Stephen Chow was at least at one point the biggest star in Asia; he may still be. As an actor, he’s affable, equally conversant with extreme physical comedy and action melodrama. As a filmmaker, his approach is endearingly idiosyncratic: irreverent, homage-heavy, with unapologetically stylized performance, camerawork, and low slapstick. His lineage as filmmaker includes Keaton, the Brothers Marx and Hui, Chuck Jones, and the better ZAZ spoofs. He has taken longer and longer to produce each of his recent directorial offerings (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle), but this has not diminished his drawing power—those films not only broke box-office records but also allowed Chow to cross over into western markets, blending his anarchic, cracked mo lei tau sensibility with interculturally resonant genre play. That Kung Fu Hustle arrived in western theaters on the heels of the portentous, lugubrious post-Crouching Tiger martial-arts pageants of Zhang Yimou likely contributed greatly to its success and to the high expectations in line for his newest film, four years in the making.
At first, CJ7 will be startling to Chow’s fans, perhaps because it exposes many of the sentimental undercurrents of his previous films. Click here to read Brendon Bouzard’s review of Stephen Chow’s CJ7.