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Flirting Scholar
Chinese: 唐伯虎點秋香
Stephen Chow romances Gong Li...with jokes
Year: 1993
Director: Lee Lik-Chee
Cast: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Gong Li, Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, James Wong Jim, Leung Ka-Yan, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Cheng Pei-Pei, Lin Wei, Gabriel “Turtle” Wong Yat-San, Lee Ka-Sing, Yuen King-Tan, Ka Tin-Yi, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Mimi Chu Mi-Mi, Jessica Suen Huen, Yammie Nam Kit-Ying, Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Jue Tit-Woh, Leung Wing-Chung, Chan Fai-Hung, Lau Sek-Yin, Lee Kin-Yan
The Skinny: Mo lei tau personified. This frantic Stephen Chow comedy can sometimes be inaccessible to Western audiences, but it's still good fun. If you can take it.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Superstar comic Stephen Chow is Tong Pak-Fu, a famous scholar whose fame as a poet and painter is unparallelled. Unfortunately, he's also saddled with an abundance of shrill wives who care only for gambling. Hope arrives in the form of Chou Heung (Gong Li), a maiden who dazzles Tong with her beauty and sweet personality. She belongs to a household run by kung-fu princess Cheng Pei-Pei, so Tong masquerades as hired help. Hijinks ensue.

This 1993 blockbuster pretty much illustrates Stephen Chow's position as the master of "make no sense" comedy. Unlike American films, there are no pauses for audience laughter. Every joke is followed by another in quick succession, and anachronisms and puns are abundant. As such, the the film can prove inaccessible during scenes of Cantonese wordplay, and there are also bizarre physical gags that may seem more puzzling than funny. A viewer who isn't familiar with Stephen Chow might feel exhausted or annoyed by the film's onslaught of esoteric humor.

Thankfully, Chow's comic timing and ample charisma make this a worthwhile endeavor. In the hands of a lesser comic actor, Tong Pak-Fu could be seen as simply a conceited, sometimes lovelorn ass. Thanks to Chow, Tong is lovable and sympathetic despite possessing personality traits that seem downright unlikable.

As such, the film works best when it hangs itself on Chow's talents. Gong Li is beautiful and sweet, but the film doesn't do much to reinforce her position as China's leading actress. Her job in Flirting Scholar is to stand around looking pretty; this is the very definition of a flower vase role. The other name cameos and actors wander in and out of the picture, and only Cheng Pei-Pei appears to be somewhat of a match for him.

Not that it really matters. Nobody goes to Stephen Chow movies to see him get humbled by his co-stars. It's Chow who does the humbling, and he does it in a way that doesn't need any translation whatsoever. If you can deal with the bizarre otherness then the film can prove extremely funny. (Kozo 1995/1997)

 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Kam & Ronson
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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image courtesy of Mei Ah Laser Disc Co., Ltd.

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