Patrick Wang



6.8 In The Family (2011)
6.0 The Grief of Others (2015)
7.3 A Bread Factory (2018)
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Patrick Wang studied physics and economics in Boston but moved into theater and debuted as a filmmaker with the 169-minute In The Family (2011), a lengthy portrait of a man deprived of his family. Wang specializes in very detailed scenes, as if he were livestreaming ordinary family life. He can build tension and suspense while he is on purpose diluting them in a sea of apparently pointless details, slowing down the time of the film to almost real lived time. A child, Chip, wakes up his father Joey, and we see that Joey is in bed with another man, Cody: that's Chip's father too. Chip calls both "dad". Cody drives Chip to school. He is a teacher himself. Joey is at work with his coworkers: he is into renovation. Cody gives a ride back home to both Chip and his cousin Blake, son of Cody's sister Eileen. One day Eileen calls that Cody had an accident. At the hospital Eileen's husband Dave tells Joey that the doctor is operating on Cody. Joey has to introduce himself to the receptionist as a housemate. She is cold and slightly embarrassed when she understands that Joey is the sexual partner. That is nothing compared with the nurse who comes to give news: she ignores Joey and only talks to Dave, Eileen and Cody's mother Sally. The nurse doesn't admit Joey to see Dave after the operation: Joey is not a member of the family. Only the receptionist understands Joey's situation and is trying to find a way for Joey to visit Dave when the camera moves outside and we can't hear the voices anymore, but we guess that the doctor just told Joey that Cody is dead. A few days later, Joey and Chip are home, just the two of them. Joey sits petrified. Chip casually opens a bottle and serves it to Joey, waking him up from his grieving trance. A flashback shows how Joey met Cody: he was hired by Cody's pregnant wife to renovate their home. When Joey visits Eileen and Dave, we see that they live in a much nicer home. Joey is struggling to pay the mortgage and other bills left behind, but doesn't want money: he is behaving like the widow who has to take over from the dead husband. He mentions to Eileen that he didn't find Cody's will, but Eileen has a surprise for him: Cody did write a will, when Chip was just born, and appointed Eileen as the executor. Cody's will left the house to Eileen and left Eileen as the guardian of Chip. Joey is shocked that Eileen is taking seriously a will written by Cody so many years earlier, but she notes that Cody had all those years to change it and never did; and asks Joey to respect Cody's will. Joey, upset, leaves with Chip. The Thanksgiving holiday is coming up and Joey realizes that he's not welcome anymore at Sally's dinner. Joey drops off Chip at Sally's place for the dinner, planning to pick him up the day after. A flashback shows the first time that Joey met Sally, when Cody took him to Thanksgiving dinner, which is also when he first met Eileen. Joey returns home to eat alone a simple dinner. Two coworkers (Helen and Anne) surprise him with special dishes and company. The following day Joey tries to pick up Chip but Sally doesn't open the door. He calls her and she tells him that Chip has been taken by Eileen and Dave. Joey knocks in vain at Eileen's door. Joey returns home alone. A flashback shows him with Cody when Cody was devastated by the loss of his wife and Joey told him that he himself had gone through several losses (mother, father, sister, foster father and foster mother). Joey is served with a restraining order filed by Eileen: he can't even come close to Chip. Helen and Anne hears of it and keep him company, as furious as him at the way he is being treated. His kind neighbor Gloria, an elementary school teacher who knows Chip, suggests that Joey meet with her lawyer, Charles. So far every lawyer has turned him down: he has no legal claim to a child whose parents are both dead. A flashback shows Anne listening outside the door while Joey is telling chip a dragon story, and Anne is both smiling and crying. Joey meets with lawyer Charles and tells him that he and Cody raised Chip together after Cody's wife died (she died giving birth to Chip). The lawyer stops him right away and tells him that he doesn't have a child custody case: it's a lost cause. Even if a lawyer accepted to represent him in such a pointless custody battle, no judge in that conservative region would legitimize a gay relationship and prefer him over a regular family to raise a child. Joey realizes that no lawyer will represent him. One day Anne uses a trick to make Joey listen to Chip playing with Blake: Anne calls Joey pretending that she's calling Gloria and lets the phone open so Joey can listen to what is going on, i.e. Chip playing with Blake. Joey is working on the renovation of the fancy home of Marge and her husband Paul, a retired lawyer. Paul overhears Joey's tragedy and volunteers to represent him. A flashback shows Joey moving in with Cody, after finished the renovation, and Cody kissing him while listening to music. It was Cody who started it. Chip was still in the crib. Chip grew up his whole life knowing two dads. Paul advises him to try a humane approach to the lawsuit. Joey renounces to home and bank accounts just for a chance to talk to Dave and Eileen. Eileen's lawyer takes advantage of the voluntary "deposition" to bring up Joey's violent record while in the orphanage, and to make insinuations that everybody around Joey dies (Cody and his wife after Joey's mother, father, sister, foster father and foster mother). The lawyer also implies that Joey seduced Cody who had never displayed homosexual tendencies before. When it's his turn to speak, Joey simply tells Dave and Eileen about his life with Cody and Chip. His talk moves Eileen. Later Dave shows up at Joey's place to apologize for their lawyer's nasty insinuations. And then he reveals a surprise: Chip comes out of the car. They hug and we don't know what happens next but presumably some reconciliation will take place.

The Grief of Others (2015) is an adaptation of Leah Hager Cohen's 2011 novel.

The four-hour A Bread Factory (2018), based on the real-life 40-year-old center for creative arts in a small town of New England, and filmed like cinema verite', employs a vast cast of characters and delves into everything from domestic problems to political corruption and small-town grudges, all mediated by old-fashioned local journalism. The film is about the survival of grass-roots cultural organizations that are also educational facilities and community centers, jeopardized by globalization and corporate greed. In the age of pervasive sex scenes and violent scenes, the film also stands out for having absolutely no sex and no violence. The outcome is ambigous: the victory of the first part turns bitter into the second. There are metaphors and allegories woven in this simple stories and the most powerful one is perhaps the disappearance of the town's journalist.

The film opens with images of several protests organized by two aging women. Dorothea and Greta are not only the founders and directors of a local cultural space, the Bread Factory, but also activists who care about issues of the community. They are still holding protest signs when they pick up a female videomaker, Jordan. she meets the theater's projectionist, who is just a boy: Simon. A middle-aged journalist, Jen, and her young intern, Max, watch a documentary of Chinese artistic duo May Ray's show on a computer and Jen is terrified to see that it's half an hour of tedious dialogue. In the stage theater Dorothea meets with a translator, Elsa (whom later we see is Max's mother), and an elderly actor, Walter, who then rehearses with Greta a scene from Euripides' "Hecuba", while Jordan and Simon watch from the back. A teacher, Jason, is nervous about a meeting with the school board, although encouraged by black school board member Mavis, who is his lover (we see later that Jason is married with Elsa the translator and Max's father, and we see later that Mavis is married to cafe'-owner Sam). At the meeting Jason, as head of the teachers' union, complains with the school board about their decisions and proposes a test to keep administrators accountable, which greatly upsets mayor Alec. In the movie theater where Dorothea has hosted Jordan's video, nobody in the audience has questions for Jordan. When everybody has left, Simon has a question for Jordan who is still there. Max the journalism intern interviews old critic Jean-Marc and witnesses the rude attitude by Walter against Jean-Marc, guilty of criticizing one of his performances 50 years earlier. Old actor Walter, journalist Jan, intern Max and many others watch May Ray's performance, which includes pre-recorded applause. At the end Walter protests that this is not art and Jan asks why the city decided to fund May Ray's new building. May replies by not speaking into the microphone. Mavis' and Sam's daughter Julie is a library assistant. Max is in love with her. Jordan reviews videos made by children and shows a passion that she didn't show when she performed for adults. Elsa the translator walks into the stage theater and meets the only person sitting there, a middle-aged black woman, Sandra, a chatter box and opera singer. Jan the journalist meets a shy writer, Ted, at the local coffee house. He is flattered that she actually did read his books. Simon has dinner with his family (his parents and his older brother Josh) and lectures them on what he learned from Jordan about caring for one's art. Dorothea and Greta discuss the political situation with school board member Mavis, who is on their side, while the corrupt mayor and other board members want to divert funds away from their Bread Factory, which they have been running for 40 years in their small provincial town. Greta meets with a young pregnant woman and tells her that the Bread Factory will be playing old howard Hawks films. The woman, however, is more excited about her coming vacation, the first vacation she's had with her husband in 17 years, a cruise China. We then see a May Ray performance about shoes. Dorothea meets with her friend and board member Darren and he honestly tells her that he plans to vote against the Bread Factory because children need to know about the world and he believes that May Ray's organization will be more useful to the town. Ted the poet teaches children. Jan teaches Max how to write a good article for the newspaper. Jan asks Walter to walk her home. Dorothea approaches Pat, a woman of her age group. Pat too plans to vote against the Bread Factory and sounds hostile to Dorothea at a personal level due to an incident that happened in the past. The coffee house is run by Mavis' husband Sam, a sweet man who looks in love with his wife (whom we saw cheating on him with the teacher). Dorothea and Greta meet Nora, who represents the students, and plans to vote for them. In the stage theater, Elsa explains "Hecuba" to Sandra and then we see Dorothea, Greta and Julie (Sam's and Mavis' daughter) rehearsing the tragedy. A famous but obnoxious Hollywood actor is in town to support May Ray and flirts with Julie. Greta welcomes old acting schoolmate Tessa, who plays Natalia in Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya". Little Simon locks in his bedroom and refuses to talk to his parents. Greta tries and Simon simply replies that he wants to quit his job at the theater. We then see a performance of "Uncle Vanya". Mavis tells her husband Sam that she is moving to Hollywood with their daughter Julie because Julie got an audition. Sam offers to go with them but clearly Mavis doesn't want him anymore. At the same time, Julie tells Max that she has decided to pursue her acting career in Hollywood and wants to break up. Finally, it's the day that the school board has to vote on the funding for the Bread Factory. The hearing basically pits administrator Karl against Dorothea. Two art critics (an expert of Chinese art and old JeanMarc) collide when they review May Ray's art from two opposite angles. Then the duo May Ray walks in. Again, they play pre-recorded applause for themselves. They then repeat "China is the future". And that's their testimony to the school board. Hollywood star Trooper is also there to support May Ray, while old English actor Walter is there to support the Bread Factory. Dorothea emphasizes that the Bread Factory is also an educational facility for the town's children. Karl points out to the school board the Bread Factory employs children and repeats malicious gossip that Dorothea debunks. Jan the journalist asks Karl questions that reveal his ties to corporations. Finally, the school board votes: Karl is defeated, the Bread Factory is saved. Pat surprisingly abstains, despite her hatred for Dorothea. Dorothea walks into the stage theater and finds Sandra the singer, who never left it apparently, and Max, desperate of having lost Julie. Dorothea tries to heal Max by making him read inspiring lines.

Jan is missing and Max takes over the newspaper. Dorothea visits mayor Alec, who has always been rude to her but has lost his job, and hires him at the Bread Factory. Dorothea and Greta discuss the new production while going to bed (we now see they live together). Walter shows up at the newspaper and scares Max who didn't hear him enter. At the coffeehouse Dorothea and Greta meet Sam's new waitress, Teresa, and Greta offers her the part of her daughter in "Hecuba", the part that Julie was supposed to play. A bus pulls into the Bread Factory's parking lot and tourists disembark singing like in a Broadway show.
The film turns oneiric: a bus pulls into the Bread Factory's parking lot and tourists disembark singing like in a Broadway show.
Max mobilizes children to help with the newspaper. In a corner of the office, archrivals Walter and Jean-Marc sip tea in a corner and chat amicably, but Max and the children have disappeared, so that it doesn't sound real, and Walter sees a woman where there are only boys. Walter starts telling a long story of how he lost his one true love Tanya in the war of... 1812! Apparently they got over their ancient feud. In another lengthy scene, Greta and Teresa rehearse "Hecuba" under the direction of Dorothea with only the ever-present Sandra and Elsa in the audience. We then see a heated argument between Max and his father Jason in front of Elsa: Max has decided to drop out of school to focus on running the newspaper and Jason kicks him out of the house.
Another oneiric scene: one after the other, the patrons of the coffeehouse start tap dancing while staring at their smartphone. And this is followed by another oneiric scene: while she's having a plumbing issue, Dorothea is confronted by a singing quartet about selling her barn.
Max is devoting all his time to the newspaper and nobody seems worried about Jan's disappearance. The two elderly, Walter and Jean-Marc, hang out at his office and provide encouragement.
In another lengthy scene, Greta discusses "Hecuba" with Dorothea.
Greta goes shopping at Sam's coffeehouse and sees Simon there. She tries to talk to him but she is surrounded by tap dancing and singing patrons.
Dorothea and Greta prepare the stage for the opening-night performance of "Hecuba". Dorothea walks into Sam's coffeehouse and is surrounded by tap-dancers and singers (the tap dancers stare nonstop at their smartphones). Max tells Dorothea that there was a new secret vote and they voted against the Bread Factory. We then see 20 minutes of the performance of "Hecuba", with a standout performance by Greta. In the tragedy Queen Hecuba has lost her throne after the defeat of her army in the Trojan War, just like Dorothea lost her "throne" in the town. But in the tragedy Hecuba and the slave women take their revenge. After the performance, Pat approaches Greta but they don't exchange words. Greta explains to Elsa that the tragedy reminder Pat of the death of her son. Elsa is disappointed that very few people showed up at the opening night. Notably missing is Sandra: Greta reveals that Sandra died. Elsa weeps. Jason comes to congratulate Elsa, a sign that perhaps he's given up his lover. Greta returns home to Dorothea who, depressed, didn't attend the performance. The following morning Greta and Dorothea walk in the streets of the town sharing fond memories. And after a few minutes we see the whole town walking behind them, a long line of ordinary people photographed from behind (we can't see the faces).

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