Censuring The Censors
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Chan's 1999 Chinese New Year picture (a tradition in Hong Kong) underwent several changes for its International screenings, and it is this version that has been released on R4 disc. It would appear that US distributor Columbia Pictures got a case of "cold feet" over Chan's first stab at a Romantic Comedy, and have pared the film down from its original 120 minute running time to a more "fast-paced" 98 minutes for English speaking audiences (95 minutes on PAL DVD courtesy of PAL's 4% speed-up). This practice has been pretty commonplace with all of Chan's films when they have been picked up for English language distribution.
Cuts made to the "International Version" for pacing are as follows:
1. In the film's first 5 minutes, scenes of Bu's (former model & Penthouse Pet Shu Qi) parents singing Karaoke in their bar have been removed. Bu adding water to her father's friend's beer also removed. Bu's monologue about her island home having "no romance" has been deleted.
2. Dialogue cuts to Bu's mother discussing the oyster Longyi (Taiwanese actor Yam Yin Chai) gave Bu. Additional dialogue removed as mother explains to daughter what love feels like.
3. Longyi singing at Bu's parents' Karaoke removed. Bu asking her dolphin for advice on what she should do with herself removed. CN Chan's (Jackie's) assistant sparring in CN's gym deleted.
4. Albert (Award winning actor & singer Tony Leung) telling Bu to go home, followed by her trying to convince him to let her stay excised. Subsequent argument & scuffle between the two also removed (a poor excision as it explains Albert's motivation for allowing Bu to stay).
5. Bu complaining to Albert that she is hungry and asking when they will leave removed.
6. A portion of CN & Bu being rescued by boatmen is excised. Subsequent scene of CN negotiating business over Silicon Valley shares, and if his competitor LW Lo (singer Emil Chow) has stock interests has been removed, as has the following scene where Bu complains of being hungry & CN ignores her.
7. A brief scene of CN's assistant looking at money & complaining has been removed in its entirety.
8. After Bu leaves CN's apartment scenes of him discovering that she has left her blouse behind have been removed. Bu's conversation with Albert about the significance of the glass bottle have also been removed.
9. Longyi is accosted at Hong Kong Airport by a pair of hustlers who claim he is Chow Yun Fat, then steal his bag from him.
10. Following the alleyway fight, a cameo by legendary Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow (as a bumbling policeman with a disobedient dog) has been excised in its entirety. As a trivia point, Chow agreed to a cameo in Chan's "Gorgeous", on the proviso that Chan did one for his "King Of Comedy". Both scenes (in both films) are riotously hilarious.
11. CN talking to his protege on the golf course has been cut.
12. Conversation between Bu & CN about her looks, followed by CN giving her money to go out & dress up for their night out has been removed.
13. Small cut when Alan (US lightweight martial artist Brad Allen) spars with CN. Alan requests a cassette of music to "put him in the mood" be played; LW passing said cassette to one of his bodyguards (actually Jackie's real-life bodyguard Ken Lo) removed in its entirety.
14. CN's training sequence for his impending rematch with Allan has been trimmed down to next to nothing compared to the Hong Kong print.
15. A running gag with Bu hiding in the fridge from her former suitor Longyi in Albert's apartment has been virtually removed in its entirety. The "will he won't he" discover her element of the scene has been completely destroyed.
16. The scene prompting Bu's departure home has been shortened. After Bu leaves in tears the gangster's girlfriend blames herself & her big mouth. CN disagrees with her, whereupon she tells him to go after Bu, but he disagrees. Also cut is Bu's reunion on the flight home with the lady she met embarking to HK.
17. Once home with her parents there are several cuts. Bu's father's announcement of her return has been removed, as has her mother's dialogue about college & how love changes people. Bu reuniting with Longyi & Albert has gone, as has her admission to Longyi that she "likes older men" (Shu being 22 & Jackie being 44). Also cut is Albert meeting Bu's mother & Bu's request for Albert to become her "adopted brother".
18. After CN's run-in with Bu's father a few small cuts have been administered. Albert pointing to CN; Albert & Longyi looking on as CN is thrown to the table; and CN being downed again by Bu's father.
19. Worst cut of all is the upbeat & quietly funny Chinese New Year ending. Not only do Bu & CN end up together, but all cast members engage a mushy, but "happy ending". The cut shows Longyi finally taking notice of his former island neighbour, and CN's gay assistant making eyes at Albert (which is actually quite a hoot after all that has happened!)
The cuts tally a staggering 22 minutes difference between the original Hong Kong version and the English dubbed US release.
Pros & cons of the two discs?
The Hong Kong disc is not 16x9 enhanced & the image is a little soft. It does contain the excellent 5.1 soundtrack though. It also features a 40 minute "making of" documentary (with optional subtitles); a Q & A interview feature with the stars & director Vincent Kok; premiere press conference footage (featuring cameo-ing star Stephen Chow who was not present in the US cut); two music videos for the theme song (one in Cantonese; one in Mandarin).
The R4 disc replicates the R2 disc & is 16x9 enhanced. It is the 98 minute cut of the film; features audio commentary by Jackie Chan, the above making of documentary, and an isolated track for Dennie Wong's quaintly lyrical, quietly romantic score.
As a long standing aficionado of Hong Kong cinema, and having written for a number of UK publications on the subject over the years, I can only honestly say that there is one disc to consider when contemplating purchasing this DVD. If you ever wondered what Jackie Chan's cinematic output was REALLY like, and would like to see his vision as originally intended (the film was designed as a break-away from Chan's usual action-oriented fare) then the R0 Hong Kong disc is the only choice. Major source of info: The Asian DVD Guide.