Sep 16, 2011

[Movies] The God of Cookery (1996)

The God of Cookery (1996)Back in the day, SkyCable had Star Mandarin as one of its standard cable channels - one of those tricks that cable companies do to inflate their channel counts. Surprisingly, my brother and I ended up watching the various movies on the channel during those lull hours when HBO seemed determined to play every single movie 2-3 times in a day while all the other channels seemed to lack anything worth watching. It's a weird world that way.

Recently I was struck by a wave of nostalgia about movies that I wanted to share with my partner. This was one of the movies that really stood out for one reason or another. Maybe it's because of the fact that we had also finished watching the entire Cooking Master Boy anime series at the time. Or maybe it's because Stephen Chow's career was already reaching new heights and this old gem had been dug up to capitalize on his popularity at the time.

It kind of pains me how movies in other countries in the region look so much better than local movies. And I'm not even comparing to movies of the past - it's a very real problem that continues to plague the local film industry.

But I suppose that sort of a rant can wait for another post entirely.

The God of Cookery is a 1996 Hong Kong comedy. The movie was directed by Stephen Chow and Li Lik-Chi with writing credits going to Stephen Chow, Vincent Kuk, Lou Man-Sang and Tsang Ken-cheong.

The movie starts with an already disgraced Stephen Chow (as played by Stephen Chow, but is pronounced differently or something) criticizing the assorted noodle dish served by street hawker Turkey (Karen Mok). When his harsh review is challenged by the feisty woman, he reveals to her that he is in fact The God of Cookery.

Thus we are brought back to Chef Stephen Chow at the top of his game as the famous God of Cookery. His greatest skill really is being a marketing genius given he uses his image as the God of Cookery to sell endorsements, thus earning more and more money for his little empire. But eventually his secret is revealed by Bull Tong (Vincent Kuk), who initially posed as a timid underling only to reveal that he is in fact a much better chef than Chow. He critiques an assorted noodle dish prepared by Chow at a press conference, the same tirade that Chow used against the street hawker. Thus Bull Tong and Chow's business partner Uncle (Ng Man Tat) manage to disgrace him and thus steal away his business empire.

So now the movie follows Chow's struggle to regain his lost glory. And for one reason or another, he finds an unlikely ally in the form of Turkey and some of the other street vendors as Bull and Uncle continue to reap the benefits of his work.

The movie is...strange. But then I suppose you just have to get used to the Asian sensibilities around the importance of cooking and the potential showmanship of cooking competitions. I'm not talking about the modest little reality TV shows on the Food Network. We're talking over the top cooking battles that are more like professional wrestling or something. But that directly adds to the appeal of the movie, thus making the whole thing more worth it.

BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 29:  Hong Kong directo...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeStephen Chow is a pretty great actor and he's been at the comedy route for quite some time now. Even if this could be categorized as one of his "earlier" firms in relation to his overall career, this definitely has a lot of the marks of his signature comedic style that we've come to see in later films like Shaolin Soccer and Kung-Fu Hustle. This means a lot of over-the-top slapstick humor intermixed with moments that could be dramatic in nature and yet are still funny.

Karen Mok, who more folks will remember from So Close, was pretty good as the "straight man" member of this comedy routine. Her character is perpetually angry on camera after all and yet she's able to channel this rage into something useful, even with the added challenge of the crazy make-up and false teeth that she had to wear as part of her character.

For those who have watched Cooking Master Boy, this movie has the same feel of elevating cooking into a martial art. Thus it's like the classic manga / anime series turned into a live-action piece that remains slightly believable. Well, perhaps apart from the times that a few quick knife slashes in the air can perfectly mince and dice ingredients in no time flat.

The God of Cookery remains to be a guilty pleasure of mine and the kind of movie that I can see myself going back to here and there in the years to come. Thus it gets 4 crazy monks beating Stephen Chow up out of a possible 5.




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2 comments:

aLpoTsK!e said...

This movie was surprisingly funny. It surprised me, seeing as I'm not a fan of the slapstick kind of humor but Stephen Chow was just excellent. And I seriously didn't know it was Karen Mok until after the movie.
And those golden monks were crazy funny! LOL.
Nice review. Hope you get to review more of Stephen Chow's earlier movies like Hail the Judge.

rOckY said...

I don't think I've had a chance to see Hail the Judge - will look it up!

And as always, glad you enjoyed the review!

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