Another catch-up entry here: During the hectic run-up to Halloween, we nevertheless took time to catch one of the films that was part of this year's Milwaukee International Film Festival, http://www.milwaukeefilmfest.org/, which ran October 21st through 31st. "China Odyssey 2002", produced by Wong Kar Wai, is about what you would get if you imagined "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," as written by Woody Allen or Mel Brooks. Set in a "Mythic China" under the rule of a tyrannical Dowager Empress, the young Emperor Zhang De (Chen Chang) and his sister, Princess Wushuang (Faye Wong) decide to run away. The Emperor is apprehended by his bodyguards, but the sister escapes, to begin an adventure and love story that is part "Prince and the Pauper," and part "Twelfth Night." Having fled to a rural town while "disguised" as a man, she is taken up by the local scapegrace/martial art hero, Li Yilong, aka "King Bully",(Tony Leung, seen as "Broken Sword" in "Hero", reviewed below) and his tomboy sister, Phoenix (Vicki Zhao). Li Yilong is looking for a suitable husband for his sister, all other prospects having been frightened off by his fearsome reputation. He decides the disguised Princess is a fine fellow for the task, and sets about cultivating a romance. Phoenix enthusiastically falls in love with the Princess, who falls hard for manly Li Yilong. Li Yilong, disappointed in his prior love affair, is oblivious to the Princess' eyes for him and thinks everything is going swimmingly, despite a soothsayer's confusing prediction that the Princess would make a good "husband" for him. When a coterie of bodyguards shows up to watch over the Princess, Li Yilong believes that the young man is really the Emperor in disguise, and decides to escort "him" back to the Forbidden City in order to gain permission for the "Emperor" to wed Phoenix.
Meanwhile, the real Emperor has persuaded his mother to let him take a different guard contingent and search for his missing sister. He arrives in the same town after the others have left, and saves Phoenix from a beating at the hands of a gunslinger-ish martial arts bully. Disguised himself, he replaces the false Emperor in Phoenix's affections and settles down to live the life of an artist until his mother arrives in turn looking for him.
The plot and the prophecies play out with wonderful humor and some surprising and bittersweet twists. We enjoyed this charming story immensely.
In Mandarin, with subtitles. Comic violence of the "Mythic China" style. No nudity or (discernable)foul language--. Directed by Jeffrey Lau.