Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart

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Wayne Wang’s follow-up to his watershed indie Chan Is Missing is a family portrait that gracefully combines the director’s signature gentle humanism and eye for poignant detail. Offering another fresh perspective on San Francisco’s Chinese American community, Wang takes a bittersweet look at the generational pas de deux between an aging immigrant widow and her devoted daughter, torn between filial duty and her own desires. Soulfully performed by an ensemble including real-life mother and daughter Kim and Laureen Chew and Victor Wong, the Yasujiro Ozu–inspired Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart is as lovingly made as the home-cooked cuisine it celebrates.

Picture 6/10

Wayne Wang’s follow-up to Chan Is Missing, Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart, receives a new Blu-ray edition from The Criterion Collection. It is presented on a dual-layer disc with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode.

Criterion includes no details about the master they are using (provided by Strand Releasing), but it’s clear seconds in that we’re dealing with an older DVD-era one. For what it is, it isn’t terrible and has some strengths: details are decent--if unextraordinary—with nice-looking colors, and the image is clean and stable most of the time. Unfortunately, it still has a video quality, from film grain that can look a bit blocky and digitized (and noisy when it gets heavier) to some occasional shimmering artifacts and slight edge enhancement here and there. There is also a section late in the film where the image looks to have been squished vertically ever so slightly, with grain getting particularly noisy and blacks becoming severely milky. It almost looks like this section has been sourced directly from video, but it’s not degraded enough for that to be the case. Whatever the reason for the anomalies here, it sticks out and looks odd.

I can’t speak about how intense restoration efforts may have been, though I suspect Criterion has more than likely cleaned the master and any remaining source damage they could. That said, there is still some slight pulsing, with the occasional more significant mark popping up. Black levels also look strong, but delineation in the shadows isn’t all that wide, and darker sequences can look a bit murkier and grayer, flattening the image.

Criterion has put the best polish on it that they can, but there was only so much that could be done. It looks okay, but the film could use a new restoration.

Audio 7/10

The film comes with a monaural soundtrack presented in single-channel PCM. The soundtrack is pretty simple, but it sounds sharp and clean. Dialogue is easy to hear, and the music sounds strong with adequate range and fidelity. There is also no severe damage to speak of.

(As a note, dialogue is spoken in a mix of English and Cantonese, and the default subtitle settings translate the Cantonese dialogue to English. Criterion also includes an English option for people who are hard of hearing. Initially, I felt there were issues with the subtitles as the timing could feel off in places, while some of the Cantonese dialogue left untranslated. Yet, looking at the hard-of-hearing ones, they appear to be timed about the same and likewise don’t translate the same Cantonese portions, inserting text along the lines of “[Speaking Cantonese]” instead, so it appears it is all by design.)

Extras 4/10

Supplements prove to be incredibly sparse, with them consisting entirely of two interview features running 38 minutes in total. This includes a 14-minute one from 2004 with actor Laureen Chew, who recounts how she and her mother (whom we get to see briefly here) came to be the stars and subjects of the film and how it affected their day-to-day since it was also shot at their house, which also had an active daycare. The other interview is a new one featuring Wayne Wang and filmmaker/film scholar Arthur Dong, which gets more into the technical details of the film. This includes influences, with the films of Yasujiro Ozu being a big one. He also talks about the story's development, how he tried to visually capture the characters and their community (shots of shoes at an entryway proved especially important), and even explains why he wanted a Caucasian composer to work on the score.

Both interviews are engaging, and I enjoyed them, likewise the included essay by Brian Hu, who writes up on the film’s portrayal of its characters and the San Francisco Chinese community. But it’s all so thin in the end. Some more context around the neighborhood, or even the local acting community that Wang drew from (briefly mentioned in the supplements for Criterion’s edition of Chan Is Missing), would have proven rewarding. Even a visual essay about the film’s look and editing (even if it was simply examining the Ozu influence) could have been interesting. As it is, everything feels quickly assembled.


It’s excellent that Criterion is giving the film and Wang's work more recognition with a much-deserved Blu-ray edition. Still, the release feels slapped together, from simple art design to scant features to using an older master. I recommend it, but only at a half-off sale.

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Directed by: Wayne Wang
Year: 1985
Time: 84 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1188
Licensor: Strand Releasing
Release Date: August 15 2023
MSRP: $39.95
1 Disc | BD-50
1.78:1 ratio
Cantonese 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region A
 New conversation between Wayne Wang and filmmaker and film scholar Arthur Dong   Interview from 2004 with actor Laureen Chew   An essay by scholar Brian Hu