"Every day, in countless ways, you and I convince ourselves about ourselves. True art, when it happens to us, challenges the "I" that we are." ~Jeanette Winterson.
If it can be understood that food is a form of art then, like any other art form, it must have compelling power. It must have the power to move our emotions, to thrill us, to inspire us and, in the most extreme of situations, to tear us apart. Food was all of these things to the characters of the movie Eat Drink Man Woman even if they weren't fully aware of it at times. The manners in which food was used in this movie became a symbolic representation of the feelings and emotions of the characters and, as Jeanette Winterson addressed, eventually challenged who they were in very unexpected ways.
The first image that is shown in the movie is a flash of a crowded street, which seems to represent the outside world. The very next image is of Mr. Chu, the father of the family, in his own home kitchen creating an elaborate meal which his daughters later refer to as the "Sunday Dinner Torture Ritual". The daughters coming back from that busy outside world to their fathers home is a reflection of how he is still in control of the family, if only for a short time more, which sets the tone for the rest of the movie. .
In the very first cooking sequence, Mr. Chu is doing very aggressive, almost barbaric things. He impales a fish with chopsticks and captures a chicken with his bare hands before expertly preparing them for the meal. These acts are further expressing his control of not only the family unit as a whole, but his steadfast control over himself as well. Throughout the movie his emotional control breaks down simultaneously as his cooking worsens.
When the family sits down to their very first Sunday Dinner of the movie, it is immediately brought to our attention by Jia-Chien, the middle daughter, whom Mr. Chu will butt heads with the most, that he is losing his sense of taste.