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Out-of-work cameraman Yo Yo (Ge You) is hired to shoot a documentary about legendary director Don Tyler (Donald Sutherland) who is filming a remake of Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. As he prepares to shoot a lavish set-piece in the Forbidden City, Tyler suffers a creative block. Sacked from the film by studio boss Tony (Paul Mazursky), he has a breakdown and turns to Yo Yo to fulfil his final wish, a lavish “comedy funeral”. As Tyler falls into a coma, Yo Yo and his friend Louis (Ying Da), a dubious impresario, set about planning what promises to be a very costly extravaganza.

Review by Paul Kalina:
Before losing its way in the second half, Feng Xiaogang’s culture-clash comedy is a ribald parody of commercialism and the invisible line that separates personal integrity from ‘selling out’ opportunism. Xiaogang, whose comedies have set box-office records, is one of mainland China’s most successful filmmakers. It shows in his deft handling of fast-paced comedy and satiric insights to Chinese society as it melds western consumerism and pragmatism to traditional customs and practices. 

Donald Sutherland is perfectly cast as an auteur director whose life and career have hit a crossroad. The distraught and ailing Tyler identifies with the aloof and cynical Yo Yo, and the relationship that develops despite their evident language barriers provides the film with its most engaging scenes.

Much of Big Shot’s Funeral, however, is centred around Yo Yo and Louis’ ingenious schemes to sell advertising space for the funeral extravaganza. Every inch of the funeral altar gradually finds itself emblazoned with sponsor logos — some of which are outright ludicrous in their inappropriateness — while plans are made to dress the deceased in a range of designer labels.

Here, the foppish Louis takes centre-stage and the film descends into broad, raucous and repetitive comedy, replaying what is essentially the same gag in a score of different guises. Of course, there’s a twist to this feel-good fable, but the attempts to retrieve the central narrative after the protracted would-be funeral interlude and to make the relationship between Yo Yo and Tyler’s devoted assistant Lucy (Rosamund Kwan) something more than a throwaway contrivance, fails to pay off.

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Da wan

CAST: Donald Sutherland, Ge You, Paul Mazursky

PRODUCER: Wang Zhongjun

DIRECTOR: Feng Xiaogang

SCRIPT: Li Shaoming, Shi Kang


EDITOR: Zhou Ying

MUSIC: Bao San


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney & Melbourne only: October 24, 2002;Adelaide & Perth: November 14, 2002

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: August 6, 2003

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