Enter the second decade of 21th century; Stephen Chow’s new movie Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons has won more than two hundred million dollars box-office, which became the second best-sold film in Chinese film history. Stephen Chow and his comedy style once again became the focus that media and people pay attention to. Stephen Chow, this name may be not that familiar to western audiences. However, as a comedian, Chow began as an extra for the television station. He became quite well known for his movie The Final Combat (1989). After this, he initiated his “Mo Lei Tau” comedy style.
He created more than 30 comedian characters in 1990’s Hong Kong film and became Hong Kong’s undisputed No. 1 comedian. As a director, his “Mo Lei Tau” comedy style became more meaningful and serious. His films again and again refresh the box-office. Time magazine once said he is the hero of Asian, because his films not only rescued Hong Kong film market in 1990’s but also reflected part of Asian culture in that period. This research is focus on his comedy style, especially “Mo Lei Tau” style and its influence. “Mo Lei Tau” is a Cantonese term that may be loosely translated as “with no source”, but is generally used to mean “makes no sense”.
Regarded as an integral part of Hong Kong’s popular culture, it is considered by some as being unique and untranslatable. Compared to Wacky Comedy film for a Western cousin, “Mo Lei Tau” movies have a greater attention on puns and other Cantonese word tricks1. ” Mo Lei Tau” is not just funny, the funny thing actually implies a profound cultural connotations. Through the odd funny “Mo Lei Tau” way of expression, his films convey his profound thinking of modern circumstance. As for “Mo Lei Tau” comedy, which is characterized by a “nobody” protagonist, happy ending, golden straight men, post-modernism and serious topics, etc.
In this research, three Stephen Chow’s classical movies will be used to analysis its style. A Chinese Odyssey (1995), King of Comedy (1999) and Kong Fu Hustle (2004) are three representative works. In these three films, “Mo Lei Tau” style’s characteristics are distinct and remembered by all audiences. A “Nobody” Protagonist Almost each Stephen Chow’s movie has a “nobody” protagonist. The roles Stephen Chow plays in these movies are always common, ordinary, even inferior which are close in identity and cognition to us that could express our inner voice and appeal covertly, implicitly as the man of people in his movies.
Stephen Chow’s “Mo Lei tau” comedic type has a great relation with his personal experience. Stephen Chow grew up in the grass-root class, so he knows the living conditions of the grass-root people from the hardships of rough life. Although he comes from the grass-root class, but Stephen never give up his dreams. In A Chinese Odyssey, Stephen Chow acts two roles in this film. One is Joker, the other one is Monkey King. As we can see, in this film, Joker is just a bodgie. He runs a gangster inn and has nothing to do all day long. The only source of income for him and his gangs is to rob his tourists.
However, all tourists come to his inn are full of power and magic. As a result, ironically, as a gangster, Joker becomes the “weak” one to serve his tourists. Instead of abhorring him, audiences have a sense of sympathy to him. In The King of Comedy, Yin (Stephen Chow), the protagonist regards him as an actor. He likes performance. His obsessive dedication to every tiny aspect of his acting roles irritates everyone around him and scuppers his chance to land a bit-part in an action movie. He acts as a background actor for the film, but he always makes trouble to them. Nobody respects him.
On-set caterer is continually denying him the lunchbox. Even whores are calling him “stupid extra”. This is a typical “nobody” character. This role seems like a deeply personal film for Chow, one that harks back to his early days as a struggling unknown. In Kong Fu Hustle, this characteristic is also distinct. Sing (Stephen Chow), a loser in life who aspires to join the Axe Gang. At first, this character is rebarbative. Because older kids bullied him in his childhood, he is also trying to bully the kind people when he grew up. This kind of “Nobody” figures become foundation stones to these films.
All of those characters can be deemed to losers of life. However, Stephen Chow always gives people hope in his film. Instead of becoming corrupt, those characters all become heroes at the end of the films. What’s more, this refers to another characteristic of Chow’s comedy, which is the happy ending. Happy Ending Comedy, wins a reputation for “ALL’s well that ends well” through sudden and unlike reversal of fortune, for example, ending happily, falling in love with each other or getting married. Comedy is a serious act. Comedians usually wear a poker face.
Comedy can solely be “savored” and “digested” within specific contexts, including how we expect and assume the world in which we live because “nothing is just comic: thing are comic in particular ways and for particular reasons. ” Stephen Chow’s movies can be the best epitome of this aspect. In A Chinese Odyssey, he defeats all the demons when he transformed into Monkey King. With transforming back to Joker, he at last falls in love with Zi Xia faery. In King of Comedy, after a somewhat successful sting, Yin finally becomes famous through a performance of the “Thunder Storm”.
In Kong Fu Hustle, at last, Sing becomes a master of Kong Fu. He not only defeats the worst gangster, but also wins the young lady’s heart and falls in love with her. Those movies all end consummately that the villains get their just deserts. Good overcomes evil. The male and female protagonists fall in love with each other or enjoy marital bliss. Those all reveals people’s desire toward the positive, the pessimistic and the nasty which are rooted in human’s nature. We all laugh for the blessing of the good and the contempt of the bad.
These kinds of themes are full of Stephen Chow’s other movies. Golden Straight Men Apart from Stephen Chow’s excellent acting ability and performance talent, the golden straight men in his movies further complement and consummate the sense of humor and elicit more laughter from the audiences. Stephen once said that there is no extra in his film. Every actor has his own characteristic in his film and audience will remember each of him or her. When mentioned about Stephen Chow’s movies, there is another actor that cannot be ignored. Wu Mengda, Stephen Chow’s best straight man.
They had worked together in a series of “Mo Lei Tau” movies. There is a saying that without Wu’s sacrifice’stephen Chow couldn’t reach such a success today. Most of those characters that Wu acted are harlequins. With his exaggerated performance, he also owes much of his popularity. In A Chinese Odyssey, Wu acts as Joker’s second-in-command in that gang. He is a man full of wicked ideas, a flattering and a faithless man. However, in a comedy, everything seems possible. Contribute by this kind of character design; audiences regard him as an un-alternative role.
He is the most important person who pushes plots forward. In King of Comedy, he is just the on-set caterer who is continually denying Chow the lunchbox. This plot leads to another storyline of film and pushes the whole story to the climax. Among those straight men, Li Jianren is another unforgettable “buffoon character” with his branded gesture- picking his nose, which leaves the audience an ineradicable impress. Each appearance in Stephen Chow’s movie, he goes with this same character, which becomes a symbol of Chow’s “Mo Lei Tau” style. In Kong Fu Hustle, he also acts this role.