You may define your own banner on the settings page.
FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
Dave Chua
Brandon Wee
Wong Lung Hsiang
Felix Cheong
Foong Ngai Hoe
Adrian Sim
Chris Khoo
O Thiam Chin
Lau Chee Nien
Ambient Noise
Sarhan Rashid
Ying Wuen
Ellery Ngiam
Toh Hai Leong
Toh Hai Leong, Auteur
Wong Kar Wai
The Seduction of Wong Kar Wai
Tsai Ming Liang
Lav Diaz
Mikio Naruse
Leslie Cheung
Jonathan Foo Interview
Chinese Ghosts
Assassins in Asian FIlms
Sex in Asian Cinema
Erotic Cinema of the Shaw Studios
Homosexuality in Chinese Films
My Left Eye Sees Creativity
Hollywood Remakes
Comic Book Superheroes
One League of Social Consciousness
Emerging Trends in East Asian Cinema
Postwar Korean Cinema
Decline of Hong Kong Cinema before 1997
Rise of Afghan Films
Singapore's Mini Cinema
Creating A Singapore Cinema
Why Cinema is Important to Singapore
Singapore Film Industry
Rites of Passage
Replying to Critics
Daniel Yun Interview
Singapore International Film Festival
Bangkok International Film Festival
Tokyo International Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Writer's Block
All Tomorrow's Parties
And Also the Eclipse
Another Heaven
At Five in the Afternoon
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Bangkok Haunted
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Batang West Side
Battle Royale
Bear Hug
Beautiful Boxer
Beijing Rocks
Bend It Like Beckham
Best of Times
Betelnut Beauty
Big Durian
Big Shot's Funeral
Bird Man Tale
Blissfully Yours
Blue Kite
Bounce Ko Gals
Brighter Summer Day, A
Cafe Lumiere
Cat Returns
Chinese Odyssey 2002
City of Glass
City Sharks
Color of the Truth
Color Blossoms
Confucian Confusion
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Dark Water
Destination 9th Heaven
Divine Intervention
Double Vision
Dumlings: 3 Extremes
Enter the Phoenix
Era of Vampire, The
Eye, The
Eye 2, The
Eye 10, The
Fat Choy Spirit
Floating Weeds
Fog of War, The
Formula 17
Full Alert
Ghost in the Shell
God or Dog
Golden Chicken
Golden Chicken 2
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Guru, The
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Harold and Kumar
Hidden Blade, The
House of Flying Daggers
House of Fury
House of Sand and Fog
Howl's Moving Castle
I Not Stupid
In the Mood for Love
Infernal Affairs
Infernal Affairs III
Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2
Iron Ladies 2
Isle, The
Jan Dara
Jealousy is My Middle Name
Joint Security Area
Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
July Rhapsody
Korban Fitnah
Kung Fu Hustle
Lan Yu
Last Life in the Universe
Last Samurai, The
Legend of Zu, The
Liang Po Po
Love Letter
Lucky Number
Marry a Rich Man
Me Thao
Medallion, The
Monrak Transistor
Moveable Feast, A
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Musa the Warrior
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
My Neighbors The Yamadas
My Sassy Girl
Naked Weapon
Name of a River, The
New Police Story
Nobody Knows
Nobody Knows How to be a Film Critic
One Leg Kicking
Perfect Blue
Phone, The
Ping Pong
Pirated Copy
Princess D
River, The
Road Home
Romance of Book and Sword
Runaway Pistol
S Diary
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
Scent of Green Papaya
Seoul Raiders
Seventeen Years
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai Knights
Shaolin Soccer
Singapore Gaga
Skywalk is Gone
So-Called Friends
So Close
Someone Special
Song of the Stork
Spider Forest
Spirited Away
Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring
Stories About Love
Storm Riders
Summer Holiday
Sumpah Pontianak
Super Size Me
Surprise Party
Swing Girls
Tale of Two Sisters, A
Tears of the Black Tiger
Teenage Textbook Movie
This Charming Girl
Three: Extremes
Tokyo Raiders
Touch, The
Tree, The
Truth or Dare
Twelve Storeys
Twenty-Four Eyes
Twins Effect
Twins Effect 2
Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
Visitor Q
Volcano High
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Way Home, The
Welcome Back Mr McDonald
Wesley's Mysterious File
When I Fall In Love With Both
Wishing Stairs
Wolves Cry Under the Moon
Woman is the Future of Man
Women's Private Parts
World Without Thieves, A
Zombie Dog
A Time to Live A Time to Die
e-mail me

   Big Shot's Funeral  


Big Shot's Funeral

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Director: Feng Xiaogang
Writing Credits: Feng Xiaogang, Li Xiaoming, Shi Kang
Cast: Ge You, Rosamund Kwan, Donald Sutherland, Ying Da, Paul Mazursky
Genre: Comedy
Country: China, Hong Kong
Language: Mandarin
Year Released: 2001
Runtime: 100 min
Rating: *** (out of four stars)

Big Shot’s Funeral (Da Wan) is an interesting collaboration between China and USA. Directed by Feng Xiaogang, one of the hot new directors in China, and funded partially by Sony Pictures USA (via its Hong Kong arm), Big Shot’s Funeral is a satire on the state of product placements and advertisements in the entertainment industry, and how two differing cultures may find teething problems when trying to work with each other. A genuinely funny movie, Big Shot’s Funeral features good performances from all three leads, and the only thing that mars the film is some surreptitious product placement – effectively becoming what it satirizes.

Legendary director Don Tyler (Donald Sutherland) has embarked on his latest, ambitious project – he plans to re-film Bernado Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. Filming commences in Beijing, and Tyler’s assistant, Lucy (Rosamund Kwan) hires a local cameraman, Yoyo (Ge You), to document Tyler’s shoot. Lucy is China-born, but received her education in the West – hence, she acts as interpreter between Tyler and Yoyo, who seem to share similar viewpoints despite the cultural and language barrier. Things aren’t moving smoothly during the shoot, however, as Tyler begins to feel more and more disillusioned about the project. Tyler suddenly decides to call it quits, to the horror of longtime friend and production company bigwig, Tony (Paul Mazursky), who immediately flies down to Beijing to oversee the shoot.

Tony decides to replace Tyler with another director, although retaining Tyler’s name on the final product. Tyler grows even more despondent, and his health suffers. Through a slight communication breakdown, Tyler misunderstands Yoyo, and thinks that death for the elderly in China is a joyous occasion – a "comedy funeral." Tyler makes Yoyo promise to give him a comedy funeral if the event of his death, before slipping into a coma. Yoyo feels responsible for the impending funeral, and gets good friend Louis (Ying Da) to help out. Louis, head of an event management company, goes all out to create a grand funeral for Tyler – to be held at the Forbidden City. However, the two forget an important matter – who is going to pay for the funeral? In a desperate attempt to secure funds, Louis and Yoyo starts selling product placements and advertisement space for the funeral – to great success. Soon, the funeral resembles a carnival, chock-full of products and ads everywhere, and even space on Tyler’s body has been reserved. Things don’t go as smoothly as planned, however, as a major kink occurs just when everything is about to be finalized. Can Yoyo salvage the situation, or will the pressures of the comedy funeral drive him to breaking point?

Big Shot’s Funeral has an interesting premise, and Feng Xiaogang milks it for all its comedic worth. The product placements border on the absurd, and as a Chinese, it’s much easier to appreciate how inappropriate these advertisements are in a Chinese-style funeral. However, the best scenes are not from these product placements, but rather the dialogue that transpires between the leads. Although Tyler and Yoyo are almost incapable of understanding each other’s language, they manage to communicate their views via sign language and stilted dialogue (and some help from Lucy). It is an interesting relationship, as is the one between Lucy and Yoyo, where the attraction for each other grows every time they meet, but is always kept under wraps because of the impending funeral. Also interesting is how Feng subtly works in issues about Sino-US relations – in a particular scene we observe an American and Yoyo butting heads (literally), only later to see the two being buddy-ish after the scuffle.

Big Shot is also consistently good to look at, thanks to the beautiful cinematography by Zhang Li. The film is also augmented by a very appropriate original score by San Bao, and the theme song by Asian pop diva Faye Wong ("Moron") also suits the mood well. All three leads play their part well, with Ge You, unsurprisingly, being the one that stands out the most. He plays his part straight – remaining poker-faced regardless of situation – and yet this is the reason that makes Big Shot even more amusing to watch. Donald Sutherland is well suited to his role of the disillusioned auteur, and Rosamund Kwan, although also not a big role, is relatively proficient as the romantic foil to Ge You. Ying Da is rather droll in his portrayal of the Westernized Chinese businessman, and his presence onscreen tends to bring on the funnies.

Only in its final reel does Big Shot look slightly unsure. It seems as though Feng wanted a slightly more serious tone to the proceedings, which doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the film. The final scene, however, reverts back to lighthearted fare, but the film doesn’t really recover from the change in tone. Also, whilst Big Shot satirizes product placements, it’s ironic to see that real product placements have been worked into the film amidst the fake. This is not a crime, as product placements are everywhere, but to include these endorsements effectively turns Big Shot into the very thing it tries to lampoon. Still, Big Shot’s Funeral is an entertaining look at the entertainment industry and the state of modern China these days, and with a short running time of 90 minutes, doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Final Word: A light-hearted satire that is sure to appeal to the masses, and its diverse cast helps with the "portability" of the movie across different cultures. Note that the film is in both English and Mandarin, but it comes with proficient subtitles in both languages as well.