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April 27, 2012

East Meets West

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Dung sing sai tsau 2011
Jeff Lau - 2011
Kam & Ronson Region 3 DVD

If any filmmaker is as obsessed about hair even more than Alfred Hitchcock poking the lens into Kim Novak's coiffure, it would be Jeff Lau. It's not just the flamboyant styles of several of his characters. Several shots are of the back of Karen Mok and Eason Chan's heads. When Mok and Chan first meet, scissor are whipped out with Chan providing Mok with a new do.

I couldn't begin to tell you what East Meets West was about. There is some story about seven good immortals and one that is evil, meeting again in this lifetime. There's also the Cantopop group, The Wynners, reuniting, with Kenny Bee rescued from his current career as the world's least scary amusement park zombie. There is also talk about body temperature and love at first sight, and a few quotations from William Shakespeare. The Chinese call this "nonsense comedy". I like to think of it as being a contemporary equivalent to the kind of comedies Hollywood use to make with the Marx Brothers at their peak, or something along the lines of Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, W. C. Field's last movie which is virtually a series of visual non-sequiturs barely held together by an astoundingly incoherent narrative. Rather than frustrating one's self with logic or even the need to catch up with the fast and furious subtitles, it's better just to give in the film's many visual pleasures.

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Second only to the hair are the loving shots of Karen Mok's legs. Skinny, but still shapely. Not tall, only 5 foot, six inches. Still, if I'm going to hear that musical cliche called Pachelbel's "Canon in D", I'd rather hear it while watching Mok's slender stems bathed in golden light. Sure, the film is loaded with other Hong Kong stars, but East Meets West mostly belongs to Mok who runs, flies and basically takes over every scene she's in.

For those unfamiliar with recent Hong Kong movies or pop culture, East Meets West may prove baffling. Aside from Kenny Bee basically playing a parody of himself, Lau loads the film with verbal and visual references to other movies, including those he's produced for Wong Kar-wai and Stephen Chow. At one point, a mob's shouts consists of Hong Kong movie titles. And while several Cantopop songs are used, notably The Wynner's big hit, "Sha La La", Lau teasingly uses The Turtles' "Happy Together" when gangsters are chasing after Bee and Mok. The perfect DVD would include running subtitles to point out the various references. One the other hand, no translation or explanation is needed to laugh at the sight of Kenny Bee with an oversized Elvis pompadour.

The Chinese title translates as "Anything is possible" which pretty much sums up what goes on here. Of the Jeff Lau films that I've seen, it isn't as inspired as Eagle Shooting Heroes, the parody of Wong Kar-wai's Ashes of Time, which Lau also produced, made with most of the same cast members. Talk about eye candy- the film might be described as having the visual qualities of a multi colored popsicle. The heart of the film, both literal and metaphorically, is revealed at the end, giving a bit of substance to this overabundance of style.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 27, 2012 08:19 AM