting and this has made an impression on him.


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