The Chinese Feast
Year of release: 1995
Director: Tsui Hark
Action directors: Yuen Bun, Bruce Law
Producers: Tsui Hark, Raymond Wong, Li Ning
Writers: Ng Man-Fai, Philip Cheng. Tsui Hark, Yuen Gai-Chi
Cinematography: Peter Pau, Poon Hang-Seng
Editing: Marco Mak
Music: Lowell Lo
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Anita Yuen, Kenny Bee, Zhao Wen-Zhou, Law Kar-Ying, Hung Yan-Yan, Joyce Ngai, Fan Yik-Man, William Ho
Rated II for language
Movie Review Index
With an all-star cast and an emphasis on light comedy, Tsui Hark's 1995 film The Chinese Feast doesn't deviate too much from your usual Lunar New Year release. But, in this case, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Even though it deals with Chinese cuisine, this is a Hong Kong comedy that should translate well to western audiences.
In the movie, Leslie Cheung stars as Sun, a loan shark who wants to go legitimate in order to win over his girlfriend, and decides the best way to do so is to become a cook. Trouble is, he can't cook worth a damn. Undaunted, and on the advice of master chef Bo (Zhao Wen-Zhuo), Sun takes a job at a restaurant run by Fung (Lau Kar-Wing) and ends up striking a romance with his daughter, Wai (Anita Yuen). Things are going well until Fung accepts a challenge from rival chef Wing (Hung Yan-Yan) and then promptly has a heart attack. Sun and Wai travel to the Mainland to find the world's best chef, Kit (Kenny Bee), but soon discover that his skills will have to be retrained, and quickly, or else Fung will lose his restaurant.
Hong Kong comedies can often become a loud and convoluted mess. But Tsui Hark keeps things in check here, making sure things flow smoothly, never falling into melodrama or having his actors yell their lines to overemphasize that what they're saying is meant to be funny. Combined with the popularity of competitive cooking shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen, the subject matter presented here would perhaps not be as obtuse and off-putting to audiences not versed in the genre, and would serve well as an introduction to Hong Kong cinema neophytes looking to expand their horizons beyond kung fu and gangster shenanigans.
One aspect which really helps The Chinese Feast set itself apart from similar movies is the cast. The actors look to be having a great time, and that feeling transfers over to the audience. It was nice seeing Zhao Wen-Zhuo and Hung Yan-Yan perform in something other than the martial arts genre, and Anita Yuen and Lau Kar-Wing make a great father-daughter pair, especially as they both riff off of Lau's well-known mangling of English phrases.
But the real star of the show, as one might expect, is Leslie Cheung. Even though is he playing a bumbling heel, Cheung exudes so much charm that it's hard to stay mad at him for long. It's exactly this sort of performance that shows why he continues to be one of the most beloved actors in Hong Kong film history, even after almost ten years since his unfortunate passing.