25 June 2006 | winner55
Jacques Tati in Hong Kong
This movie is not a kung fu movie. This is a comedy about kung fu. And if, before making this film, Sammo Hung hadn't spent some time watching films by the great French comic filmmaker Jaques Tati (i.ie., e.g., esp. Jour de fête), he is certainly on the same wave length.
Personally, I think Tati's films are hilarious; but they're not to all tastes. Some have told me that they loathe his work. I've never figured out why, but I think it's because the character that Tati usually plays himself is so totally dead pan, so unaffected by the events around him (which he is usually causing) that many miss the more subtle comic bits happening around him.
At any rate, Tati's main shtick - or at least his best known - is to take a pretentiously upright petite bourgeoisie with 19th century sensibilities and drop him into 20th century France where he must confront a society that is largely defined by the gradual eroding of those sensibilities. He usually has serious difficulties with little things like record players or radios. He's a hazard in a car, but the world's no safer when he rides a bicycle. But through it all, he never loses his aplomb, which is derived from his inner recognition that the nineteenth century was more interesting than the 20th overall.
In a similar fashion, the character Sammo Hung himself plays is a country boy come to the big city of Hong Kong, utterly convinced that what makes the city interesting is that Bruce Lee made kung fu movies there. This gets him into trouble in small ways, since he takes in stride happenstance which would never be noticed in a small town but which are deemed inappropriate in a big city - such as the moment when he appears to be urinating in the street, A cop stops him, only to discover that Hung is actually just squeezing water out of his shirt, soaked during an accidental dip in the bay. What's interesting about this gag is why it is Hung doesn't understand what the cop's fuss is all about - in a country town, as long as no one's looking, if you gotta go you gotta go. In other words, Hung is not really urinating in the street - but he certainly would - and what's the problem officer? Of course Hung's obsession with Bruce Lee also gets him into big troubles as well. He beats a gang of thugs who have refused to pay his restaurant-owner uncle. Of course, in a Bruce Lee movie, the thugs would be considered trounced, and they would have learned their lesson. But in Hung's Hong Kong, reality unfortunately prevails, and the thugs return when he's not around, to trounce his uncle.
Of course, Hung finally triumphs in the end, just as Tati always did. Characters like this must always triumph (at least in comedy) because they are completely innocent, and as such, despite their comic missteps and misunderstandings, they really represent what is best in the humans we admire and wish to be. We don't really want to be Bruce Lee (who has to experience the loss of all of his friends before he gets a chance to beat the bad-guy), we, in our own innocence, really want a world where Lee's heroics are possible.
Unfortunately, that world only exists on film.
"Ah, but what if...?" - and in that question we find Sammo Hung at his comic best.