In Ming Dynasty China, two pairs of siblings are destined for each other. But fate throws countless obstacles in the path of their happiness. One pair is high-born: the young Emperor and ... See full summary »
Is anyone who he says he is in this caper that moves from Hong Kong and Las Vegas to Tokyo? Ken doesn't show up in Vegas for his wedding; his disconsolate bride, Macy, heads home for Hong ... See full summary »
Tony Leung Chiu Wai,
In Ming Dynasty China, two pairs of siblings are destined for each other. But fate throws countless obstacles in the path of their happiness. One pair is high-born: the young Emperor and his sister Wushuang, both confined to the Imperial Palace and very much under the thumb of their mother, the Empress Dowager. The other pair is decidedly lowborn: the wanderer Li Yilong (known as King Bully for the way he terrorized the town of Meilong in his youth) and his sister Phoenix, who still runs a restaurant in Meilong. When both the young Emperor and his sister Wushuang contrive to leave the Palace and head south, they meet the loves of their lives in Meilong. But Wushuang has disguised herself as a man, and the Emperor is incognito. Numerous confusions, complications and misunderstandings ensue: genders and gender-roles are reversed, class differences prove hard to negotiate and identities and egos block the promptings of desire. It takes the interventions of a goddess to get everyone back ... Written by
Often, if one loves too deeply, it is intoxicating, If one hates too long, the heart is easily shattered, The most painful experience in life, however, is waiting. I don't know how long she waited. I thought all along I would never see her again. Suddenly, I didn't know what to say, I couldn't figure out how to say ... to tell her I really love her.
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First up, anyone wanting to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style martial arts carry-on should look elsewhere. This film is a one of the increasingly perplexing (to Westerners just after kung fu) school of Hong Kong comedies known as 'mo lei tow' (nonsense) films.
The basic feel of the movie is something akin to the Simpsons set in Ming dynasty China. Women pretend to be men, women fall in love with women pretending to be men, the women pretending to be men fall in love with the actual men, who are trying to fix them up with the women. It's a bit like a Shakespeare comedy, actually, with hilarious surreal flourishes.
So that's all good. Tony Leung is great as the male lead, as always (he's the Hong Kong equivalent of Robert Redford or Paul Newman, though somewhat younger). Faye Wong is equally good as the female lead, and her singing is lovely. The best bit in the film is a scene where Leung and Wong get stuck in quicksand and try to persuade a goose to rescue them.
Sadly, things go awry. Producer/director Wong Kar Wai is notorious (and critically lauded) for making arty, boring films (examples include the dreadful Ashes of Time, and In the Mood for Love), so I was pleasantly surprised that this film was so different. Alas, at the end, Wong tries to inject dramatic weight into proceedings to resolve the romantic tensions, and the action becomes a series of oblique internal monologues containing near-meaningless aphorisms (Wong's "forte"). Stumbling and choking under the weight of this nonsense (and not good, mo lei tow nonsense either), the film's conclusion is unnecessarily leaden and downbeat.
Still, Chinese Odyssey _is_ a funny film, and even the downhillness at the end can be excused. For more genuine examples of mo lei tow cinema (ie, not contrived by an arthouse director selfconciously trying to make his mark on the genre), try Flying Daggers (1993) or Stephen Chow's Forbidden City Cop (1995). In fact, just watch any Stephen Chow film.
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