The Chinese Feast
A wonderful, warm well paced comedy with great
performances from Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen and everyone else. The humor
of this film is built on the situation and the characters more so than
the usual HK slapstick type comedy - though the silly large fish scene
put me in stitches and that was not sophisticated comedy by any means.
It's a simple story about a chef having
to win a cook off or lose his restaurant. Leslie is a lowly triad trying
to go straight and Anita is the wacky but adorable daughter of the chef
and both pitch in to help.
A drunken ex-master chef (Kenny Bee) comes
back to perhaps save the day. Lots of plot clichés, but done with
a clever funny twist. The cooking contest scenes are as exciting &
brilliantly choreographed as a John Woo shoot-out and the ending has an
almost Rockyesque feeling to it. The film was directed by Tsui Hark.
Reviewed by YTSL
This visually scrumptious movie does feature
a whole host of shots of delicious-looking -- even if sometimes made from
really gross-sounding (e.g., bear paw, elephant trunk) ingredients -- food
being prepared, cooked, displayed and tasted. Many of its scenes
do take place in kitchens and restaurants. And its heroes are chefs
(including those portrayed by Law Kar Ying, Kenny Bee, Chiu Man Cheuk)
and wanna-be chefs (played by Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen). But
one does not have to be a foodie to enjoy it.
What does help though is a sense of humor (unlike,
say, "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" or "Babette's Feast", this Tsui Hark-directed
production is very definitely primarily a comedy). IMHO, it is particularly
integral to have an appreciation of the fast and furious, athletic yet
graceful, kind of skilled action movements that have come to characterize
many a Hong Kong movie for quite a few people.
Watching A CHINESE FEAST's master chefs slicing
and dicing and observing their demeanor, one cannot help but think of them
as akin to martial arts sifu (It cannot be entirely coincidental that Xiong
Xin Xin was as adept at playing a kung fu fighter in "Once Upon a Time
in China III" as he is portraying a chef in this film). Looking at
the tasks and tests given to the apprentice chef played by Leslie Cheung
by Lau Kar Ying's master chef character, one surely is made to think of
the training of a Shaolin Temple disciple or trainee of a drunken as well
as sober kung fu teacher.
To be sure, this movie most definitely provides
a feast for the eyes. However, it would be well to not be lulled
into thinking that this movie is without depth of meaning. Yes, this
is a zanily exuberant "feel good" movie but there is much symbolism on
view and to analyze: Witness the yin and yang pattern on a particular dish
that is prominently displayed when the credits roll at the beginning of
the film. Never are these elements, and binary oppositions, more
apparent than at the climactic Qing-Hang Feast contest itself when one
side represents communal effort (involving Chinese Mainlanders in tandem
with Hong Kongers, a woman along with men, and two generations including
a father and daughter), "heat" and tradition (for the most part) while
the other is powered by an egoistic individual, places an onus on "ice"
and consciously employs untraditional -- un-Chinese -- practices.
More than by the way: Of course, we know who and
what will ultimately prevail...but the beauty of this production is that
there really are plot twists and ideational innovations pretty much up
until the end.
My rating for this film: 9.