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Sundance, day nine: fish stories

Posted by Ty Burr  January 27, 2007 03:45 PM

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"Year of the Fish" is an agreeable little New York love story based on a 9th century Chinese folktale. It's "Cinderella" by any other name, but writer-director David Kaplan has added Chinese immigrants, massage parlors, and rotoscoping. This is also probably the first movie ever narrated by the ghost of a carp.

An Nguyen plays Ye Xian, a F.O.B. girl in Chinatown who has to work in a slap-and-tickle joint to pay off her travel debt to madam Mrs Su (Asian acting legend Tsai Chin as the wicked stepmother). Since she won't stoop to giving massages, Ye Xian is relegated to clean-up duty, and you sorta know the rest. Randall Duk Kim (Dr. Crab in "Memoirs of a Geisha") plays the Fairy Godmother -- a cackling witch spirit in this telling -- plus two other roles, and Ken Leung is the film's Prince Charming, a dreamy East Village musician who plays a sharp accordion.

For no other reason than to give it the necessary fairy-tale otherworldliness, "Year of the Fish" has been lightly animated from live-action video -- you feel like you're watching the movie through frosted glass. It's an interesting effect, and Doyer Street has never looked more poetically sun-dappled. In all, a sweet film, and maybe someone's favorite.

Not the mall princess sitting near me on the shuttle bus after the screening, though. She kept bitching to her friend about what a wimp the film's heroine was and finally said "she should have just given the massage." Ugly stepsisters everywhere.

Off to one more screening -- "Smileyface," which Wesley has already kvelled about but which stars one of my faves, Anna Faris, in a starring role yet. Then the awards ceremony at 6:30 pm -- I'll blog the winners when it's done.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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