Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Rooftop Rant

Be warned:

This post is a rant. 

It has been nearly a month since the GHA nominations were announced and you know what?

I'M STILL FREAKING UPSET ABOUT THE **** jury's **** decision to NOT nominate THE ROOFTOP in ANY category! 

I mean...where is the logic in that??

It is simply not possible that a movie musical of this calibre with a completely original soundtrack was just totally ignored without a single nomination even in the music category. 
The jury appeared very unaccepting of Jay's creation, perhaps because it was just too alien to them. 
After all, there have been hardly any other precedents in the history of Chinese or Taiwanese movies but then, it's all the more imperative that there should be some measure of recognition for the tremendous amount of effort he and the crew put into The Rooftop. 
Production values were very high and  the action scenes were realistic and devoid of CGI. 
It was also a fantasy story of sorts with Jay paying tribute to the 70s era and showcasing locations in Taiwan and China.
The set for the rooftop itself was also nothing short of amazing with meticulous attention to details. 
True, the script could have been a little better but as a musical, one does not require deep and wordy lines, right??
Were they perhaps afraid that this entertaining albeit uneven movie would blow away the rest of the competition?

I'm not saying The Rooftop is perfect. 
But the love theme, You Are Everywhere is heartfelt, melodius and completely fits the movie. 
At the very least, a nomination for Best Song would have been in order, even if it does not win.

Here is another movie reviewer who 'got' what Jay was doing with The Rooftop.

"The Rooftop is overstuffed, like Jay Chou had a half-dozen ideas for his 1960s Taiwanese musical project and couldn't decide exactly which ones he wanted to use. So he threw in all of them, even if they don't always do much for the main story of Wax and Starling, two lovebirds from different sides of the tracks. But better that than saving good stuff for a second chance that may never come, especially since it gives this movie a chance to make the audience smile in every minute.
Heck, it doesn't even look like Wax is the main character of the movie to start with; it seems to focus on his handsome pal Tempura (Oh Yau-lun), who lives in the poor "rooftop district" but has a job collecting rent for local landlord "Rango" (Wang Xue-qi) that his friends Wax (who knows kung fu but prefers to use his switchblade comb to make an impression), Egg (Song Jian-zhang), and and A-Lang (Huang Jun-lang) help him out with; they also work for Dr. Bo (Eric Tsang Chi-wai), who has a floor show at the shop where he sells patent medicines. But while Wax is earning the enmity of rival rent collector Big Red (Huang Huai-chen), Wax is falling for the lovely Starling (Li Xin-ai), who seems to have everything but has to work hard to climb out of the debt that her father (Kenny Bee) has gambled them into, even though she doesn't particularly like her co-star William (Darren Chiu).

And there's more, to the point where it's kind of a mercy that Egg and A-Lang don't have prominent subplots, because that's a thing that very easily could have happened. For all that there are a whole ton of characters all sort of doing their own thing, writer/director/star/composer Chou does a remarkably good job at keeping things from flying off in every direction than you'd think. It's not even that everything folds back into a main storyline; every scene just seems very well-linked, whether it be by running jokes, plots which intersect, or just minor bits that show the rooftop residents as a community, so that what happens with one naturally draws the others in. The story does take a hard turn or two to get to the big action sequence in the end with a somewhat extreme tone shift, but it doesn't quite go off the deep end like it could.

Part of the reason that the sudden violence at the climax seems weird is that up The Rooftop is a pretty upbeat musical, and one can fall into the trap of expecting those to finish up with everybody dancing until the villains realize the errors of their ways. And even then, this movie is a lot of fun, with Chou contributing ten songs that will probably get good and stuck in the heads of anybody who knows Mandarin (and even some who don't). The world Chou creates in the Rooftop district of Galilee is so rich, filled with bright colors and musical numbers and martial arts action, that it's an utter delight to let it envelop the viewer completely; sure, it's goofy that one character lives in a shack which is a giant working gramophone, but also awesome, and the way that shape is incorporated into the Chinese characters of the film's title doesn't hurt one bit. Unlike a lot of musicals which come from the stage and unconsciously seem bound by its limitations, this one has its characters dance their way through some big, elaborate environments, from the rooftops to a night market riddled with canals to a bowling alley. There's a reason to say "look at that!" test in almost every scene.

Heck, Chou actually manages the trick of getting the same energy from the musical numbers as from the action scenes, which should happen more often than it does with movies that try to do both (ideally, each is a way to express emotion and advance the plot through physical performance). Even when you ignore just how many other hats Chou is wearing here and how many things he has to do just as a performer, what he manages is something of a tour de force. It doesn't look like one, though, because Wax is well-integrated into the ensemble, so everyone else has room to do his or her thing: Li Xin-ai is delightfully sweet as Starling, managing to display both the natural grace that attracts Wax without it countering how she obviously feels like a fish out of water in his world. Huang Huai-chen is hugely and hilariously aggressive as Big Red, and Huang Jun-lang steals a bunch of scenes as the funniest of the core group of buddies. And lots of actors in small roles, whether they be Xu Fan as the rooftop's "big sister", Eric Tsang as the hustling Dr. Bo, or any of a dozen others, unfailingly hit just the right note and add a little more to the movie.
Get enough people doing that, in front of the camera and behind, and you wind up with something pretty special. Sure, "The Rooftop" is sprawling and sometimes exhausting because Chou is trying to do so very much in two hours, but there are also darn few moments of it that aren't thoroughly entertaining. It will leave viewers worn out, but generally with smiles on their faces."

Simply put, The Rooftop was an audacious but no less passionate attempt to make a movie of a different kind by a man whose creativity cannot be questioned.
I think you either love it or hate it.
Sadly, the GHA jury would seem to be the latter.

I shall end with a quote by blog reader, Henry Lie:

" As someone said of Alexander Pope, in the future his (Jay's) critics will only be remembered like flies in the amber of his greatness."


  1. Haha -- thanks fangirl for quoting me. It's an honour. Artists and thinkers often meet with opposition and disappointment during their lifetimes. It's what happens not just during, but after, that's the test of the merit of their work.

    I think the review you quote is really good. It really 'gets' the heart of what Mr. Chou was trying to do. Eminent quote: "the movie will leave you worn out, but with a smile on your face." Reminds me of another eminent quote, from one of the first reviewers you cited -- 'Rooftop' is the sort of mistake that only a very talented man can make.' 100% true. No less valuable for being that sort work!

    Henry Lie

    1. I just realised there was another balanced review which I inadvertently left out. Will share in the next post. :)