Chan Is Missing

Chan Is Missing ★★★★

Not surprisingly, I relate pretty easily to this. The interesting thing about being a Chinese-American is that there isn't a lot of material out there about us and our experiences. There are plenty of movies about the Chinese in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, but not so much in America. Chan Is Missing is considered one of the earliest successful and critically lauded films from an Asian-American director, Wayne Wang, and he pretty much gets to the point right away without messing around. His movie, set in San Francisco, centers around a Chinese-American cab driver, Jo, and his nephew who go searching, private investigator style, for a business partner who has disappeared with their money. But the missing Chan, whom is regarded differently by the many witnesses and associates that Jo questions, quickly becomes a metaphor for the various identities that a Chinese-American can assume. This is contrasted with what the characters understand about how they are regarded in America -- as foreigners, even though they're American, who all seem alike and exotic under that lens. Wang approaches the subject with the noble idea that Chinese-Americans should not be pigeonholed; he doesn't quite get to the idea that we also have a hard time creating any kind of collective identity of our own in this country. But that could be a topic for later films; Chan Is Missing, though a little on the nose, makes for a great icebreaker on the subject.

Jeffrey liked these reviews