Tag Archives: stephen chow

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.

Review of "Forbidden City Cop"

Forbidden City Cop‘s plot, such as it is, is of the evil Gum Kingdom’s quests to conquer the Chinese Empire. The simpleminded and friendly Emperor is no match for the clever Gum barbarians, and from the offer of a concubine to the capture of a space alien, the Emperor believes & accepts every Gum entreaty. It’s up to doctor who moonlights as an Imperial Bodyguard and inventor, Ling Ling Fat (“008”, Stephen Chow), to save the day.

Chow’s films are a combination of lighthearted physical comedy and commentary on culture. The recent Shaolin Soccer (2001) is a masterful example of this, combining the rise of an improbably sports team (a la The Longest Yard) with a realist examination of contemporary urban China. Forbidden City Cop is an earlier example of the same themes, deftly combining western imports (UFOs, the Academy Awards, spy thrillers) with traditional (ancient heroes, an Empire in distress) and contemporary (kung fu) themes.

The only downside was the subtitles, sometimes hardly readable because of their positioning on the screen. Still, the film was funny and cute, and I recommend it. I rate it 8 / 10.

Rent from Greencine. (Currently out of stock at Amazon.)