Just for Fun
Here’s a pop quiz. I’ll give you some clues and
you have to guess the writer of the script of this film. Back in the early
1980’s he was an unknown scriptwriter, but before the decade was out he
had become a fairly successful director and in the next decade he became
one of Hong Kong’s best-known directors. He is still directing today. This
film is a light silly comedy that contains cleavage jokes, sexual innuendos,
a horse that has firecrackers tied to its tail, an effeminate gay body
builder, gigolos on the make, a snake up a dress, a seal butting a man
into the pool from behind, a game of strip billiards, men having their
privates damaged for comical relief, accidentally eating dog food, riding
a dolphin and a crack about hairy French female legs.
That last one should have given it away of course.
It was that laugh a minute director Wong Kar-wai. He was to carry many
of these same themes and sense of humor into his later films to great acclaim.
In fact, Ashes of Time is basically a reworking of this film as Leslie
Cheung and Tony Leung Ka-fai play two old gigolos stuck in the desert chasing
after Brigitte Lin and Maggie Cheung. In Days of Being Wild, Leslie and
Jacky Cheung were riotously funny as they leered at Carina Lau’s cleavage
and who can forget Happy Together in which Wong again made amusing sport
of homosexuals as Leslie reenacted the seal butting scene with Tony Leung
Chiu-wai. One of the major criticisms of his recent film 2046 was that
it had no scenes of strip billiards or accidental dog food eating as the
film clearly needed a few more laughs. The audience kept waiting for a
snake to go up one of Zhang Ziyi’s cheongsam’s but it sadly never happened.
If this dearth of humor continues in his films, it is hard to imagine that
Wong Kar-wai has much more of a future.
This film is in fact directed, produced and acted
in by Frankie Chan, who put out a number of enjoyable “B” films in the
80’s and was an action star in many others – most famously in Prodigal
Son (1982) when he has one of the classic kung fu fights against Yuen Biao.
Of course years later Wong Kar-wai was to employ Chan to write the music
for three of his films – Ashes of Time, Chungking Express and Fallen Angels.
In this Chan plays Big Light who returns home after a long absence only
to discover that his recently deceased father left his vast wealth to charity
and has only given Big Light a box that contains a scroll telling him tough
His father’s major domo (Wu Ma) invites him to
stay at his house where his two grown daughters are in a prime time condition
for romance and marriage. One daughter, Tai Fung (Wong Wan Si), has been
waiting for him for years, but Big Light isn’t interested. Instead he looks
up his old friend Big Mouth (Charley Cho) who invites him to a party where
they run into the King of Cues (Melvin Wong) who seduces women with his
slick pool playing. Frankie has no problem seducing a beautiful woman as
well at the party and is a little surprised when she slips some money into
his pocket – and he realizes he is at a gigolo party.
Next he moves in with another old friend, Lemon
(Liu Wai Hung) who asks the debonair Big Light to help him romance his
cousin, Sally (Sally Yeh in one of her very early films) who makes a braless
wet t-shirt entrance and then hops on a dolphin to ride at Ocean Park.
The two boys sigh and wish they could be a dolphin for just one day. At
some point The King of Cues (and his right-hand man Tai Bo) tries to make
a move on Sally, Tai Fung is kidnapped by an older woman who wasn’t very
satisfied with her gigolo service and Frankie has to fight Bolo Yeung.
In many of Chan’s films the action sequences are topnotch, but here he
keeps it very minimal even at the end when it seems a big fight has been
set up. Some of the comedy is actually fairly amusing but not nearly enough
of it and it gets tiresome pretty quickly and only the delightful Sally
keeps you watching. Still it is fascinating to see such artistic
promise from the young Wong Kar-wai as his embryonic comic genius so cleverly
bounces around from breasts to busted balls and the occasional frog on
My rating for this film: 5.5