Stephen Chow’s movies have life in them. Two hundred years from now, after the apocalypse when gangs of apes rule the planet, they’ll unearth a movie projector and run some of these pictures and come to the conclusion we humans were a whole lot more fun than we actually are.
This week, the BAMcinématek in Brooklyn is celebrating the film work of Stephen Chow with a series entitled Stephen Chow: The King Of Comedy, a reference to his 1999 film of the same name and a tribute to his auteurist capabilities as writer, director, actor, and stunt performer.
Any one of these movies carries the power to brighten your day by miles, but if you’re strapped for time and need to limit yourself to only one, Chow’s masterpiece is probably KUNG FU HUSTLE, of which Bill Murray has said the following:
“[KUNG FU HUSTLE is] the supreme achievement of the modern age in terms of comedy. It’s not even close. QUICK CHANGE after it looked like a home movie. It looked like a fucking high school film. I was like, “Oh man, I just saw this thing,” and “God, that’s just staggering, just staggering. That movie is just AHHHHHH!” And when I saw that, I was like: That. Just. Happened. There should have been a day of mourning for American comedy the day that movie came out.”
That’s Bill Murray talking.
I’m just saying. Here’s the line-up of this week’s screenings, with write-ups courtesy of the BAM website.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 6th
THE GOD OF COOKERY (1996)
Chow is at his wild and woolly best as a celebrity chef charlatan who is exposed as a fraud and must claw his way back up from the bottom to reclaim the title of “God of Cookery.” Culminating in a side-splittingly absurdist Iron Chef-style kitchen battle, this riotous kung food comedy is a bonkers blend of cooking, martial arts, and slapstick mayhem.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7th
KING OF BEGGARS (1992)
The spoiled son (Chow) of a Qing dynasty-era nobleman sets out to become a martial arts master in order to win the love of a courtesan—and winds up becoming a beggar in the process. This goofball “chopsocky” spoof is highlighted by one of Chow’s most brilliantly hilarious set pieces, in which he kung fu fights an opponent…whilst dozing off!
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8th
JUSTICE, MY FOOT! (1992)
Chow teamed up with the late Canto-pop superstar Anita Mui and fellow Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To for this deliriously freewheeling farce. He’s a crooked lawyer and she’s his butt-kicking, kung fu fighting wife who’s unable to have a child because of a karmic curse brought on by her husband’s unethical ways. Among the ensuing insanity: a barrage of rude, crude fart jokes and a SILENCE OF THE LAMBS parody.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9th
KING OF COMEDY (1999)
Unable to cut it in the movie business, a hapless aspiring actor (Chow) has significantly more luck giving acting lessons to a call girl (Cecilia Cheung)—and eventually finding romance. This manic showbiz satire is Chow’s most personally revealing, autobiographical work and boasts a dead-on John Woo spoof, a cameo by Jackie Chan, and a surreal finale involving a copious amount of Pringles.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10th
KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004)
Martial arts meets Looney Tunes in Chow’s dazzling 1940s-set action-comedy, wherein a dimwitted wannabe bad guy (Chow) gets caught up in a furious battle between a slum town and a mob of ax-wielding gangsters. Among its eye-popping wonders: a Road Runner-style chase; a chorus line of tap-dancing villains; and a kung fu master landlady whose scream reduces her opponents to dust.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11th
SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001)
This dizzyingly daffy sports comedy follows a Buddhist martial arts master (Chow) as he assembles a group of fellow monks to take on the nefarious Team Evil in a million dollar soccer match. Complete with flaming soccer balls, musical numbers, and a SEVEN SAMURAI send-up, Chow’s breakout international hit, which also broke box office records in Hong Kong, reaches transcendently absurd heights.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 12th
A CHINESE ODYSSEY: PARTS 1 & 2 (1995)
This zany two-part epic—a huge cult sensation in China—stars Chow as the reincarnated Monkey King who journeys back in time to reunite with his master, Longevity Monk. A nutty spectacle of Chow’s nonsense antics, high-flying action choreography, and a fabled character who can transform into grapes, A CHINESE ODYSSEY is Hong Kong cinema at its wildest and most unrestrained.
JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUERING THE DEMONS (2013)
Chow’s latest is this deliriously whacked-out take on an ancient Chinese legend chronicles the exploits of a rookie demon hunter (Wen Zhang) as he tangles with a host of evil spirits—including a man-eating fish, a cannibalistic pig-man, and the fearsome Monkey King. JOURNEY TO THE WEST is one of his most thoroughly over the top, nutso, totally enjoyable comic fantasias yet.
— JON ABRAMS. Find me on Twitter: @jonnyabomb
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