Directed by Stephen Chow
Written by Stephen Chow, Vincent Kok, Tsang Kan Cheong, Sandy Shaw Lai King, Fung Chih Chiang and Lam Fung
Stephen Chow made three absolutely exhilarating movies in a row: Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle, and CJ7. At a time when so much formulaic spectacle dominates, his films consistently produce a wow factor along with story and feeling and… did I mention that they are not sequels or remakes?
We are fortunate to have the George Eastman House and their glorious Dryden Theater in our little city. Big city folk are spoiled with repertory cinemas, but I was unfamiliar with the concept until I moved to Boston. Imagine- a place to go to see movies old and new that might not be available through normal distribution channels.
Kung Fu Hustle somehow attracted our attention- maybe it was a quick grab at the video store when all the Jackie Chan movies were out. You remember those days when you had to drive a car to watch a movie at home? So, so long ago.
Hustle was a tour de force, ensuring that we had to find its immediate predecessor: Shaolin Soccer. Once again, it was like watching Bruce Lee re-enacted by Harpo Marx on a faulty projector that spun through the film at eight times normal speed. Choreography by Termite Terrace. With subtitles.
It was hard not to want more and it was hard to find more.
word came that the Dryden would be screening the latest Stephen Chow movie and it was imbued with unexpected depths. He discarded the trappings of insane action for the tale of a poor man and his child. Also, there would be an alien. It was billed as a children’s film for people prepared to see something old and new.
We have all sat through those movies when some comedian takes on a serious role. We all learn a few lessons together and go home mildly surprised that someone who can act has the ability to, well, act. So, some trepidation accompanied us to the showing of CJ7.
I won’t ruin the plot for any potential viewers, but let’s just say that an outline of the story is not going to make it seem revolutionary. But it was still among the most sublime experiences of all those children’s movies that parents sit through. It was the closest I can imagine a live action movie getting to Hayao Miyazaki, while Chow’s prior two films were closer to Pixar frenetic-ism.
I’m in the soft spot between parent and grandparent when I don’t have to see the fodder Hollywood spews out as entertainment for children. But occasionally something transcends its intended audience. What a strange idea. Our movies are no longer meant for all of us, but rather marketed to segments… Division is so easy when you view your audience as a pie.
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You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 198 more to go.
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