Shot by a director who goes by the name of A Gan, The Big Movie is a dazzling spoof in the tradition of Hollywood films like Airplane. This film contains a lot of big movies: hold on to your seats, as an absurdly linked series of sometimes droll, sometimes genuinely hilarious take-offs of famous film scenes rush by in the opening half hour.
Shot by a director who goes by the name of A Gan, The Big Movie is a dazzling spoof in the tradition of Hollywood films like Airplane.
This film contains a lot of big movies: hold on to your seats, as an absurdly linked series of sometimes droll, sometimes genuinely hilarious take-offs of famous film scenes rush by in the opening half hour. We’ve got spoofs of Hollywood (Forrest Gump, The Matrix, Brokeback Mountain), Korean action melodramas (Daisy), Hong Kong blockbusters and art house favourites (Infernal Affairs, In The Mood For Love), and mainland blockbusters (House Of Flying Daggers)… As an added bonus, sharp little musical numbers erupt here and there: breakdance, rap, MTV, and hoofer styles, for no apparent reason (other than to have fun).
What keeps the film from being merely an series of brilliant independent jokes, though, is a rather pointed plot, with a theme that satirizes the crazy money-mad rush that consumes the urban Chinese middle class these days.
Producer and star Eric Tsang (familiar from countless Hong Kong films since the 1980s, here showing his entire range, from playing broadly, milking the laughs for all their worth, to the more nuanced, heartfelt work he brings to HK melodramas) is a Shanghai roast pigeon restauranteur improbably named “Anderson”. He’s an immigrant from Hong Kong and Macau up to his ears in debt and addicted to speculating in the hot Shanghai property market. Two fine mainland co-stars hold their own against Tsang’s bona fide scene-stealing brio.
Huang Bo is a fast rising comic male star whose distinctive high voice and dead-on timing give his character “Peter Pan”, a has-been action star, a gentle hint of pathos. Biding his time until his film career revives, Pan acts as the public front and sales manager for a Shanghai property development firm, whose newest housing development attracts Anderson’s speculative interest. Initially opposing Pan and Anderson is perky young housing sales expert Luo Qian, one of “Shanghai’s newest generation of thick-skinned and thin-skulled real estate girls” as one character puts it. In Yao Chen’s neatly comic performance, what initially appears to be an ultra-perky clown quickly develops into a character with heart and a soul.
Luo Qian regrets her rash early investment in the new development, when she uncovers the secrets of how environmentally unsound the neighbourhood is (toxic waste, explosives factory, every possible nightmare). Pan suggests she can only get her deposit back by selling the house to Anderson, but then double crosses her after Anderson falls for the bait. She then unmasks the fraud behind the property scheme, causing this particular speculative investment bubble to collapse (a dark and prescient premonition of what’s to come for China’s urban housing market), leaving Anderson with the only sold apartment in the complex, now practically worthless. As the three opponents become allies in adversity, the film tilts towards social satire, though it finishes with a rousing return to the crazy spoofery of its opening.
With plenty of sharp commentary about the perilous state of Chinese pop cinema, goofy musical numbers (the office ladies’ oopa-oopa number is a particular standout) and a parade of famous film scenes distorted for your viewing pleasure, The Big Movie was one of the few recent small break-out hits in Beijing’s theatres, and we take special pleasure in bring it to the European big screen.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival