Big Shot's Funeral

"OK"

Big Shot's Funeral Review


It seems everyone is getting into the act when it comes to Hollywood behind-the-scenes movies these days -- even the Chinese.

After 10 films in the genre just last year (from "Adaptation" to "S1m0ne"), we're barely three weeks into 2003 and here comes "Big Shot's Funeral," a comedy from Beijing about an out-of-work cameraman (Ge You) hired to shoot making-of footage for a big American studio's way-over-budget historical epic.

Despite a nearly insurmountable language barrier, Ge is befriended by the increasingly erratic director of this imitation "Last Emperor" -- a flaky filmmaking legend, played with befitting bewilderment by Donald Sutherland. The big shot thinks Ge understands him inherently, and the crazier he gets, the more he wants Ge around.

So as it happens, the cameraman is in the director's trailer, filming an awkward private confessional, when a heart attack sends the old man into a coma after a seemingly last request: He wants Ge to arrange a "comedy funeral," a celebration of life he thinks is Chinese tradition.

What follows is a farce of showbiz and crass commercialism. Ge seeks help from a wannabe concert promoter pal (Ying Da), who runs with the idea, planning an extravagant, corporate-sponsored circus of a ceremony to be broadcast live from the palace courtyard in the once-royal Forbidden City. Chinese rock stars will sing (like Elton John at Princess Diana's funeral, Ying imagines). Celebrities will attend. A band will play a funeral dirge at double tempo to give it a "happier" feel. Corporate sponsors' logos will adorn everything -- even the corpse.

Contracts are drawn up. Sponsors' money is spent. It's just a matter of time. Then Sutherland wakes up from his coma, throwing a major wrench into the works.

Director and co-writer Feng Xiaogang displays a mordant, abstrusely whimsical sense of humor as the movie's events become more and more an off-kilter commentary on skewed entertainment industry values. But "Big Shot's Funeral" is handicapped by the plot's lack of momentum and by what must be Feng's lack of experience with the English language.

Ge, who speaks no English in the film, is subtly superb as the unassuming cameraman who sees his obligation to Sutherland swallowed up in an ocean of hype he helped create. Sutherland shines, tapping into the tarnished eccentricity of his character who is at a loss for direction, literally and figuratively. But Sutherland is the only actor in the cast with a decisive grip on his English line delivery. Everyone else -- Chinese and American -- labors visibly and unnaturally over their dialogue. Some seem to have given up all together since it's frequently obvious when an actor has been dubbed.

As the film he's making falls apart while he waits around for inspiration to point the way, Sutherland's character feels esoteric and three dimensional, while those around him -- exempting Ge You -- often seem simple and inarticulate.

Problematic but passably enjoyable, the appeal of "Big Shot's Funeral" may be more a matter of taste than quality. For a particular fan of film industry satire, this picture may be worth the price of a matinee. But with its flatness and flaws, it's forgettable fun at best.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: China Film Group Corporation (CFGC), Columbia Pictures Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as YoYo, as Lucy, as Tyler, as Louis Wang, as Studio boss

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.