Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The God of Cookery

Title: The God of Cookery
Director: Stephen Chow
Released: 1996
Staring: Stephen Chow, Karen Mok, Vincent Kok, Ng Man-tat, Stephen Au, Nancy Sit, Lam Suet, Tats Lau, Law Kar-ying, Vincent Kuk

Plot: Stephen Chow (Chow) is the current reigning “God of Cookery” however when he is double crossed by his former staff and rival chef Bull Tong (kuk) and publically humiliated, he finds himself stripped of his title and stripped of his title. Now he must team up with two rival street chef’s Sister Turkey (Mok) and Goosehead (Siu-Kei) to battle his way back to the top and reclaim his title.

Review: Despite bursting into the public conscious with the double header of “Shoalin Soccer” and “Kung Fu Hustle”, Stephen Chow would seem to have drifted back under the radar of most movie goers, so considering that the amazing “Yam Magazine” are holding their YamYum Food Blogathon at the moment, what better time to look at one of his more obscure movies, it’s current status as one of his lesser known films, only makes it more of a shame that this film never received the same distribution that his previously mentioned films did.

Baring all of his usual comical trademarks, “The God of Cookery” is surreal to say the least with Chow combining slapstick, irrelevant musical numbers and his over-the-top “Silly Talk” style of comedy to tell the tale of competitive cookery, which would put even Iron Chef to shame, as ingredients are thrown and prepared in the air, while also boasting a dish called “Pissing Pork Balls” which I’m still not sure is the real name for this dish or just a questionable translation.

Opening with Chow as the reigning God of Cookery, he is shown as a pompous and egotistic, as he reigns down scorn on the dishes belonging to chefs who’d dare to oppose him, while using his title to charge overblown prices for simple street dishes so it’s of little surprise when he gets stripped off his title and is forced to start from scratch as he battles to regain his title, with Chow once more showing his love of ensemble comedy, as he brings together yet another group of misfits to aid him in his battle, including the two rival street vendors Sister Turkey and Goosehead, who agree to put their differences aside in order to help Chow develop his new dish, while equally processing their own random cooking techniques. The idea of the big shot who falls from grace and eventually achieves redemption has frequently been a key theme within Chow’s films and here it used more effectively than ever and while realism is nothing but an afterthought the tone is kept with Chows usual upbeat sense of fun that you won’t care will also no doubt excepting some of the more outlandish moments that appear throughout.

While this film could have just been played out with Chow loosing his title and battling his way to the top and that would have no doubt been more than enough. Still seemingly not content with playing things too straight, Chow instead takes a diversion into Shaolin territory as he trains or more precisely constantly gets beaten up by the Eighteen Brass Monks, as they remake him into a true deity of delectable dishes, while also giving way to a truly insane showdown between Chow and Bull Tong, which not only see’s outlandish cooking movies, but one character being turned into a Dog, ancient gods descending from the heavens and even a little kung fu (or should that be cook fu) thrown in to flavour.

While it might be perhaps a little too full on insane for some tastes, those already established with Chows unique style of humour will no doubt eagerly lap this up, while for newcomers it might just seem all abit too random, especially when it comes to the second half of the film which basically see’s any logic being tossed out of the film completely, but were Chow succeeds is in making it so that the audience never feels the need to question even the most outlandish of moments. True some things might be lost in translation, but here he hits a lot more than he misses and compared to some of the dreck being churned out by the Hollywood studio system, this film is a refreshing and highly original change of pace, while only further reinforcing my love for Hong Kong cinema.

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