|Shaolin Soccer/Siu lam juk kau
||[Apr. 26th, 2004|02:15 am]
I see films sometimes on whims.|
Being set into my evening chill-mode, the phone rang with an objection. Brad was on the end of the line, and he wanted to stop by and say hi.
Brad and Karma showed up not long after the call. He's just left Sony to start up his thesis film at USC, and this is his first Free Man Weekend. On the buoyancy of my friends, I changed gears and followed with them to see Shaolin Soccer/Siu lam juk kau at the ArcLight.
The style of the film is over-the-top, on a level far over the top with regards to Happiness of the Katakuris/Katakuri-ke no kôfuku. In fact, I kept thinking of this film in terms of watching a video game because it is so 'over-the-top' in nature. This exuberant and insane style I tend to love, and it takes a major downer to make it too rough of a ride. In a sense, this style, for the inexperienced team, can be like betting the hard eight in craps. An experienced production crew has better odds at making a good film in this style. Stephen Chow and Kan-Cheung Tsang have put in enough collective years for the odds of a hit with this style to be high. It's still harder than it looks. Most crews would probably fail if this style is employed on this level of excess.
Emotions? I loved it. I know relatively little about soccer, as I am American and never played it. I do love sports, and I did have the most minor of understandings of the game, and with that, I thought it was the most interesting of all the Bad News Bears-like films to date.
The primary flaw would be the sub-plot of the love interest between Sing and Mui.
Forgive me if Sing isn't the name of the most prominent of the Shaolin Soccer Team brothers. I'm horrible with names.
They spent time with the sub plot of the love interest with Sing and Mui, the dirty-faced Shaolin master-turned-baker. After the plausible building up of Mui's self-esteem, performed by Sing, the night of the big celebration, Sing suddenly wants to call her a good friend. She becomes horribly upset, and the W of the diagram is completed when she musters the courage to persue Sing and come play for the team at the crucial moment in the final soccer match.
The sub-plot wasn't bad, but I may have missed something in translation. It seemed like too rude a shift, given the English version of the dialogue and scene, for Sing to spend so much time building up Mui . . . then, suddenly, after she's starting to respond well to his attention and praise . . . suddenly, Sing deflates Mui with the 'just friends' . . . it has to be the translation, since it came off as a horribly-abrupt shift from his previous affections.
Of course, the two of them do hook up in the end, but they do so only after her 'dirty' face suddenly becomes clear, and she suddenly shows up at the right time to save the team from sure defeat.
This could seem like a harsh criticism, so I caution at this point against that feeling. The film itself is pretty darn entertaining.
Another possible confusion on my Euro-American mind would be the progression of Mui's 'dirty' face.
What I mean by 'dirty' . . . At the first appearance of Mui, she's wearing her hair in a stylish concealment of full visage of her face. Underneath the hair, in full glory, her face appears afflicted by what can roughly be equated to facial leprosy. Another reference would be of Mui's face . . . possibly the worst case of simulated cystic acne on a performer . . . the craziest facial dilemma that I've watched since Woogie's hives in There's Something About Mary.
Later, we get this full reveal of her face at a department store with Sing's insistence. In accompaniment to Mui's visage, a couple of flies orbit her head, similar to the cloud of dust around Pig Pen in the "Peanuts" comics.
Later, Mui manages to conceal some of the facial chaos with heavy makeup performed by an equally-heavy, lipstick-smeared beauty salon worker . . . that night with Sing is when he does his rough about-face on Mui.
Suddenly, she re-appears at the final match. She is now bald on a decision she made as an extreme reaction from Sing's earlier request to show her beautiful face. Also, Mui's face has totally lost its affliction, flies and all of it . . . in full reveal of her truly beautiful face.
So, we see this progression of the rebirth of Mui to full Shaolin master, but we're led to believe that Sing was only partially responsible. We never really viewed the final transformation from afflicted face to full facial beauty. We did get this progression from monstrous/moderate/beautiful, and we did get the nightmarish beauty salon worker as a reason for the first progression of the face, but where was the 2nd progression?
What would I have liked different? Of these two observations of roughness . . .
Instead of Sing responsible for her deflation of progress . . . have the owner of the bakery do it. Her boss's lies about the intentions of Sing could have sent her into the same spiral, and the scene where Sing puts his hand through the slate blackboard would have been enough vengeance. Have Sing find her before the final soccer match, say something to the effect of "your boss is a liar and a cheat" . . . Sing leaves for soccer match, they play, Mui shows up out of the blue . . . win, everyone happy-happy. Also, add a scene of transformation of Mui's face at some point. She has to learn something more solid about her inner beauty for the outer beauty to transform a 2nd time. We saw the crazy salon worker as responsible for the 1st jump, we need a 2nd.
Again, I'm not knocking the film's quality. It's still wonderful to behold. These two questions were probably lost somewhere in translation, and I'm not in objection . . . these were the two most jagged and rough parts of the film.
Apologies to the general audience . . . my analyst-writer can't help himself.
This one's a wild romp into the sunset. I liked it.