Sunday, November 30, 2008

Random DVD Round-Up 5 - CJ7

 bully was picking on Eddie at school. Eddie just wants to massacre him.I LOVE Stephen Chow's films so much that I declared his previous movie, KUNG FU HUSTLE the greatest film ever made. The reason I made such an outlandish claim is that Chow's movie seem to distill the best of cinema as entertainment - from the slapstick and social engagement of Charlie Chaplin, to the stylish B-movie worship of Tarantino - and everything in between. Stephen Chow makes movies where reality is cartoonish but we still find ourselves crying tears of real emotion. He's a consummate entertainer and a great storyteller.

So it should come as no surprise that I LOVED Stephen Chow's latest movie CJ7. It shares KUNG FU's joyous blurring of the line between reality and fantasy - indeed, it embraces the idea that dreams can come true as its central tenet. And yet, this is a movie that is piercing in its satire of modern Chinese society with its dreams of quick success and big money.

The set-up is simple. Chow plays an honest, hard-working construction worker called Ti. Ti is one of the guys making China an economic super-power but he lives in a cockroach infested one room flat with his son Dicky, lives off plain rice and rotten fruit and works in hazardous conditions. In modern China, Ti recognises that an elite education is necessary for success, and scrimps and saves to send his beloved son Dicky to an elite private school. Of course, as all scholarship kids know, getting entry is not the same as being accepted. Dicky - with his second-hand shoes and grubby uniform - is an immediate target. When Dicky stumbles upon a cute, cool little alien he dreams of defeating bullies and winning school quizzes. It's the same dream of fantastic escape as harboured by the kids in ET and BHOOTNATH.

CJ7 beautifully balances earnest ideology with slapstick comedy and romance. Everyone can sympathise with the kid whose parents can't afford the "must-have" Christmas toy. Only Stephen Chow shows him stamping cockroaches on the kitchen wall in a game with his father as a touching act of familial bonding! Special credit should also go to Jiao Xu - who I am astonished to discover is actually a girl. As Dicky, she matches Chow in any of his roles as hero - showing real comic ability.

CJ7 was released in China, Australia and Hong Kong in January 2008; in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand in February; in the USA in March; in Sweden in April; in Japan in June; and in the UK and South Korea in August.

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