The Banquet ★★½

Hastily thrown together benefit project for victims of a Yangtze river flood, written and directed and shot by a number of people including Tsui Hark, Gordon Chan, Clifton Ko, Wong Jing, etc. Eric Tsang and Sammo Hung are rival real estate developers. In order to convince a Kuwaiti prince to give him the contract to rebuild his country after the war, Tsang tries to convince him of his filial piety. That means reconnecting with his estranged father (Richard Ng), without telling him why. The bulk of the film is Tsang's preparations for the event, as they try to class up Ng Lady for a Day style by bringing in a makeup artist (Karl Maka), a fencing instructor (Lau Kar-leung), a movement expert (Simon Yam). Some weirdly dark scenes of domestic disagreement between Tsang and his wife (Do Do Cheng) bring the mood down, and there isn't nearly enough of Tony Leung as Tsang's harried assistant.

The primary pleasure in the film is in trying to identify all the actors and directors who make cameo appearances. I've watched about 200 Hong Kong movies this year, so I caught a lot of them, but there are still several I missed (including Johnnie To). Pretty much everyone who was somewhere around the Hong Kong film industry in the fall of 1991 appears in the film except Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat and Wong Kar-wai. My favorite is a short scene between Michael Hui and Stephen Chow, a kind of passing of the comedy superstar torch moment that would have meant nothing to me a month ago, when I had never seen a Michael Hui film.

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