Article Title:'Formula 17' Enter The Phoenix'
Subtitle:'Formula 17' & 'Enter The Phoenix'
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:24th May 2005 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:741
Text:FORMULA 17 Dir: Chen Yin-jung Taiwan, 2004, 35mm, 93mins Light, frothy and charming, Formula 17 is the story of a hunky and sweetly naive country boy Tien (Tony Yang) who comes to the big city to visit his gay childhood friend and becomes enamored of the most beautiful man around, rich and very Gucci Bai Tieh-nan (Duncan Lai) who in turn quickly gets the hots for our boy from the back blocks. But, as is essential in any romantic comedy, the path of true love is littered with missed opportunities, misunderstandings and seeming incompatibilities. This is gay comedy lite, not as vacuous as Will and Grace, but shamelessly aimed at the mainstream urban Asian market, so there's nothing to offend the sensibilities once you accept that gay is ok. There is pinch of sex (well, almost sex) in a underwear fashion cataloguey way, and more than a smattering of arch campness. But some noteworthy aspects of this heartwarming movie lift it above the merely nice. Love comes before sex for Tien and, eventually, Tieh-nan. That's a change from the run of self-consciously hedonistic sexuality-themed TV and movies that have dominated homo or hetero romantic comedies in recent years. Then there's the setting, in which gay is more than ok, its ubiquitous. Not a straight person, or even a woman, in sight... even in the streets of downtown Taipei where the shop window displays feature the likes of David Bowie merchandise. The send-up of every second porn movie ever to come out of California is a naughty treat. The elderly chap at the pedestrian crossing who mediates between our confused would-be lovers is just lovely. And the greek chorus of boppy barboy, aggressive queen and musclemary in the making, though forced at times, helps drag Formula 17 out of its occasional, wordy, slow patch. The script is generally perky (“Not another gay Asian guy called Kevin!”) and the director, perhaps unsurprisingly a young woman, confidently treads the fine line between fun and farce, between naughty and naff. ENTER THE PHOENIX Dir: Stephen Fung Hong Kong, 2004, 35mm, 104mins The best comedies based on stereotypes allow the objects of the humour to laugh along too. Mel Brooks is the world Olympic champ at this... his black sheriff in Blazing Saddles, camp dresser in To Be or Not to Be and every Jewish character Brooks himself plays are sharp, unflinching, and delivered with a knowing style and mischievous charm. Brooks and his actors laugh with us at our foibles, not at us, and guide the rest of their audience into doing the same. The Zucker Abrahams Zucker team and the creators of most classic BBC comedy series are close runners-up. But director Director Stephen Fung and producers Jackie and Willie Chan are total nonstarters. Enter The Phoenix is exploitative, boorish, homophobic crap. In a rice wafer-thin plot the gay son of a triad boss is lured back to Hong Kong to fill his dead dad's shoes. His oafish straight flatmate (think Oscar Madison, John Belushi and Adam Sandler) is mistaken for the gay chap and gets to head the triad. Cue tasteless, offensive and just plain unfunny 'jokes' at the expense of gays. "When did you first realise you were gay?" asks a triad member. Our 'hero' adopts an exaggerated ‘thinking back' pose: fade to a latex-gloved hand inserting a large thermometer between the buttocks of a very young boy who has a huge grin from ear to ear (cinema audience sniggers). Real funny character names like Hung One and Cock Head (more sniggers). Premature ejaculation jokes and wanking noises in toilet stalls (groan). In his own vehicles Jackie Chan has made an art form of sending himself up but his technique bombs worse than badly when applied to others, or to gays anyhow. Even the excellent kung-fu fight at the end with a mini-Matrix-load of special effects can't save this one. What on earth were the Asia Film Festival programmers thinking of? Jay Bennie - 24th May 2005    
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