His beautiful and devoted assistant, Rosamund Kwan as the ABC (American Born Chinese) Lucy, hires a local cameraman YoYo (Ge You) to shoot a making-of documentary, following Tyler about as a silent fly-on-the-wall. Despite YoYo's lack of English and Tyler's lack of Chinese, they bond and Tyler becomes enthused with YoYo's description of the funeral of an old person, happiness that he has lived a long and full life, what Tyler dubs a "comedy funeral".
Afraid that Tyler has lost the ability to complete the project, the backers send studio boss Tony (Paul Mazursky) to fire Tyler, and when Tyler has YoYo set the camera on a tripod to film the two of them together he has (or only seems to have?) a stroke or heart attack, managing to squeeze out to YoYo as he collapses (on camera, of course) "Comedy funeral, you must give me comedy funeral".
As Tyler lies near death in the hospital, Lucy fights with the studio to honor his last wishes, and have YoYo produce the funeral. Out of his league .. how could he possibly suitably honor such a Big Shot .. YoYo seeks an old friend, Ying Da as a bleach-blond concert promoter. Their schemes become more and more grandiose, and will take place in the Imperial Palace itself. YoYo hesitantly brings up the subject of money with Lucy, and finds out that Tyler was flat broke. The concert .. excuse me, funeral .. will have to fund itself.
This begins the most sidesplitting moments of the film, when the producers sell product placement and sponsorship rights to just about every centimeter of the Palace, the procession and even the corpse. My favorite moment is when an unknown Chinese starlet tries to buy an appearance as Tyler's distraught mistress to jump start her career.
I won't spoil the ending(s), but this is a hilarious film full of satire of the capitalist world and China's enthusiastic embrace of it. It is enhanced by the genuine relationship between YoYo and Tyler and YoYo's budding romance with Lucy.
Highly recommended for light entertainment with both bite and depth.
At the same time, unemployed cameraman Yoyo (Ge You, award-winniing actor in Canne with "To Live") is hired by Tailor's assistant Lucy (Rosamund Kwan). He is required to make a documentary about the film Tailor is making, but as Yoyo becomes a friend to this great director whose health seems deteriorated, this "Big Shot" asks Yoyo to do one thing for him -- after he is dead, to give a funeral for him ... in the "Chinese" way.
The film directed by mainland China's hitmaker Feng Xiaogang (who also wrote the script) may seem strange to Western aduiences. But he is clearly making his point, and when Tailor falls seriously ill, and the funeral (but he is not dead!) is planned, sponsored, and promoted by money-grubbing people, the film shows it in most outrageous way, with production placement (all around the coffin, and the body too) and the showy stage plan that might easily equal the rock band concert. These satires reflect today's China, and if you think the film lacks Westen-style sophisticated development of story, never mind. Aceept it as it is, because, as it is reported, the film was the big hit in China, and clearly they saw something immediate in the film. I for one, a Japanese, find it pretty amusing.
As a sub-plot, there is a romance between Yoyo and Lucy, one speaks only Chinese, and the other fluent English. It seems Lucy's character is set as American-born, and but probably you should not see this film as culture-clashing comedy/drama. The film doesn't use English so much (maybe about one third or more) and there are much talk than average Hong-Kong actioners. So, don't be mistaken. This is meant for art-house release.
Donald Sutherland's screen time is comparatively short even though he is very good (and much, much better than his usual turns in such dreadful messy films like, say, "virus"). If you're his fan, and remember his amusing, likable character in "Space Cowboys," then you may try this film.
But to me, Rosamund Kwan is the one to see. Those who know Jet Li's "Once Upon a Time in China" series would fondly remember her lovely face, and she is fantastic as a strong-willed assistant who tries to stop, or at least slow down, the crazy fever over the funeral. There is no action, but Ms. Kwan is better than ever.
I was amused fairly, but am afraid that many things have been lost during the translation process from original language. Those who can understand it, I hope, would fill in the gap someday on this site or elsewhere.
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