Farce, Pathos, and Absurdity in Stephen Chow's Film Comedies: From Beijing with Love and CJ7 Reconsidered

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The hugely popular Hong Kong film comedian and director Stephen Chow
Sing Chi enjoyed international box-office success as well as critical acclaim
for his Kung Fu Hustle (2004). Despite its lukewarm reception in the West, his
latest film CJ7 (2008) has been compared to Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Kid
(1921). This paper explores the seldom-discussed Chaplinesque aspect in
Chow’s oeuvre, arguing that how to evoke pathos while preserving the
funniest ingredients of farce has in fact been an artistic obsession for Chow for
years. Focusing on Chow’s early work From Beijing with Love (1994), a
daring blend of farce and pathos, and CJ7, his latest endeavor to “seek joy
amidst sorrow,” this paper examines Chow’s major comic devices, including
the significance of absurdity created by situational humor, and probes into the
curious interaction between low comedy elements and narrative techniques
which elicit emotional responses beyond belly laughs. How can pathos be
created in a generally low comic climate without appearing to be playful
insincerity? How can pathos so created be prevented from developing into
sentimentality, an easy target for burlesque? Such are the questions in film
aesthetics addressed by the present study. Attending to the dissimilar reception
of CJ7 in Greater China and the West, this paper also seeks to explore how
cultural differences might have complicated Chow’s recent attempts to cater
his works for a more global audience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 213-241
Number of pages29
Journal同心圓:文學與文化研究 Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies
StatePublished - 2010

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