Zhang Wen

ff journey to the west

I’ve been a fan of Stephen Chow since I was first introduced to his comedic style in Shaolin Soccer over ten years ago, but it wasn’t until just recently that it dawned on me how much Chow resembles a modern-day Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton in regards to his storytelling sensibilities (and ability to wear multiple hats) while also pulling a lot of the persona of a Harold Lloyd character when he steps in front of the camera. He takes many of the recognizable elements of classic slapstick comedy and its characters and toys with them just enough to make them his own on paper before making them his own on screen. He tells underdog stories, but his underdogs are endearingly arrogant. He also tells love stories, only his protagonists are not motivated by the affections of a woman. His heroes are self-centered and pathetically so. Yet, like the love interests in the film (eventually the hero comes around) we can’t help but fall in love with them no matter what it is that motivates them. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons puts us in very familiar Chow territory without, for the first time, the onscreen presence of Chow himself. Though, while it isn’t Stephen Chow in front of the camera, it still feels very much like Chow is in front of the camera.

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