A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box

Dir: Lan Chun Wai, 1994. Starring: Stephen Chow, Athena Chu. Asian Cinema
A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box

Not too long ago the DVDs for A Chinese Odyssey Parts One and Two came into Amoeba. From the brief once-over I gave the boxes, they looked like they might be interesting and worth checking out. Both starred Stephen Chow, they are Hong Kong fantasy films, and they were only $4.99 each. I wanted to do a little more research to see if they were worth my time and money and quickly made my way to the internets to see if I could find a trailer. Which of course I did. The trailer for Part One has fleeting glimpses of a half man/half monkey as well as a half man/half pig. People were flying across the sky, women were turning into spiders, and I think I even saw a giant bull. As I was watching this my reaction was a quiet, “Oh, this looks pretty good.”

…NO! What is wrong with me!? A movie about a half man/half monkey and his pig friend flying and fighting and doing magic cannot be described as looking "pretty good." It looks absolutely crazy is what it looks like! And this was the moment that I realized that I have truly gone off the cinematic deep end. Because I love Kung Fu movies. And I watch a lot of them. So much so that my brain can no longer recognize something like this as silly but instead as totally awesome…which it is.

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the plot of this movie. There are these two women who do magic and they are searching for some monk who may be the Monkey King and this one guy pretends to be the Monkey King because another monk who turns into grapes (seriously) tells him to, but then the guy pretending to be the Monkey King falls in love with one of the girls and then his friend gets the other magic girl pregnant and every once in a while a giant bull shows up to fight them and...WHAT AM I EVEN TALKING ABOUT?! The only explanation I can think of for this plot is that it was written by 7-year olds. It must be. And this is only Part One! I haven’t even gotten to Part Two yet!!!

But you don’t watch Hong Kong fantasy films for their plots -- you watch them for the amazing visuals and Kung Fu scenes. What fascinates me about these films is that no matter how many of them I watch, I’m still shocked by the inventiveness each one has. They just know how to use a camera in ways we don’t. For instance, there is a scene where Stephen Chow is attacked by a giant spider and it just so happens his legs don’t work. For the whole scene he runs from it on his hands like a Looney Toons character (which he would later go on to do in Kung Fu Hustle), but without the aid of CGI they had to be a whole lot more ingenious in their methods. There’s also a fight scene that takes place all inside the villain's brain. Really great stuff. But it’s really quite hard for me to recommend this movie to you, not because I don’t think it’s great, but rather because you’re most likely still sane and will only look at me funny if you do watch it.

And just when I didn’t think I could love this film any more it ends with a massive time travel paradox that sets up Part Two!

Posted by:
Eric Branscum
Mar 8, 2010 12:09pm
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