Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting... Hoo!! Hah!!
Abandoning all art-fart snobbery and reservations about watching a Hong Kong comedy, I caught Stephen Chow's Kungfu Hustle last monday. And amazingly I genuinely enjoyed it (perhaps because it was in the company of long-time pals).
Kungfu Hustle is a cheesy mix of comedy, action and melodrama. Amazingly, this mix of essential elements is well-balanced: its slapstick and parodied moments are totally hilarious; its slick kungfu action is absolutely enthralling; and its stereotypical portrayal of Stephen Chow the hero & childhood-lover is nicely packaged.
I deem it an East-meets-West, postmodern parody of the traditional Chinese kungfu flick. Admittedly I'm no movie critic, but intuitively the film has embodied the fusion of the two fronts in many ways.
At the beginning credits of the film, Columbia Pictures' foray into the Asian film market is plain for all to see through its collaborations with various Chinese companies. But I do hope Kungfu Hustle's distribution in Western will be better managed than Miramax Films did with Shaolin Soccer (as if I have a personal stake...).
Opening sequences of dancing tuxedoed mobsters and the like charging with top-hats and axes spoofs Gangs of New York, while a superfast speedchase on foot between Stephen Chow and an obnoxious, Kungfu-enabled landlady brings to mind the Road Runner. Not sure if others catch this, but there are allusions to Western flicks of old in the showdown scenes.
Through the liberal use of CGI, the lightning-fast Jackie Chan fighting scenes Chinese audiences are used to are slowed down and stylized a la The Matrix - and thankfully well-delivered without appearing too incredible as did Ekin Cheng's ridiculous flying exits in A Man Called Hero (1999). This is probably one of the show's major success factors.
Personally I like how the kungfu master stereotypes have been broken down and recast with quirky idiosyncrasies. Instead of an authoritative and dangerously calm pugilistic master, we have an effeminate tailor sporting red underwear. Of course, this isn't really new for Stephen Chow and other masters of Chinese comedy have been employing this for ages.
International reviews of the show have been good and its box office takings continue to rise - all of which attests to the winning formula honed by Stephen Chow.
I wonder how non-Chinese audiences will be able to appreciate facets of the film peculiar to the Kungfu genre. After all, they wouldn't know how Andy Lau and Leung Ka Yan have immortalized Return of the Condor Heroes? Then again, in translating Cantonese to Mandarin, some nuances have already been lost.
Posted by This is Ed at 6:00 PM