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 luck.
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 someone’s head.

My rating for this film: 5.5