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The Chinese Feast
The Chinese Feast
Actors: Kenny Bee, Leslie Cheung, Man Cheuk Chiu, Yik-Man Fan, Ka-Kui Ho
Director: Hark Tsui
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Special Interests
UR     2002     1hr 40min

Studio: Tai Seng Entertainment Release Date: 11/26/2002 Run time: 103 minutes

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Kenny Bee, Leslie Cheung, Man Cheuk Chiu, Yik-Man Fan, Ka-Kui Ho
Director: Hark Tsui
Creators: Peter Pau, Hark Tsui, Marco Mak, Bak-Ming Wong, Man Fai Ng, Philip Cheng
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Special Interests
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Romantic Comedies, Drama, Cooking & Beverages
Studio: Tai Seng
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/26/2002
Original Release Date: 01/01/1995
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1995
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Cantonese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Braised Elephant Trunk With Honey: Excellent!
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 09/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The young man is determined to become a skilled practitioner in this Chinese film, but he must first learn from a master, an older man who has sunk low. Yet the master still retains his abilities. The question: Can the master bring himself back up, train the young man and lead a team of courageous followers to final victory in an explosive show-down against a team of arrogant professionals?

Well, sure. But be sure you've eaten before you see this movie because it's about cooking, not kung fu. If you like Chinese food, your stomach will be rumbling half-way through the film. The movie is part slapstick, part screwball comedy, part Iron Chef..and it's all about Chinese cookery. You might not think elephant trunk sounds appetizing, but, I'll tell you, it's looks good on a plate.

Chui Kong Sun (Leslie Cheung) is determined to become a chef. He's something of a wise guy, brash but basically well-intentioned. He gets a job in a restaurant under false pretenses and almost immediately finds himself in a wrestling match with a 200 pound live fish. He and the fish go thrashing from the kitchen into the dining room, and along the way he encounters the restaurant owner's daughter, Au Ka Wai (Anita Yuen), who looks a little like Cyndi Lauper. You can spot her in a crowd by her bright red hair and green lipstick.

After several adventures in cooking, Sun and Wai find themselves in a desperate search to find Liu Kit (Kenny Bee), a disgraced master chef. Only Kit can rescue Wai's father from a challenge made by a notorious master chef backed up by an unscrupulous group of gangsters. The challenge is simple: The two chefs will compete in preparing the Qing Han Imperial Feast, comprising of a different main course a day over three days together with 15 other dishes. The first day will be bear palm; the second day, elephant trunk; and the third day, monkey brains. Whoever wins, wins everything. I'll let you try to decide if the good guys win, but I'll tell you that Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen make an attractive and funny couple, and that Kenny Bee is a confident master chef once his taste buds and sense of smell are whipped back into shape.

And what dishes to watch being prepared: Fried noodles with beef, sweet and sour pork (not at all like the chewy pork chunks with fluorescent red candy sauce most of us are familiar with), fish stuffed with soup and pearl-stuffed dumplings. And then there are the main courses for the Qing Han Feast: Polar bear palm, deboned and steamed with caviar in golden sturgeon soup, then served chilled with pears carved into flowers; Northern Chinese bear palm braised with honey and swallows' livers; Thai elephant trunk steamed, braised and then stewed with wild birds; boiled elephant trunk frozen, covered with yogurt and aged for half a month, then cut into soft slices and simmered with ginseng and chicken; shark fin threads fried with shark teeth power with monkey brains gently tossed in briefly so that they stay soft, moist and whole.

If you like other first-rate food movies such as Big Night, Tampopo, Babette's Feast and Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, you should enjoy this one. Be prepared for two things: The English subtitles were written by someone who may not have had the greatest command of the English language, and the subtitles are white with no dark edging; they can't be read when the background is light. The DVD is bare bones. All the instructions are in Chinese but the film is set up to start playing with the subtitles. Don't be discouraged. The movie really is a great deal of fun."
One of the all time best movies about food
C. O. DeRiemer | 11/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Chinese Feast is one of the all time best movies about food and a great movie in its own right. One of the main plots involves rehabilitating an alchohlic master chef to save a restaurant. It reminded me of the classic western plot of bringing back the old gunfighter to save the ranch. Western audiences will find this movie quite accessible. The comic timing is extraordinary and the cast is one of the best looking groups of people I have seen. Subtitles are in bad Hong Kong movie English, but isn't that part of the fun?"
Two master chefs go at it in a humorous culinary kung fu mov
C. O. DeRiemer | 01/17/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"two master chefs duke it out to become the emporors chef. the filming of the cooking technique borders as a kung fu flick and awesome culinary skill. the food is intriguingly filmed and the plot has twist and turns that sometimes swerve away from the true nature of this culinary adventure. i have seen this movie 3 times and still enjoy every minute of it. Highly recomended for those of a culinary persuasion."
After Two Hours, You'll Be Hungry Again
Sur-reel Life, All About My Movies | New York, NY | 12/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

""The Chinese Feast" is like a 12-course banquet dinner, which serves up a little something for every taste. Director Tsui Hark, best known for crafting elaborate wire-fu epics throughout the 1990's, blends together slapstick comedy, martial arts, sports flick conventions, and even the "Iron Chef" TV series into one tasty fusion cuisine.

Leslie Cheung, a popular Hong Kong singer and accomplished actor (his credits include the very different "A Chinese Ghost Story," "Farewell, My Concubine," and "Happy Together") plays Chui, a small-time gangster who wants to become a chef so he can travel to Canada, where his girlfriend has gone. After being disqualified from the cooking exam of a Canadian hotel chain, he takes a job at the Qing Han, the oldest local restaurant. The much put-upon owner of the restaurant, Au (Kar-Ying Law), makes Chui perform a variety of ridiculous tasks for the amusement of the kitchen staff. But the last laugh is on him, as romantic sparks begin to fly between Chui and V.V. (Anita Yuen, behaving outlandishly), the owner's rebellious daughter.

Wacky hi-jinks involving a giant fish, followed by a Mexican standoff between Triad gangs precipitated by a gun hidden inside a straw basket, give way to a slightly more dramatic central plot: Wong Wing (stuntman/actor Xin Xin Xiong), leader of an upstart restaurant company called the Super Group, challenges the owner of the Qing Han to a battle between master chefs. The duel will take place within 30 days, as part of the third annual Qing Han Imperial Feast. While the winner will earn a sum of $60 million HK, the loser must shutter his restaurant. As an added injury, in the tradition of the martial arts flick, the losing chef must call his opponent Master.

The Qing Han's staff convinces their boss to accept the Super Group's challenge. Unfortunately, it turns out they have been bribed by their master's enemies, and their subsequent betrayal causes the old man to have a heart attack. At this point, V.V., like Cordelia in Shakespeare's King Lear, proves to be a loyal daughter after all. She pledges to prepare the Qing Han Imperial Feast, thus saving her father's restaurant.

Unfortunately, neither she nor Chui, who wants to help her win the upcoming contest, can so much as boil water, much less prepare a complicated series of dishes featuring truly exotic ingredients. Enter Lung (Man Cheuk Chiu), a kind-hearted local chef. He relates the history behind the event, but admits he cannot help with the actual preparing. However, he knows someone who can: Kit (Kenny Bee), a onetime culinary prodigy turned lost soul.

Kit had been a contender for Hong Kong's greatest chef until personal tragedy struck. Since then, he has retreated into a cocoon of alcohol and regret. He works a menial job at a supermarket, and ruins his once-formidible taste buds with drink. The character of Kit is in the tradition of countless movie athletes who fall from grace, and must pull themselves up again in time for the requisite happy ending. Naturally, his newfound friends put him through that familiar staple: the training montage. Only in "The Chinese Feast," relocating one's Eye of the Tiger means engaging in some pretty over-the-top activities, such as being forcefed a funnel full of ice cubes, acupuncture, and even a smoke-filled "death chamber."

Can two fledgling cooking assistants, a recovering alcohol abuser with rusty kitchen skills, and a master chef confined to a wheelchair manage to upset the supremely-confident and technologically-advanced Super Group? If you've ever seen a sports movie, you don't need me to tell you the answer. However, even if you're familiar with every gridiron inspirational or "Karate Kid"-knock-off made to-date, you probably haven't seen their conventions presented in Tsui Hark's particularly active style.

Also, even if you've already watched Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman" or Juzo Itami's "Tampopo," "The Chinese Feast" gives the food movie a wholly different look and feel. The camera still lingers on the texture and color of prepared dishes, but Hark places particular emphasis on how his chefs do their thing. From the very beginning, they seem to possess superhuman cooking ability, the same way Jet Li and Man Cheuk Chiu had elemental agility and speed in "Once Upon a Time in China" and "The Blade," respectively. True, Kit and Wong Wing are culinary artists, not martial artists. But the director frames them in the same bold fashion, angling the camera upwards toward their faces. It's a point of view that flatters them, even when the angle is slightly canted. And Hark uses slow and fast-motion to make their proficiency with fire and kitchen tools akin to a master's skill with weapons.

(Speaking of weapons, more than one signature dish is punctuated with a shot of a trembling knife. If you decide to watch this movie, keep a tally of how many times one of the chefs completes a masterpiece, then flings his knife into the cutting board, where it vibrates with exhausted power. Talk about showmanship.)

Like "Eat Drink Man Woman" and "Tampopo," this movie celebrates food and the way it brings people together. Food serves as the link in a variety of relationships: between burgeoning romantic partners (Chui and V.V.), former lovers (Kit and the woman he is estranged from), parent and child (Au and V.V.), and ultimately, a large group of friends (everyone who teams up against the Super Group). The cast is uniformly great, and the director juggles them well enough that everyone gets at least one good scene.

It probably helps that all the central characters are motivated by redemption. Chui must learn the chef trade honestly to make up for his early cheating. V.V. must save her father's establishment to make up for her poor behavior in the past. And Kit must win the Qin Han Imperial Feast in order to prove to his girlfriend that he can feel again. But at the same time, the film has enough off-beat humor-the aforementioned giant fish scene, a screaming contest at a karaoke bar, a car-and-motorcycle chase set to Italian opera, and some business involving particular organs belonging to a monkey-that it never veers into schmaltz.

On the contrary, "The Chinese Feast" manages to balance itself between crowd-pleasing and whimsical. Among its possible audience are fans of Asian movie stars Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen, not to mention martial arts aficionados (Those familiar with Hark's even better 1995 feature, "The Blade," might get a kick out of seeing Man Cheuk Chiu and Xin Xin Xiong in showy supporting roles). In turn, those with an appetite for MTV-style, rapid-fire filmmaking (only done right) are also in for a treat. So are those parties with a taste for the exotic. Meanwhile, the film's universal themes of love and friendship may coax the not-so-brave into giving it a try.

Finally, foodies should be happy with this one. The highest compliment I can pay "The Chinese Feast" is to say that, after being amused, stimulated, and very much impressed by it, I also found myself hungry. A lot of the food cinematography is excellent, but the most tantalizing image occurs towards the end: a juicy piece of roasted meat, slowly dripping with honey. Despite the big meal of Thanksgiving leftovers I had just eaten two hours before, it suddenly felt like my only choices were "Feast" or famine, and I barely stopped myself from taking a bite out of the TV screen."