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September 02

21st International Vancouver Film Festival
Directed by Jeffrey Lau
A hilarious slapstick spoof of Crouching Tiger
Sam North

Directed by Jeffrey Lau
Starring Tony Leung, Chiu Wai, Faye Wong, Vicki Zhao, Chen Chang, Eric Kot, Roy Cheung, Jing Ning and Rebecca Pan
Produced by Wong Kai Wai
Hong Kong -2002

Chinese Odyssey
s a welcome surprise and well received film shown in a new cut by the directorJeffrey Lau who was present at the screening. He must have been happy to hear the laughter and it’s well deserved. Conceived as a send up to ‘Journey to the West’ it is much more.

Wong Kai Wai is the producer of this film and this film should not be confused with two other Chinese Odyssey films, although the story is similar. This version is a spoof of the Crouching Tiger genre and with some affectionate side swipes at Chunking Express on the way. If you have seen Chunking then you’ll know it starts Tony Leung and Chiu Wai Chiu Wai is a waitress who is obsessed by Tony Leung a cop, who in turn doesn’t notice her until too late.

This film stars Tony Leung and Faye Wong as brother and sister King Bully and Phoenix, who will fall for the royal prince and princess played by Chiu Wai and Chen Chang who escape the Imperial Palace to go south and experience life. As is the tradition of these films the girl travel as a boy and the prince seems well just so slightly gay. Chiu Wai as the princess is enigmatic and curiously entrancing, an absolutely modern woman enjoying this clever situation and her relationship with Tony Leung. She is wonderfully aloof, bewilderingly enigmatic and asexual, her eyes reveal so much and are worth watching in every scene. The pleasure of the film is in the sight gags, the word play, the sex role reversals and the exuberant fun that the actors have in subverting their roles in previous movies.

All the main actors are immensely watchable, have excellent timing and good comic skills.
Tony Leung a leading man in Wong Kai Wai films such as the elegant and poetic ‘In the Mood for Love’ clearly enjoys having fun here and mocking his other roles. Faye Wong, easily one of the most beautiful women in film must fall for the princess as a boy, as does her brother. The Royal Prince… well no need to spoil things here. No matter the confusion and the sacred legends this film is made to get a laugh and works.

Jeffrey Lau told the Vancouver audience that there is, as yet, no distribution deal for this film. Handled as well as Crouching Tiger was, anyone who saw that would doubly enjoy this and I hope it finds a way out to the marketplace.

There are folks and critics who quibble over Chinese comedy. Some say it is too slapstick and lacks subtly but I beg to differ, the comedy here is quite stylised and refined and any film that makes us laugh so hard in these times can't be bad.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and the references to other films that have escaped out to the West and I hope, so will you.

© Sam North October 2002

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