The Butcher, The Chef, and The Swordsman is a highly entertaining comedy set in ancient China.
Before the film, director Wuershan humbly told the audience that many jokes may not cross over in translation and he's sorry if we don't enjoy it.
He had nothing to worry about as the whole theater was howling within the first 5 minutes.
The story is a Tarantinoesque romp following different characters and related back stories that all focus on different aspecst of the human psyche. For example, one story opens up with the title card; "greed" and what follows is the story of The Swordsman and his desire to become the greatest swordsman in history. The one thread that keeps the stories tied together is a meat cleaver that was forged from the finest black iron. This cleaver changes hands throughout, the character brandishing it has great power yet unlike Spiderman most forget the great responsibility part.
Visually the film is quite striking; the colour scheme changes with the story and frequent dream sequences are kaleidoscope like visions. There is also a sense of childish imagination implemented to the film, a feeling that anything is in the realm of possibility. For example nearing the conclusion of the story the end titles start to roll, however the butcher is not satisfied and cuts the credits apart demanding a more satisfactory ending for himself. What follows is video game fight taken right out of Mortal Kombat, complete with health bars and special moves. The Midnight Madness crowd screamed their approval.
The Achilles heel of the film is the high number of jump cuts used in the editing, especially during fight sequences. The film has several fights peppered throughout yet none are actually shown. Using a series of quick cuts and splashes of red images we piece together the details of these bouts ourselves which is fine if executed a couple of times in one film but not for every fight sequence. Nearing the end of the film the edits began to feel disorienting.
The Butcher, The Chef, and The Swordsman is an entertaining crack up of a film that doesn't have much substance to it. An endlessly fun and fast paced picture that lacks discipline in some aspects of its storytelling, but then again, this is one of those films that doesn't really care what you think.
Ah, such tasty delights were offered up last night at the Ryerson. In MM's first mainland China screening, we were treated to song, dance, martial arts madness, top notch physical comedy, and food, glorious food.
Wuershan's The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman was, quite simply, an absolute treat. The narrative follows a powerful meat cleaver made out of the melted down iron of the five most powerful swords that links the three titular characters, but beyond that, TBTCATS kind of defies description. I know, I know, that's a huge cop-out, but at this point, that's all I've really got to say. The one problem I had with the film was some of the editing. I swear the editor must have been on some heavy speed during the first 5 minutes, shit was literally getting cut mid-sentence. I was getting kind of frantic, thinking, "if the whole movie's gonna be like this, I don't know if I can take it..." Thankfully things calmed down a bit after the frenetic intro.
If you liked the zany genre mash that was Happiness of the Katakuris, you'll find something to latch onto in TBTCATS. If this ever makes it to DVD (doubt it will hit theatres, but you never know...), just watch it. Trust me. You'll love it. And then you'll want to head straight to Chinatown to feast. Kris and I hungered for some Chinese delicacies after the film, but eight crazy nights of staying up waaaay past our bedtime were starting to take their toll.
- the coelacanth