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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

I have always been a fan of Stephen Chow....maybe because while most people find the dialogue and funny side of the movie alone, I also see the genuine and honest conversation. Why the hypocrisy? If you don't like someone, just say it. 

Anyway, when I found out bout the movie Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, I was a bit disappointed because Stephen Chow will not star in the movie...instead, he chose the director role.

The story kicks off with a stirring opening sequence involving a fake demon hunter, a fake water demon and a Taoist monk (the man that would be Tripitaka) Chen Xuanzang (Wen Zhang) dedicated to demon expulsion via love, kindness and a book of 300 nursery rhymes. 

Failing to get the job done and strung up for being a hoax, Xuanzang watches helplessly as the real water demon appears and wreaks havoc on a small village. 

The day is ultimately saved by real-deal Duan (Shu Qi) and her Infinity Flying Ring. Despondent at his failure, Xuanzang goes back to his master (Cheng Sihan) who tells him his lack of faith was the root of his demon banishing ineptitude. 

Cue the journey to betterment and wisdom.

Constructed in segments pivoting on encounters with the various demons Xuanzang meets -- the opening fish demon, the Gao Family Inn and its Pig Demon proprietor (Chen Bingqiang), the closing Five Finger Mountain segment and a run-in with Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King (Huang Bo) with short bridging bits -- Journey to the West is more picaresque than pure narrative. 

But Chow and his army of writers manage to hold on to their themes and ideas through each set piece. The central conflict in the film grows from Xuanzang’s very Buddhist quest to honor the greater love for all things under the sun -- demons included -- and Duan’s more earthly quest for physical and romantic love. 

Shu Qi was amazing throughout the movie. The humour and charisma between her and Wen Zhang was awesome, although I believe Stephen Chow did a better job during his own act in "A Chinese Odyssey" with Athena Chu. 

Her aggressive pursuit of him makes Xuanzang uneasy, and challenges his already fragile hold on his faith. 

The film has a dark undercurrent, entertaining and colorful as it is. Chow has no time for unwritten rules that say toddlers can’t die on screen; the Pig Demon’s lair is truly grotesque; and the Monkey King isn’t the impish charmer that has dominated popular culture. 

The film’s 3D and CGI is adequate, and though it goes needlessly overboard in the closing segments, for the most part it avoids the effects-as-message trap. Journey to the West may not rank among Chow’s classics, but it’s a crowd-pleaser that also serves as a reminder of what the director can accomplish when he’s on his game.

Of course, Stephen Chow did not forget to use his classic quote back in the Chinese Odyssey.

 "Once I had one true love in front of me,
but I didn't treasure her
it was only when I lost her, 
that I felt regretful.
It's the most painful ordeal in this world.
If I'm given another chance
I will say three words to her
"I love you"
If there a need to put a time limit to this love
I hope it's ten thousand years"

Of course, this time it was simpler: "I love you". 1000 years, 10,000 years...

I guess somehow, Chow knew how to bring us back to the good old days by putting elements of the past into his new movies...I guess that's the reason why some people put it simply for this movie: "Seeing Stephen Chow in the different casts"

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