Big Shot's Funeral (2003)

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An American movie maker famous for living large wants to die in his own unique manner -- which turns out to be harder to pull off than anyone expected -- in this offbeat comedy from Chinese director Feng Xiaogang. Don Tyler (Donald Sutherland) is a well-known American filmmaker who has come to China to direct an epic scale costume drama about the last emperor of China. Lucy (Rosamund Kwan), Tyler's Chinese-American assistant and translator, hires YoYo (Ge You), a cameraman whose career has seen better days, to make a documentary about Tyler's massive project. Tyler and YoYo quickly hit it off and become friends; Tyler, however, isn't feeling especially inspired, and is haunted by thoughts of his own mortality. YoYo tells Tyler of the traditions of the common funeral in China, but Tyler is convinced YoYo was talking about a "comedy funeral," and after he falls ill following his firing by producer Tony (Paul Mazursky), Tyler begs YoYo to arrange such a memorial for him. YoYo sheepishly agrees, and when he's unsure of how to proceed, he seeks the help of noted event promoter Louis King (Ying Da). King whips up a massive funeral for Tyler, but it turns out that neither Tyler nor YoYo have the money to pay for it. King then strikes upon the idea of bringing in corporate sponsors to help bring the event into the black. Soon, dozens of multinational corporations are vying for the privilege of scoring advertising space during Tyler's televised funeral, but a fly appears in the ointment -- Tyler turns a corner, and it looks as if he won't be dying after all. Big Shot's Funeral marked the first major international project for director Feng Xiaogang, who has worked several times in the past with leading man Ge You, a major comic star in China.
Rating: PG (for thematic elements, language and brief partial nudity)
Genre: Art House & International , Comedy , Drama
Directed By: Feng Xiaogang
Written By: Feng Xiaogang , Xiaoming Li
In Theaters: wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Columbia Pictures - Official Site

Cast

You Ge
as YoYo
Ying Da
as Louis
Paul Mazursky
as Studio Boss
Da Ying
as Louis
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Big Shot's Funeral

Critic Reviews for Big Shot's Funeral

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (2)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

By American standards, the satire is about 50 years behind the times, but even accounting for cultural differences, the comedy is limp and the storytelling so inept as to provoke amazement.

Full Review… | January 17, 2003
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | December 6, 2005
Film Threat

A twisted farce, a touching character study, a bridge around the world; I love it.

September 26, 2005
ÜberCiné

No excerpt available.

August 11, 2005
EmanuelLevy.Com

Western audiences will have no idea that this is meant to be funny.

Full Review… | June 22, 2003
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for Big Shot's Funeral

One of my favorites from director Feng Xiaogang. I got to hang out with him and others in the crew when they filmed it in Beijing in the summer of 2001. Fun times!

Webster Lewin
Webster Lewin

This is one of many titles I found at enormous discount at Big Lots that I picked up because it sounded interesting, and it's harder to gauge foreign films offhand (i.e., there tends to be much less generally free-flowing sentiment as regards them--usually a "huh?" is the only response you can get when you ask for an opinion). This one, however, also has Donald Sutherland, and lord knows I'm a sucker for the Sutherlands, so, it was kind of inevitable. I had thankfully forgotten the exact plot when I went in to see it today, as I do like being surprised, which is difficult enough with the amount of knowledge floating around, and with a memory that seems to insist on remembering the things I only wanted to know momentarily instead of the things I should retain, it's hard for me to be at all surprised by a movie. Now, I can't really be surprised by much of anything, but there's still a pleasure to things unfolding into directions you didn't know of or weren't expecting, and that is what I refer to. Anyway, as you might guess, this movie is about a funeral, but only in a very rough sense. Or, no, I take it back; it's completely about a funeral, but not at all about anyone dying. So, it's about a funeral, but not at all in the way you might expect. We open on cameraman Yoyo (Ge You) being interviewed by Lucy (Rosamund Kwan), personal assistant to world-renowned director Don Taylor (Sutherland) who we then find directing his remake of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor in the Forbidden City in China. He suddenly feels that his work on this movie is worthless garbage, and so he decides to quit and scrap the film. As one might expect, the studio is less than happy about this and insists that the film go on, bringing in "some MTV director, Steven something-or-other, I forget" to take Taylor's place--but with his name remaining on it for marketing purposes. All of this is terribly depressing, especially in the midst of artistic blockage, to Taylor, who asks Yoyo--through Lucy, because his English is terrible--about Chinese funerals. When Yoyo tells him of the Chinese feeling of happiness in a funeral for the elderly, Taylor is enamoured of the idea, and asks Yoyo to plan him a "comedy funeral." The depression gets to Taylor though, and through sheer lack of desire to continue, he falls into a coma, and so Yoyo and Lucy must take his final request as if it were his will, and begin planning this bizarre funeral. When costs spiral out of control, Yoyo decides that the only way to fund it is...advertising. The televised spectacle of Taylor's funeral is now going to be a world-wide televised event, with sponsors on anything and everything. Yoyo undertakes it with sardonic artistry, the whole thing a mockery, an absurdity, but done because he was asked and because he respects Taylor and his wishes. Lucy is disgusted by the whole thing, and cannot understand Yoyo's motivation to do it. It's all great fun; wonderfully satirical in its approach to the entire concept of a funeral, as well as advertisting (three words: Mineral Water Mafia) and still manages to touch on some real emotion. Ge You steals the show as Yoyo, who is a bit of a fool, but because the film was made by a Chinese director and not an American one, he's not portrayed as an idiot for his bad English or odd actions, but as a sort of savant, and one with a definite brain adn real emotions. In the beginning he's simply a cameraman hired to film Taylor's direction of his movie, but he ends up in charge of a multi-million dollar event, and shows throughout that he is skilled as both an artist and as a businessman. Which is sort of the film itself; it seems like a foolish enterprise overall, but there's definitely something more beating below it. A very satisfying watch. Of course, I am a big Donald Sutherland fan, as I mentioned, and he had long hair in this, and it's always nice to see a comrade on that front. Even if it was only done for the character.

R.C. Killian
R.C. Killian
½

I HAD A DIFFICULT TIME STAYING INTERESTED IN THIS FILM. A FEW FLASHES OF GREATNESS DOESN'T MAKE UP FOR SOME OF THE BLAND AND BORING STRETCHES. SEEMED A LOT LONGER THAN 100 MINUTES.

James Higgins
James Higgins

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