Movie of the Month: gang jiong
This comedy directed by and starring Xu Zheng quickly shifts from funny to outright farcical. Without giving too much away I will say that the brothel scene is genuinely hilarious and that, due to the largely slapstick nature, you don’t really need to know that much Mandarin.
The original jiong movie was the first Chinese movie I saw that made me think studying Mandarin hadn’t been a complete waste of time. I’m happy to say that since then I have seen more and more good Chinese movies. Although is the third jiong movie to be made it is not really a sequel as the characters and plot are completely independent of the other two.
The movie does take a bit of time to really get going, first telling the story of our protagonist Xu Lai (played by Xu Zheng) and how (due to a series of comical circumstances) he was unable to ever kiss his girlfriend at university. When his sweetheart moves to Hong Kong to study Xu Lai ends up marrying another classmate instead.
Just as things start to look like shaping up to be another boring Chinese love movie we are brought forward to the present day and Xu Lai (now bald) is woken up by his wife riding him like a horse and hoping to get pregnant. Given how strict the Chinese censors can be (Kate Winslets boobs were famously cropped out of Titanic) this scene might seem a bit surprising. However, due to the way the scene unfolds it’s clearly funny rather than sexual and this really sets the new pace for the rest of the film.
As Xu Lai accompanies his wife’s family on a trip to Hong Kong he thinks he has found the perfect opportunity to sneak off and finally meet up with and kiss his old university girlfriend. Unfortunately he finds himself being followed by his wife’s younger brother who is recording a documentary of Xu Lai’s day for a film project. Despite his brother in law being a complete idiot Xu Lai is unable escape him and his portable camera. His attempts to do so being the main basis for this movie.
There is a bit more to the plot than just that, in fact there is a real twist towards the end, but I want to keep this as a review and not a spoiler.
This movie perhaps appeals more to Chinese people in their 30s and 40s as there are multiple references to old Hong Kong movies and TV series. Practically the entire soundtrack is taken from Hong Kong TV shows. Although these references, and the occasional joke, will no doubt go over the heads of Westerners and young Chinese people there is still easily enough in this movie to make it worth watching.
Although I don’t think it’s quite as good as the previous two movies, jiong and tai jiong, this third instalment has become one of the largest grossing mainland Chinese movies in the opening three days and has had a lot of success in its limited release in US cinemas. So if you’re a movie fan who is wondering whether learning Mandarin will be worthwhile the answer is yes.