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Chinese Odyssey 2002
   |     review    |     awards     |     availability     |

  
Chinese: 天下無雙
Year: 2002
Director: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai
Producer: Wong Kar-Wai, Jacky Pang, Zhou Wu
Writer: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Faye Wong, Vicki Zhao Wei, Chang ChenRebecca Pan, Athena Chu YunEric Kot Man-Fai, Ning JingRoy Cheung Yiu-Yeung
The Skinny: Hilarious and creative Lunar New Year film that manages to be both funny and even a little affecting. Wong Kar-Wai and Jeff Lau make fun of themselves relentlessly with asides to Ashes of Time, Chungking Express and the earlier Chinese Odyssey films. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai shows terrific comic instinct, and Faye Wong, Vicki Zhao and Chang Chen are great, too. Terrific production design and costumes rounds out the package.
 
Review
by Kozo:

A rare commercial film from Wong Kar-Wai's Jet Tone studios, this costume comedy manages to entertain and surprise. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai stars as Ah Long, a useless town bully renowned for his uncouth attitude and general unpleasantness. He runs an inn with his sister Feng (Vicki Zhao), a misfit with a penchant for dressing like a man. Together the two make a decidedly undesirable family to marry into. 

Enter a runaway princess (Faye Wong), who the two siblings mistake for a man. The Princess is on the run from the royal palace, and wants to experience jiang hu for herself. After losing all her money in your standard pickpocket encounter, she runs afoul of Long, who immediately identifies her as the man for his sister to marry. Unfortunately, the Princess is far more interested in Long, and vice-versa.

Meanwhile, the Emperor (Chang Chen) decides to head out in search of his sister. However, that's merely an excuse to get out of the palace and away from the watchful eyes of the Queen Mother (Wong Kar-Wai fave Rebecca Pan). Once on his own (with an entourage of many guards), the Emperor decides to try and exercise his "artistic" side, leading to many anachronisms and more laughs than you can shake a stick at. 

The plot of this Lunar New Year film doesn't sound like much, and it isn't. This is your standard wacky comedy about finding one's true love, and features many of the hallmarks of wacky costume comedies, e.g., mistaken identity, gender confusion and just plain silliness. That's certainly the case here, as joke after joke gets laid upon the audience with little time for breath. It can be exhausting at first. During the first ten minutes, it's hard to tell if the movie is actually going to be enjoyable or not. After that ten minutes though, things come together considerably. 

Credit director Jeff Lau, who handles things with a glossy, well-timed flair, and manages to sneak in many hallmarks of Wong Kar-Wai. Lau seems to be making a point of deliberately spoofing his producer. The usual freeze frames and voiceovers that populate many a Wong Kar-Wai flick show up here and are hilarious in their inclusion. The whole self-reflexive post-modern storytelling style was due for a spoof anyway, and Lau finds a great way to handle that here. 

The performers are uniformly fine. Faye Wong is delightful, as is Vicki Zhao, who makes the most of her wonderfully expressive face. Chang Chen shows a playful comedic side. However, it's Tony Leung Chiu-Wai who walks away with this picture. He's simply a terrific and inspired comedic actor, and he handles both the humor and the occasional emotional moment well. Fun cameos by Athena Chu, Roy Cheung and Eric Kot round things out. 

At some point, all the wacky silliness and post-modern jokes go away and the film asks us to care. The Princess and Long really do search for their true loves, and any denial of their love is meant to be heartrending. Despite all the jokes making fun of the overwrought melodrama of Wong Kar-Wai romances, Chinese Odyssey 2002 eventually leans upon those devices to affect the audience. And amazingly, it works. This is partly due to to Faye Wong and Tony Leung, who are simply terrific in the film's closing scenes. The rest of the credit is Jeff Lau and Wong Kar-Wai's. By making fun of their own work, the two have managed to bring us something rare: a genuinely funny and affecting Lunar New Year movie. (Kozo 2002)

 
Awards: 22nd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Nomination - Best Actress (Faye Wong)
Nomination - Best Art Direction (Tony Au Ting-Ping)
Nomination - Best Costume Design (William Cheung Suk-Ping)
Nomination - Best Original Film Score (Frankie Chan Fan-Kei, Roel A. Garcia)
9th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
Winner - Best Picture
Winner - Best Actress (Faye Wong)
 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Laser
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
 
image courtesy of Jet Tone Films
   
 
 
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