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Film / The Curse Of Quon Gwon

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The Curse of Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingles with the West is a 1916 film directed by Marion E. Wong.

A Chinese-American woman (Marion Wong's sister-in-law Violet Wong) marries a Chinese-American man. They are joined together in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony with various family members, including an older woman who appears to be the man's mother, and a younger woman, played by Marion Wong, who may be the man's sister. The marriage appears to work out well enough, but for some reason the man has to leave for somewhere else, much to the woman's displeasure. Left alone in the household, the woman has a confrontation with her in-laws.

The Curse of Quon Gwon was created by Marion Wong when she was 21 years old in an effort to represent Chinese-American culture. It failed, not securing distribution, receiving only two local screenings. Marion Wong abandoned filmmaking and went into the restaurant business. The film was long thought to be completely lost but two reels and part of another reel were eventually discovered, totaling some 36 minutes of footage from a film that was originally over twice that long. All title cards for the surviving footage were lost. The result is an incomplete film with no dialogue, although the narrative is still semi-coherent.

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Tropes:

  • Arranged Marriage: Although as with everything else it's kind of hard to tell, apparently the man and woman are meeting for the first time, and have been paired in an arranged marriage as would have been the custom in the Chinese-American community of the day.
  • Call-Back: In the beginning the man gives a statue of a household god to his mother. In the end the woman takes up the god, symbolizing the fusing of the old ways with the new.
  • Culture Clash: At least part of the conflict is caused by the difference between the woman, who is obviously rather Westernized as her dress and her hair show, and her traditional Chinese mother-in-law.
  • Driven to Suicide: The maybe-sister kills herself after the man finally comes back home and is not at all happy about how his wife has been treated in his absence.
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  • Gray Rain of Depression: The woman is forced out of the family home, given a knife that she is clearly intended to kill herself with. It is pouring rain as she kneels down on the front steps outside the gate and cries. After the Gray Rain Of Depression stops, the woman finds new determination, throwing the knife away and walking off.
  • Happily Arranged Marriage: The man and the woman fall in love. The ending establishes that they're living happily together with their child.
  • Imagine Spot: The most impressive shot of the movie has the woman handling the bracelets and necklace she will wear for the wedding. In a fade effect, they transform into chains and shackles. Legend has it that Marion Wong hired one of Charlie Chaplin's cameramen after meeting him while Chaplin was shooting in Oakland in 1915, but there's no hard evidence to that efffect.
  • Jump Cut: Used a couple of times for transitions. One shot has the woman getting her hair done for the wedding, with the first shot showing her earlier more Western hairdo, then a jump cut to her hair done up Chinese style. A later jump cut transitions from the woman in a Western dress to her in the traditional dress she will wear at the wedding.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: The woman does this in the scene where her in-laws throw her out of the house.
  • Nameless Narrative: Although it probably wasn't that way originally, the loss of all title cards leaves the film as this.
  • Nice Hat: The man and the woman together unpack the traditional garments they will wear for the wedding ceremony. When the man puts on his ornate ceremonial hat, they both dissolve in laughter.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The fragmentary nature of the surviving film leads to this. We don't know why the man had to go away. We don't know the nature of the relationships, although the older woman is probably the mother and the younger woman played by Marion Wong is presumably either a sister or a cousin. And we don't really know why the mother and maybe-sister hate the wife so much. It may have something to do with the baby, as we see a doctor visiting and examining the baby after the wife, who is the baby's mother, is chucked out of the house.
    • Then there's the title. What does it even mean? Is Quon Gwon the name of one of the characters? Did somebody curse someone?
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