"Mermaid," a science fiction comedy directed by Stephen Chow, tells a modern fairy tale with adult jokes and restricted blood scenes while never losing the genius comedian's charm.
It is the story of a playboy businessman (Deng Chao) who falls in love with a mermaid (Lin Yun) who had been sent to assassinate him. The plot line seems to be a mix of "Lust, Caution," an erotic espionage thriller directed by Ang Lee and "The Cove," a 2009 documentary film directed by Louie Psihoyos.
It also has an environmental protection theme, as Chow gets the mermaid to declare, "if there's no clean water to drink and no clean air to breathe, what can you do with all this useless money?" It reflects Chow's ambition and vision to tackle an issue of global concern. Actually, he used the same words when he attended the annual local session of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Guangdong.
Deng Chao, notorious for his previous low-rated and flatulent comedy performance, benefits well from Chow's direction. This should remind people of his great acting skills and even earned him a Best Actor Award at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2015.
Lin Yun, as a new actress, also flourishes under Chow's guidance. However, as she proclaimed in a dialogue line at one point in the film, "I'm not a professional actress, I can't do it," she still has a long way to go.
The comedy partly comes from the weird, ugly and distinct supporting actors cast by Chow, as he has done before. Taiwan singer Show Lo, who plays an "octopus mermaid", is some kind of incarnation of Chow, evoking most laughter from the audiences.
Though the director does not take part in any of the acting, it's obvious he has clearly taught every cast member, no matter whether they are leading actors or supporting ones, to act like him and follow his vision. In many behind-the-scenes clips, Chow actually acts until cast members can mimic him.
"Mermaid" also has some dark and cruel scenes that are not appropriate for children to watch, and the special effects are far from stunning and satisfying. Chow even used many classic Chinese music compositions that have appeared in his classic movies before, such as "Daring General" to put the seal on the film with his own characteristics.
It is no wonder some critics called the film a mere repetition of old and clichéd tricks and offering no groundbreaking progress in his artistic evolvement. However, this is still the Chow many have loved.
The film has a simple and strong message to deliver: Love can transcend race and other barriers. You could hardly expect to see such a pure fairy tale and such a clean theme in blockbusters for a long time, but Chow has done it with a pure and childlike heart. He seeks to the complicated into the simple, trying hard to make it beautiful and understandable.
Shan, a mermaid, is sent to assassinate Xuan, a developer who threatens the ecosystem of her race, but ends up falling in love with him instead.
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July 24, 2016 at 10:14 PM