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By Rich Cline | January 15, 2003

This bright comedy from China is oddly entertaining, in a quirky, very foreign sort of way. Tyler (Donald Sutherland) is a big Hollywood director out to remake “The Last Emperor” in the original settings, but one day while filming in the Forbidden City, he has a complete creative block and falls deathly ill. His wish is to have a comedy funeral so he can go out with a bang, which he wants his making-of cinematographer Yoyo (Ge You) to organize. Yoyo enlists the help of a flamboyant friend who decides to turn the funeral into a national event, but to raise the funds they’ll have to sell the funeral as a big sponsored event … like the Olympics. Tyler’s assistant (Rosamund Kwan) is very skeptical about all this. And what’ll happen if Tyler recovers?
Everything here is broad and very silly, but the offbeat foreign vibe keeps us intrigued, mostly because the film’s sense of humor is so unusual and unexpected. We never have a clue what might happen next, which makes this take on the East meets West scenario feel quite fresh. And director Xiaogang Feng takes advantage of every opportunity for astute satire, absurd black comedy and goofy slapstick. Much of this is way over the top, irritating and entertaining in equal measure. And the final series of events nearly do your head in. But there are terrific moments throughout the film, performances are natural and disarming (Paul Mazursky turns up in a supporting role), and even if it’s completely ridiculous, it’s also rather good fun.

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