The Chinese Feast

A wonderful, warm well paced comedy with great performances from Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen and everyone else. The humor of this film is built on the situation and the characters more so than the usual HK slapstick type comedy - though the silly large fish scene put me in stitches and that was not sophisticated comedy by any means.

 It's a simple story about a chef having to win a cook off or lose his restaurant. Leslie is a lowly triad trying to go straight and Anita is the wacky but adorable daughter of the chef and both pitch in to help.

A drunken ex-master chef (Kenny Bee) comes back to perhaps save the day. Lots of plot clichés, but done with a clever funny twist. The cooking contest scenes are as exciting & brilliantly choreographed as a John Woo shoot-out and the ending has an almost Rockyesque feeling to it. The film was directed by Tsui Hark.

Reviewed by YTSL

This visually scrumptious movie does feature a whole host of shots of delicious-looking -- even if sometimes made from really gross-sounding (e.g., bear paw, elephant trunk) ingredients -- food being prepared, cooked, displayed and tasted.  Many of its scenes do take place in kitchens and restaurants.  And its heroes are chefs (including those portrayed by Law Kar Ying, Kenny Bee, Chiu Man Cheuk) and wanna-be chefs (played by Leslie Cheung and Anita Yuen).  But one does not have to be a foodie to enjoy it.

Chiu Man Cheuk and Kenny Bee
What does help though is a sense of humor (unlike, say, "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" or "Babette's Feast", this Tsui Hark-directed production is very definitely primarily a comedy).  IMHO, it is particularly integral to have an appreciation of the fast and furious, athletic yet graceful, kind of skilled action movements that have come to characterize many a Hong Kong movie for quite a few people.

Watching A CHINESE FEAST's master chefs slicing and dicing and observing their demeanor, one cannot help but think of them as akin to martial arts sifu (It cannot be entirely coincidental that Xiong Xin Xin was as adept at playing a kung fu fighter in "Once Upon a Time in China III" as he is portraying a chef in this film).  Looking at the tasks and tests given to the apprentice chef played by Leslie Cheung by Lau Kar Ying's master chef character, one surely is made to think of the training of a Shaolin Temple disciple or trainee of a drunken as well as sober kung fu teacher.

To be sure, this movie most definitely provides a feast for the eyes.  However, it would be well to not be lulled into thinking that this movie is without depth of meaning.  Yes, this is a zanily exuberant "feel good" movie but there is much symbolism on view and to analyze: Witness the yin and yang pattern on a particular dish that is prominently displayed when the credits roll at the beginning of the film.  Never are these elements, and binary oppositions, more apparent than at the climactic Qing-Hang Feast contest itself when one side represents communal effort (involving Chinese Mainlanders in tandem with Hong Kongers, a woman along with men, and two generations including a father and daughter), "heat" and tradition (for the most part) while the other is powered by an egoistic individual, places an onus on "ice" and consciously employs untraditional -- un-Chinese -- practices.
More than by the way: Of course, we know who and what will ultimately prevail...but the beauty of this production is that there really are plot twists and ideational innovations pretty much up until the end.

My rating for this film:  9.