Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Review: Taoism Drunkard

"The grandmother really knows how to calculate. Therefore, I have to be roasted."
I think it's safe to say: This is not a dilemma anybody has ever faced at any time
Except in this movie!
Wow!  Just wow!  I don't even know how to start this Chinese movie review, except to say this is quite possibly the weirdest, strangest, most utterly bizarre film I have ever seen.

The Gweilo's Movie Ratings for Taoism Drunkard
The Chinese movie review continues below this info box!
Category Rating
WTF Meter 5 of 5
MST3K-Ability 5 of 5
Chinese Movie Taoism Drunkard
Director Yuen Chung Yan
Actors Yuen Chung Yan, Yuen Yat Choh, Yuen Shun Yi
Year 1984
Format Viewed VCD (Fortune Star JS/VCD/3104/HK) What is a VCD?

It would be easy to jest (hur, hur, hur!) that director Yuen Chung Yan, and everyone else in the cast and crew, must have been as drunk as the film's hero when Taoism Drunkard was created.  But I don't believe they were.

This film is way too inventive, and the creative weirdness reaches such genius levels of WTF-ery that it's much more likely everyone knew exactly what they were doing.

When I first got this movie, my copy had no English subtitles (Media Asia VCD MS/VCD/323/HK).  This happens occasionally with Hong Kong VCDs.  I watched it anyway, and the lack of subtitles didn't seem to matter at all.  I bought the Fortune Star version of the film with subtitles included, just to be sure.  I was right.  The subtitles made no difference.

Here's why.  There is an old lady, who's kung fu style involves smoking a giant pipe as a weapon.  There's a scene where an evil boss attacks a monastery with tiny helicopters which explode, turning their victim's heads into pig heads for no apparent reason.  There are subtitles in both of these scenes.  Do they help the scenes make sense at all?  No they don't.

You see, sometimes it's possible to watch a film without subtitles because the movie is clear and linear, and it's easy to follow the plot without them.  But sometimes a movie makes absolutely no sense at all, so that even with prefect translations it's impossible to follow.  Taoism Drunkard is that second kind of movie.

Honestly, I don't think there is a plot.  There's the main drunk guy, who drives around (drunkenly) in a wicker pig head that can do kung fu:

This is a vehicle in the world of this film!
So, his plot line is just basically getting enough to drink:

"There is no money and no wine."  OK, character motivation is clear.
He also likes to fight.  Often as a means of obtaining wine.  This is his fighting motto:

"You must lose this time, and I enjoy the wine."
He drunk drives his wicker pig head around a Taoist temple and accidentally breaks a statue.  Which means--somehow--that the temple now needs to find a virgin boy born on a certain day.  Yes, apparently this is totally logical in the world of this film.  Here's the head priest explaining:

"And to find cherry boys who are born in the year of 'Sun Mou', the 15th of August."
Really?  "Cherry boys"?  Are you sure Mr. priest?

"Remember, I want cherry boys."
Ech!  Good thing Yuen Chung Yan drops this whole "plot" thing almost immediately, and spends the rest of the movie jumping from one hilarious, surreal fight scene to another.

A typical fight scene involves characters we've never seen before, fighting with weapons that make absolutely no sense.  More often than not, these odd weapons hinder the person wielding them rather than help:

This old lady's sword turns out to be way too... unwieldy... to be practical.
Who would have ever guessed?

Consider this random fight:  One of the guys has a kung fu style based on extra sharp knees and elbows and porcupine quills stuck to his back.  His opponent fights with a weapon that appears to be a cross between a boomerang and a bowling ball, which can launch miniature versions of itself.

The only thing that stays constant is the utter randomness, and the playful freedom of the director.  In one of my favorite scenes, a guy wakes up to a fresh dawn.  A rooster crows while he smiles and stretches.  He goes to the door to greet the new day.  But wait!  What's that black spot in the sky? No, it's an evil kung fu villain of course!  He's randomly flying through the sky at this precise moment (how did he know exactly when the guy would wake up?) and now suddenly attacking him for no reason at all and breaking all his furniture.  W. T. F!

From the Gweilo's perspective, this kind of crazy, swaggering, carefree movie making is amazingly refreshing compared to Hollywood's timid formulas.  Who the hell makes movies this way?  Who the hell would even dare?  Yuen Chung Yan, that's who!

But wait!  There's so, so much more.  There's the angry fat lady who (for no apparent reason) is dressed like a bee:

I'll dress like a bee if I want!

Being both large and unwieldy, she is of course immediately wielded as a weapon:

Bam!  Pow!

Not content to be someone else's weapon, she develops a kung-fu style of her own, which involves violently sitting on people and making holes in the ground:


Then there's this weird Pacman robot, known as "Banana Monster":

And there's fight scenes that transition smoothly from intentional dancing-style kung fu to accidental frying-eggs-style kung fu.  Accidental frying-eggs-style kung fu?!  Yes indeed! And, and, and... OK, I'm getting too excited here.  I've already thrown in way more clips and stills than usual, and I feel like I'm just getting started.  So I won't even go into the characters that suddenly turn into other characters in weird Scooby-Do revelation scenes.  Or the scenes where the characters fight themselves, in a warehouse full of badly made dummies of themselves.

No.  The problem is, Taoism Drunkard simply cannot be explained without showing you every clip from the movie and outlining every scene.  And even if I did that, you'd still have no idea, no idea at all, of the non-stop delightful mind game this movie is.

Bottom Line of this Chinese Movie Review:  See it!


  1. This movie is... it sure is... something.