The Greatest Lover
Three ill mannered rubes from the Mainland say
goodbye to their loved ones and set on their journey to illegally cross
into Hong Kong. Their master plan consists of tiger dung. Apparently, tiger
dung odor throws off the border dogs and so they first go to a zoo and
slip a tiger a laxative and then sing lullabies to it in order to quicken
the dung making process. Unfortunately, on the way to the border one of
the fellows gets hungry and mistakenly eats (and likes!) the tiger dung
paddies – but all turns out fine as his breath becomes a lethal weapon.
Once across the border this same fellow mistakenly
ends up at the swank Peninsula Hotel as opposed to the low end Peninsula
Tearoom where he is suppose to rendezvous with his two comrades. Here he
is assumed to be the paid escort of a gay gweilo fellow and is force fed
chicken tails by the kitchen staff in order to tenderize his bottom and
get him ready for his assignation! He runs away and hides under a table
in the ballroom where he is discovered hours later asleep with his face
covered with assorted food groups.
You may be getting the feeling that this is not
exactly sophisticated comedy. You would be right. You might be thinking
that this is not very good comedy. You would be wrong – because as silly
and low brow as much of this film is, it is quite funny at times. It goes
on perhaps a bit long – 154 minutes – and a pair of cutting shears would
have helped tighten it up and edited out some of the slower parts – but
generally it’s constant lunacy or make that idiocy is pretty amusing.
Chow Yun Fat (who plays the dung eating character)
is often compared to Cary Grant for his smooth and suave manner – but in
a number of his 1980 comedies a more legitimate comparison might be Jerry
Lewis. His manic out of control characters often come across as slightly
mentally disabled and are as far away from his “The Killer” image as one
can possibly imagine. A number of HK film fans don’t react very well to
this side of Chow Yun Fat – but I find them fairly amusing even if I find
it ridiculous and absurd at the same time.
This film is a take on the Pygmalion story – as
Chow goes from total hick to total hunk under the tutelage of Anita Mui.
Nina Li and Pauline Wong concoct a mean spirited prank on a wealthy nerd
– Big Mouth Sze - by pretending that Nina is willing to marry him.
At the engagement party, they reveal that it is all an April Fools joke.
Sze is crushed and upon discovering the slobbering mess under the table
decides to get his revenge by passing Chow off as a wealthy tycoon and
having both Nina and Pauline fall in love with him. He takes Chow to the
foremost image consultant in HK – Anita.
Anita initially thinks Chow is a hopelessly drooling
idiot – but plunges ahead and attempts to make him into a playboy. This
consists of teaching Chow elegant manners, how to slow dance, how to smile
(there are the cold, narrow, sly, broad, chilly, obscene, seductive and
delicious smiles to learn), what wines to drink with which meals, English
phrases (“I love you”) and how to kiss by sucking quarters out of an artificial
It doesn’t come easily – in fact this section
should have been cut down a fair bit – but eventually Chow becomes the
classy Chow that we all love. A wealthy and beautiful heiress – Elizabeth
Lee – becomes enchanted with him – but Chow has become enamored with Anita.
At the same time, Chow has to deal with his two comrades - Eric Tsang and
Shing Fui On who would like a piece of the HK pie as well.
It is all silly beyond belief – no one acts like
anyone that you and I have seen in real life - the comedy is very
hit and miss low brow nonsense – but somewhere along the way I really began
to enjoy this foolish little foible.
A large part of this admittedly had to do with
the stunning women within – any film with Nina Li, Anita Mui, Elizabeth
Lee and Pauline Wong is a feast for the male eye. But the look of the whole
film is absolutely gorgeous with fabulous sets (the rich live so damn well)
and a luscious cinematic glow to it. Director Clarence Fok brings a wonderfully
stylish sense to this film that he perfected a few years later with Naked
Killer. It is all lovely pastels and limes, soft focused lighting and marvelous
fashions. Anita Mui goes through a myriad of clothing changes in the film
(click here to see them). This film has a very
different look than anything I have seen before.
As an additional bonus, there are cameos from
Wong Jing (as a rival image consultant), Sandra Ng (as Anita’s pupil who
wants to be the next Miss HK!), Yuen Wah (as the Communist watcher), Helen
Law Lan (as Sze’s mother) and Rebecca Pan (Days of Being Wild - as Elizabeth
My rating for this film: 7.5
Distributed by Universe
The transfer is for the most part quite lovely.
Not having seen it before though I am not sure if some of the scenes were
intended to be so light or if the transfer was a bit washed out. My copy
also had nearly 10 instances where the film stopped for a split second
Chapters - 8
No other previews.
Written information on Chow Yun-Fat, Anita
Mui and Clarence Fok
Easy to read subs
Subs in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, English,
Bahasa Indonesia and French.