Editor's note: This is a nostalgic theater.
Stephen Chow 30 years ago was at the peak of his powers.
Poster of "Tang Bohu Spots Autumn Fragrance"
His nonsensical comedy style gradually matured in the early 1990s. Through films such as "The Gambler", he became more and more popular with the audience and reached the pinnacle of performance. In the most exaggerated year of 1992, all the top five local blockbuster movies in Hong Kong starred him. Including "The Death Judge", "A Happy Event in the Family", two "The Deer and the Cauldron" and "The Military Champion Su Qier", this is an unprecedented historical achievement. By 1993, the star may have been a little tired and took a break. Although the output of his works was not as good as the previous year, he still won 40 million Hong Kong dollars at the box office with "Tang Bohu Spots Autumn Fragrance", ranking first among local films at the box office.
This film is probably the beginning of the introduction of Stephen Chow movies to the mainland and their release in theaters across the country. Because the film also stars actress Gong Li, who is quite familiar to mainland audiences. At that time, Gong Li continued to work with director Zhang Yimou on "Qiu Ju's Lawsuit," which won the award, and also appeared in art films such as "Farewell My Concubine". On the other hand, she also tried to play the leading role in a co-produced Hong Kong film and participated in another entertainment film. The drama creation. Even in early 1990, when she was in a very good relationship with Zhang Yimou, they both acted as the male and female protagonists, and they co-starred in a time-travel film with a Hong Kong flavor, "Ancient and Modern War", which was an interesting co-production attempt by mainland and Hong Kong filmmakers. He was a pioneer in the wave of film liberalization at that time.
Although Stephen Chow was well-known in Cantonese-speaking areas 30 years ago, for most mainland audiences, Gong Li's appearance was the promotional selling point. However, after walking out of the theater, many film critics were a little dumbfounded and didn't know how to evaluate this comedy and Stephen Chow's performance as dazzling as the sun. On the contrary, Gong Li, who has always been known for her simple and delicate performances, seems a bit out of place in this film, and she has become a somewhat unique existence among Hong Kong and Taiwan actors. Fortunately, the Qiuxiang she played was originally an unconventional character in the film's story, so she didn't lose too many points in terms of performance.
Strictly speaking, Gong Li's performance is not on the same channel as other actors. Although she has collaborated with Stephen Chow before, after all, there is a big difference in performance style and it cannot be considered particularly successful.
Watching this film again today, you can think that even as a commercial entertainment film, "Tang Bo Hu Spots Autumn Fragrance" is a first-rate work.
For a long time, comedy films have been rated slightly lower than action films in which kung fu actors risk their lives. It seems that comedy performance is an easy thing, and winking is also unpopular. However, comedy is different from comedy. It is not particularly easy for top comedians to encounter excellent popular themes. It's like Teacher Shen Teng's performance is good, but the masterpiece that can be mentioned repeatedly, apart from "Charlotte Trouble", is probably "The Richest Man in Xihong City". Even for comedians, producing works that are most loved by the audience is a matter of time, place and luck.
Judging from the trajectory from 1992 to 1993, most of Stephen Chow's most popular films were costume comedies containing kung fu elements. Firstly, the martial arts team in the Hong Kong film market was very powerful at that time. Adding more fighting and killing plots as commercial elements would make the film look more lively. Secondly, the costume theme means that the story is derived from opera, martial arts and other blueprints. For the audience Generally speaking, there are more familiar folklore scenes, and there are many plot settings that can be referenced. The superposition of these two points means that success is basically guaranteed. Including Xingye's later masterpieces "Westward Journey" or "Nine Levels of Sesame Official", they are basically the continuation of this business idea.
Kung fu and comedy, with a twist.
The story of Tang Bohu lighting Qiuxiang is a widely circulated folk legend. There were at least two versions of the Hong Kong movie "Three Smiles" in 1964 and 1969. It depicts that Tang Bohu met Qiuxiang, a maid from Washington, by chance in a temple, and fell in love at first sight. She was merciful to her "Three Smiles", so she sneaked into Washington to work as a schoolboy's companion, and finally embraced the beauty. The basic character relationships have been established in previous stories, and even many of the plots are very similar. The two previous films contained many opera arias, so "Tang Bo Hu Spots Autumn Fragrance" not only continues these plots, but also often has the star suddenly starting to sing in a non-stop performance, which is not only hilarious, but also a kind of dialogue. The absorption and inheritance of opera films.
A major innovation of this film is the inclusion of many martial arts designs. At the same time, in order to make the fighting reasonable, Tang Bohu in the story is not only a martial arts master, but also contains a hidden line of the past generation's grievances and grievances, and what is the ranking of the "weapons spectrum". At first glance, it may seem like nonsense, but in essence, it was still based on commercial success in those years. The audience is quite happy with these changes. Compared with literary protagonists like "The Death Judge" or "The Nine-Rank Sesame Official" who are purely verbal, although Tang Bohu's image is also a talented man, he is more modern. Whether it's playing a rap drum beat at every turn, or transforming into the heir of the Overlord Gun, these funny and whimsical ideas have created a more vivid and rich character image.
Xingye's changeable appearances are also a very lively element in this film.
The so-called comedian's performance means that I don't know what is great about it, but if you look closely, you can see that it has a good rhythm, is full of interesting imagination, and also has a very vivid portrayal of the characters. Just like an acrobat juggling at high altitude, it is not clear what skills are, but like martial arts actors, they are all skills.
For example, everyone is familiar with the plot of "selling one's body to bury his father". Tang Bohu sold his body at the gate of Washington and was about to sneak in. However, a scholar with "tenth-level consumptive disease" who vomited blood came and was even worse than him. Tang Bohu immediately staged a scene of holding Xiaoqiang's "white hair" The tragic drama of "Giving a Black-haired Man a Gift" was still no match for the scholar who directly gave himself a sap on the head, and he was bleeding. He was about to retreat first, but unexpectedly he was finally bought into Washington. When I first watched this scene, what impressed me the most was of course Stephen Chow's grief-stricken performance while holding a cockroach. But when I watch it again in the future, I can more fully appreciate the character's various complacencies, doubts, fake grief, fights, and resignations. The emotional transition of unexpected joy is so smooth and easy to control, and it is a series of quite free and coherent performances.
Compared with the dazzling performance of "Win the Lottery and Die Again" in "The King of Comedy", this performance is not deliberately dazzling, it is consistent with the characters and the story situation. In fact, each short segment has to express the emotions and content. But it's completely different, just like a decathlete switching back and forth between different events, using different types of physical fitness and muscle groups, but no one can notice the trace of switching. It can be said that except for Xingye, it is probably very difficult for latecomers to deliberately imitate these changes, let alone inherit the so-called nonsensical comedy style.
Nonsensical comedy is simple to say, but it is full of these unique acting skills. Nonsensical, it is a collection of comedy styles that belong to Stephen Chow himself. And when he develops into a director in the future, he will also ask actors to enter this performance style. Even if they are amateurs with poor acting skills, as long as Stephen Chow can discover their characteristics, he can transform them into important supporting roles in nonsensical sequences. This is a kind of pioneering and carrying forward of Zhou's comedy technique.
In this tragic plot, Stephen Chow has changed more and more complicatedly than his opposite brother. Obviously, he won the acting competition.
In a comedy, if only the protagonist shines, it will feel weak after watching it for a long time. There are actually a lot of supporting actors in this film, and they all have their own beauty, and they are all an important part of the excitement.
The main partner, Chen Baixiang, had just collaborated with Stephen Chow in two "The Deer and the Cauldron" the year before, and the results were quite good, so he continued to play the role of the cheap Zhu Zhishan in this film; the pomegranate sister Yuan Qiongdan impressed the audience with her extremely exaggerated appearance. The impression made her one of her most famous supporting roles; Zheng Peipei, who plays the role of Mrs. Hua in this film, has a lot of cold-faced and humorous performance, which will make people forget that she has been a martial arts star who played the role of "chivalrous woman" in the early years, and she has been away from acting for many years. He has just made his comeback; Gu Dezhao, one of the screenwriters of this film, guest-starred as the master of "The Crossing of the Intestine". Although he was just a supporting actor in one scene, people noticed his memorable image. He later played a more important role in "The God of Cookery" The role; and Liu Jiahui, who finally had a kung fu battle with Tang Bohu, was the most authentic martial arts star of Shaw Brothers in the 1970s and 1980s, so much so that he was invited by director Quentin to play the role of the master in "Kill Bill", which shows that It shows his seniority in martial arts movies.
There are many supporting characters in this film, all of them are well-known characters, each with their own characteristics.
Other actors, including Wu Zhenyu, Huang Zhan, Lan Jieying, etc., although they are only guest stars, they are also experienced actors with considerable qualifications. Even the inconspicuous "Xia Xiang" who has been standing next to "Qiu Xiang" Gong Li, upon closer inspection, turns out to be the leading actress of TVB, Xuan Xuan. The combination of these golden lineups makes people marvel at the abundance of talents in the Hong Kong film market in the early 1990s. At the same time, the actors' salaries were not so outrageous, and one work could gather so many outstanding actors.
Lan Jieying and TVB's future mainstay Xuan Xuan are just supporting characters in this film. Extravagant supporting cast.
Director Li Lichi is Xingye's best partner, including "The King of Comedy", "God of Cookery", "Domestic Lingling Paint", "The King of Destruction" and other popular works on Douban, all of which were directed by him. . He even co-directed several of the films with Stephen Chow. It can be said to be a preview for Xing Ye's future career as a director. Compared with director Wang Jing's plot, which is more popular and straightforward, director Li Lichi's grasp and design of the overall concept of the film, as well as the creation of the protagonist's personality and forbearance, are more in line with the complex little character image of the protagonist. Even when he was at his peak, he was able to collaborate on so many films, and the mutual trust between them seemed to be his advantage in interpersonal relationships.
This is also an essential foundation for producing excellent works.
According to various rumors, Stephen Chow is not an easy actor to work with. However, director Li Lichi has collaborated with him on many films, and despite their differences, they have still produced many excellent works, which shows that the two of them are quite compatible.
If a comedy like "Tang Bo Hu Spots the Fragrance of Autumn" is done well in the end, it is an overall victory of "technology". The core is the success of comedy performance, which, like the kung fu design in action movies, is difficult to replicate. The script of this film is a continuation of the previous original work, so it cannot be said to be a great improvement. However, the "comedy technique" in it is original and even secret. The process is nothing more than the best top-notch comedy. With a few supporting actors on the scene, they dialogued with each other. Everyone and the director studied for a while how to perform it, and quickly chose an interesting presentation method. After the performance was completed, the camera recorded it. Come down. It seems that the process is so light, but it is the creative embodiment of the actors' most creative years, "one minute on stage, ten years of work off stage".
Watching this film again, I understand that these "comedy techniques" and excellent actors and directors are the most difficult thing to do together. You can also understand why even if you make a sequel in the future, it will be nothing more than a continuation of the dog's tail. These creations themselves are a sudden burst of inspiration. If you change a group of people, the natural results will be very different.
"Tang Bo Hu Spots Autumn Fragrance" is the pinnacle of nonsensical comedy. In the future, as Mr. Xing thought more and more deeply, many films added more elements of tragedy and animation style. On the contrary, the comedy elements faded and became less fun.