Monday, 1 October 2007

Big Shot's Funeral (2001)

English title: Big Shot's Funeral.
Chinese title: Big Shot (大腕).

Big Shot's Funeral (2001), Chinese comedy filmFeng Xiaogang made more comedies than any Mainland Chinese director of this generation. And Ge You in most - no, all - of them.

Most of his comedies tend to be satires and such, which tend to translate better into another culture. Of course, there's always things like wordplay which fail to translate. There only a few of these in this movie. Besides, comedies rely too much on such things as puns or other assorted wordplay aren't good comedies anyway. This comedy should be able to be understood easily by people from the West as it’s about the East-West cross cultural issues.

Here's an example of wordplay. the title 'Da Wan' means 'Big Name' or 'Big Shot', but it also sounds the same as 'Emperor' (homophonic jokes or puns are popular in Chinese culture). So it's a clever wordplay on the idea of having a big shot's funeral looks like a funeral for the Last Emperor. Well, such clever wordplay won't give anybody any LOL moment. The best it does is giving you a smile (if that). But it doesn't mean it isn't fun (even if it isn't funny).

Since this comedy is based on the idea of funeral, I guess it could be considered as a black comedy from that perspective. I like satirical farce, and this isn’t a bad effort, so I enjoy it. People who say it isn’t funny may simply because they don’t like this form of comedy. Besides, comedy is very personal and subjective. Anyhoooo, I think satire isn't supposed to be a form of side-splitter comedy. It may put a smile or 2 on your face, or produce a few chuckles. That’s all. Don't expect non-stop guffaws. Try sitcoms or slapsticks or stand-up, daytime soap opera (wenwang..wenwang...ding..Like Sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives) if that's what you're after. Having said that, the comedy comes mostly from the interactions of various characters, especially between Sutherland and Ge You). The satire is simply a vehicle for the whole story.

It would be hard - harder than Viagra aided car tyre - to convince me that these comedy writers have never watched Crazy Money (1975), which is a comedy classic, a satire on capitalism, a black comedy resolving around death and insanity by the legendary Hui Bros. And all that coincidences are mere freaks of accidents. I’m not suggesting that the 2 movies are the same, simply saying that these script writers must have watched the Hui Bros’ classic and inspired by it. In fact, Da Wan is much more witty, which shouldn't be surprising with some 25 years of hindsight.

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