Farce, pathos, and absurdity in Stephen Chow's film comedies: From Beijing with Love and CJ7 reconsidered

Research output: Contribution to journalArticles

Abstract

The hugely popular Hong Kong film comedian and director Stephen Chow Sing Chi enjoyed international box-office success as well as critical acclaim for his Kung Fu Hustle (2004). Despite its lukewarm reception in the West, his latest film CJ7 (2008) has been compared to Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Kid (1921). This paper explores the seldom-discussed Chaplinesque aspect in Chow's oeuvre, arguing that how to evoke pathos while preserving the funniest ingredients of farce has in fact been an artistic obsession for Chow for years. Focusing on Chow's early work From Beijing with Love (1994), a daring blend of farce and pathos, and CJ7, his latest endeavor to ”seek joy amidst sorrow,” this paper examines Chow's major comic devices, including the significance of absurdity created by situational humor, and probes into the curious interaction between low comedy elements and narrative techniques which elicit emotional responses beyond belly laughs. How can pathos be created in a generally low comic climate without appearing to be playful insincerity? How can pathos so created be prevented from developing into sentimentality, an easy target for burlesque? Such are the questions in film aesthetics addressed by the present study. Attending to the dissimilar reception of CJ7 in Greater China and the West, this paper also seeks to explore how cultural differences might have complicated Chow's recent attempts to cater his works for a more global audience. Copyright © 2010 臺灣師範大學英語學系.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-241
JournalConcentric
Volume36
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010

Citation

Yu, E. K. W. (2010). Farce, pathos, and absurdity in Stephen Chow's film comedies: From Beijing with Love and CJ7 reconsidered. Concentric, 36(2), 213-241.

Keywords

  • Hong Kong cinema
  • Film comedy
  • Pathos
  • Absurdity
  • Gag structure
  • Stephen Chow
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • From Beijing with love
  • CJ7

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