Buddha Bless America

on September 13, 1996 by Craig Vickers
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In a Taiwanese village in the 1960s, there are rumors that the American military is coming to carry out a series of maneuvers. This suits a former schoolteacher nicknamed Brain, because he believes in all things American, including NASA and Elvis. Brain's brother has lost his fingers (which he preserves in a pickle jar), and Brain is convinced that American doctors will be able to reattach them.
"Buddha Bless America's" premise is comic, but the tone that director Wu Nien-jen sets for his second feature is one of wry amusement rather than broad belly laughs. He gently pokes fun at the U.S. military, local government and village inhabitants. A complicated plot, which culminates with an accidental theft of the corpse of an American soldier, is handled deftly by Wu; the film is complex without being confusing.
A tender and touching portrait of an educated man and his illiterate brother, "Buddha Bless America" with hilarity and devastation demonstrates the enormous misunderstandings that can result from cultures clashing. Starring Lin Cheng-sheng and Chiang Shu-na. Directed and written by Wu Nien-jen. Produced by Yang Teng-kuei and Yeh Wen-li. A Taiwan Film Center production; no distributor set. Comedy. Mandarin- and Cantonese-language; English subtitles. Not yet rated. Running time: 111 min.
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