A Chinese Odyssey Part I: Pandora's Box

dir. Jeffrey Lau

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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A good-natured sixteenth-century outlaw (superstar Stephen Chow) becomes the target of a centuries-long supernatural vendetta when he discovers that he is the reincarnation of a prankster demi-god known as the Monkey King.

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This comedy-fantasy-wuxia hybrid is widely considered to be the best of the numerous screen adaptations of the classic Ming Dynasty novel Journey to the West, and for three very simple reasons: 1) Stephen Chow, 2) Stephen Chow, and 3) Stephen Chow again. Though virtually unknown to mainstream Western audiences until his special effects-heavy crossover bids Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle in the early 2000s, Chow had been a massive star in Hong Kong for well over a decade. A Chinese Odyssey casts the comedian in one of his best roles as a sixteenth-century outlaw who discovers that he is the reincarnation of a prankster demi-god known as the Monkey King, who betrayed his master while the two were travelling to the West to bring the teachings of Buddha back to China; much supernatural slapstick, time-travelling, and star-crossed romance ensues. Though only a moderate success in Hong Kong, A Chinese Odyssey became a cult hit on the Mainland, and has evidently remained very much in its makers' minds: Chow recently directed his own version of Journey to the West, which set box-office records upon its release earlier this year.

A Chinese Odyssey Parts I and II screen together as a double bill.