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Issue #176 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES September 8th, 2003

Big Shot's Funeral
(2001; Columbia Film Production/Huayi Brothers/Taihe Film Investment/Beijing Film Studio)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Dai yuen
Mandarin: Da wan
English: Big Shot

Down on his luck, cameraman YoYo (FAREWELL, MY CONCUBINE's Ge You) is hired to shoot a documentary about hot shot Hollywood director Don Tyler (Donald Sutherland), currently in China shooting a lavish remake of THE LAST EMPEROR. Unfortunately, Don's lost his inspiration and is way over budget, prompting the arrival of the film's producer (Paul Mazursky) with the word that a music video hack will be taking over. This news causes the director's already fragile health to take a turn for the worse and, before he is taken to what will apparently be his death bed, the American implores YoYo to stage a "comedy funeral" for him that will leave the mourners elated. With the help of Don's bilingual assistant (Rosamund Kwan Chi-lam) and a concert promoter (Ying Da), YoYo sets about planning a bizarre spectacle in The Forbidden City that will incorporate stand-up comedy, a rock performance, and a worldwide broadcast via satellite. Trouble is, no one considered that Don is penniless, so YoYo stages an auction to sell product placement space at the funeral. Little does he know that the "corpse" has pulled through and is enjoying this absurd circus from the sidelines.

Produced by Columbia Pictures’ Asian division, BIG SHOT'S FUNERAL tries to be a cross-cultural farce but inadvertently demonstrates just how difficult it is to make a comedy that can travel. The movie was a major success in China, where the economic upheaval is a constant reminder to citizens that a new consumer-oriented age is just around the corner. However, for the average viewer in America, the birthplace of crass capitalism, the sight of giant inflatable beer cans and umbrella wielding dancers making the MTV logo at a choreographed requiem seems only slightly more preposterous than your average Fox TV special. For those with some knowledge of subjects like the ways in which Asian business negotiations differ from the far more pragmatic American approach, and the rampant video piracy in China, the humor occasionally comes across but it is never pointed or focused enough to produce indelible satire. Also, director Feng Xiaogang (BE THERE OR BE SQUARE) would have been wise to jettison the script's attempts to spark a romance between Ge You and Rosamund Kwan (who was presumably hired because she can speak both Mandarin and English and yet is looped in both languages) as the characters have no visible attraction and the performers no apparent chemistry.

Cover art courtesy Columbia Tristar.

Rosamund Kwan and Ge You. Image courtesy Columbia Tristar.

Donald Sutherland. Image courtesy Columbia Tristar.
Columbia Tristar (U.S. label)

Sync Sound Mandarin/English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and Dubbed French (Dolby Digital 2.0) Language Tracks

Optional English (where necessary), French, Spanish, and Portuguese Subtitles

English Closed Captioning

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.83:1)

Coded for Region 1 Only

100 Minutes

Contains mild language and mature themes

DVD menu courtesy Columbia Tristar.

Argentina: 13
Australia: M 15+ (Adult Themes)
Canada (video): PG
Germany: 6
Norway: 11
Nova Scotia: 14 (Coarse Language)

Ontario: PG
Singapore: PG
Spain: 13
United States: PG (for thematic elements, language, and brief partial nudity)


The transfer is brilliant, with extremely vibrant colors, detailed contrasts, and a very crisp image. The film is a mix of Mandarin and English, with English subtitles where needed, and the audio offers a nice soundstage. The disc's only extra is a theatrical trailer (which features Kwan's real voice for everything but her final line) and trailers for two other Columbia Pictures Asia titles, Corey Yuen Kwai's SO CLOSE and Tsui Hark's TIME AND TIDE.

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