Review of “CJ7” by Stephen Chow

If Charles Dickens was subtle, he would be Stephen Chow.

Stephen Chow’s CJ7 is a film on two levels. On one, a superficial level that is quite enjoyable, a schoolboy meets an adorable alien travel, in a plot that is an improved version of ET. On another, a deeper level that produces striking cinematography, it is a story about the pervasive poverty of China’s uneducated working class.

CJ7 revolves around an uneducatd laborer who spends most of his income on his son’s tuition. If you watched any of the documentaries on contemporary China in the run-up to the Olympics, you saw a number of variations of this story. Indeed, the documentary Up the Yangzte presents a feature-length exploration of the topic. But what can be numbing and foreign in a serious presentatoin is more approachable under Chow’s direction. The son’s school is not just a good school, but an impossible modern one — laptops on every child’s desk, one apparently Irish pupil who speaks fluent Cantonese, and none of this is remarked upon by any of the characters

To pay for this, the father works at a high-rise job site. Work revolves around a mercurial boss, who’s mix of physical violence and deep sympathy is reflected in several other relationships in the movie. In one of the very first lines, the boy who is the focus of the film is asked, “What does your father do.” The reply is straight-forward: “He is a coolie.”

The family’s lack of material positions is never far from their minds. Summer nights are too hot to sleep,and a subplot of the film involves finding and then reparing a mechanical fan. (“Is it real?! Does it work?!”) The father and son watch cartoons and a report of local bumpkins witnessing a US from the sidewalk, in a scene that transition into the boy demanding a toy (to fit in at school) that his father can’t possibly afford.

The surface plot camouflages this. The words of a reviewer at IMDB, “The story is no longer serious or ambitious,” belies just how serious and ambitious the story is. The children’s story on the face of CJ7, and its intersection with the Dicksonian novel at its heart, is too involved to describe here. The scenes of the this work are too compelling to ignore.

Stephen Chow is best known in America for “Kung-Fu Hustle” and “Shaolin Soccer.” CJ7 is a far superior effort.

Buy it from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu-Ray, rent it from Greencine, or get ahold of it any way you can.

CJ7 is the best film I have seen in a long time.

Transitions

There seems to be some symbolism in General Shinsheki being named to be Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Habor, but I am unable to enunciate it.

Perhaps Shinsheki is a clearer thinker than me:

Shinseki, in 2006, began traveling around the country as a spokesperson for the “Go For Broke National Education Center,” an organization dedicated to preserving and educating about the contributions of Japanese American soldiers in World War II. The 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans who fought in World War II, adopted the motto, “go for broke.” “There is no other story in the history of the U.S. Army like this one, and given the conditions that gave rise to the extraordinary valor of Japanese American soldiers, there may never be another story like it again,” stated Shinseki.

Other transitions are afoot in the world, too.

The past is always dying, and the future is always being born.

Moving forward, we should work with our ally China to disentangle ourselves from our mutual historic friend (and increasingly, psychotic basketcase) Pakistan. China and the United States should work together to accommodate India as a major power in Asia, and find ways to mutually project power into Central Asia in a way that defeats terrorism and prevents any rogue energy suppliers from overturning the peace.