×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Personal Tailor’

This sly satire from top-grossing Chinese helmer Feng Xiaogang is an easy-on-the-eyes trifle with a few pleasingly sharp edges.

With:
Ge You, Bai Baihe, Li Xiaolu, Zheng Kai, Fan Wei, Song Dandan, Li Chengru, Miao Pu, Du Jiayi, Liang Tian, Li Yong, Guan Xiaotong, Cao Bingkun, Jackie Chan, Wang Baoqiang. (Mandarin dialogue)

Top-grossing Chinese helmer Feng Xiaogang has alternated between romantic comedies and big-budget historical epics with remarkable consistency in recent years, padding out two pleasant servings of “If You Are the One” with an earthquake-themed tearjerker (“Aftershock”) and a drama of wartime famine (“Back to 1942”). Back in the laffer realm with “Personal Tailor,” a sly bit of satirical whimsy about a company that brings its clients’ fantasies of wealth and power to life, Feng has not only continued the trend but fashioned an unofficial sequel to one of his early hits, 1997’s “The Dream Factory.” An easy-on-the-eyes trifle with a few pleasingly sharp edges, “Tailor” is likely too mild and episodic to catch on offshore, though domestically it’s off to a fine start with $13 million — the second-highest opening of all time for a mainland release.

SEE ALSO: “Personal Tailor” Stitches Up $13 Million Opening Day

The central conceit of “The Dream Factory” — four friends making money by impersonating any characters requested by their clientele — has been taken to more elaborate situational extremes here. “What you don’t dare imagine, we dare to do,” goes the slogan of Personal Tailor, a company that provides a far more benign version of the services offered in David Fincher’s “The Game,” allowing regular men and women to see their wildest dreams temporarily realized. We get a glimpse of their handiwork in the film’s amusing prologue, in which a woman willingly submits to interrogation, detainment and a six-day hunger strike as the star of her own WWII resistance fantasy, playfully shot in black-and-white.

Personal Tailor is run by Zhong Yang (Feng regular Ge You), the “director of dreams,” and his resourceful employees Miss Bai (Bai Baihe), the “fantastician”; Lu Xiaolu (Li Xiaolu), the “caterer of whims”; and Ma Qing (Zheng Kai), the “spiritual anesthetist.” For all their elaborate titles, however, they’re essentially members of a scrappy, high-concept acting troupe, called upon to wear as many hats as possible, literally and figuratively, in order to satisfy their clients’ demands. From this premise, Wang Shuo’s script strings together three vignettes (well, three-and-a-half), getting in a few modest digs at China’s political, artistic and economic values in the process.

In the first segment, “Honest Instincts,” a chauffeur (Fan Wei) whose previous high-ranking employers were all busted for accepting bribes, decides to test his own moral resilience by assuming the role of a village chief. Local peasants, foreign dignitaries and his own staff, all played by the Personal Tailor quartet (outfitted in an array of costumes by Dora Ng Li Lo), do their utmost to tempt him with financial and even sexual favors, though as Yang tartly observes, the “chief” turns out to be susceptible to a much more banal form of corruption.

Feng indulges in some playful self-parody in the second and most overtly comedic yarn, “Bloody Vulgar,” centered around a massively successful commercial filmmaker (Li Chengru) who, tired of winning awards like the “Pacific Rim Pandering Prize” and “Sell-out Screenplay of the Year,” yearns for low-budget art-cinema respectability. Featuring a brief cameo by Jackie Chan (one of the film’s producers), the tale pokes outlandish if somewhat overstretched humor at the differences between high and low culture. Once again Yang supplies a crucial bit of wisdom, and one of the pic’s best lines: “Chinese films, however bad, are never art.”

The most touching and trenchant of the three tales, “Mo’ Money,” finds the Personal Tailor crew returning a favor to the impoverished Mrs. Dan (Song Dandan), allowing her to play the part of a billionaire for a day. Cloaked in expensive finery and perfume, and spending her $14 million daily allowance on swanky real estate, Mrs. Dan gets an ample taste of the high life, as well as a sense of the dissatisfactions and undesirable obligations that it brings. If this development strikes some viewers as an apologia for the rich, or an argument against social mobility, it’s entirely consistent with Feng’s dryly ironic worldview, acknowledging the sheer difficulty of retaining any sort of principles in a position of power.

While Zhao Xiaoshi’s widescreen cinematography and Shi Haiyang’s production design supply no shortage of visual polish, “Personal Tailor” remains a modest, low-pulse endeavor throughout, meandering from one story to the next and never allowing any of its four principal characters to really come into focus. Yet over the course of its generally absorbing if overlong 117-minute running time, it offers an appreciably sympathetic take on the lure of fantasy, the pleasures of role play and the thrill of commanding the multitudes — which is to say that it is, among other things, a film about filmmaking.

Film Review: 'Personal Tailor'

Reviewed on DVD, Pasadena, Calif., Dec. 20, 2013. Running time: 117 MIN. Original title: "Si ren ding zhi"

Production: (China) A China Lion Film Distribution (in U.S.) release of a Huayi Brothers Media Corp. and Huayi Brothers Intl. presentation of a Chonqing Film Group, Emperor Film Prod. Co., Sparkle Roll Media Co., Anhui Broadcasting Corp., SMG Pictures, the One Investment Fund Management Co. presentation, in association with China Film Co-Prod. Corp., of a Huayi Brothers Media Corp., Bon Voyage Film Studio, Huayi Brothers Intl., Beijing Live Planet Film Co. production. Produced by Wang Zhongjun, Liu Guangquan, Albert Yeung, Jackie Chan, Zhang Suzhou, Qiu Xin, Wang Yiyang. Executive producer, Hu Xiaofeng. Co-producers, Zhou Lifang, Li Chaoyang, Su Xiao, Wang Ren. Co-executive producers, Zhang Dajun, Huang Xiang, Albert Lee, Qi Jianhong, Zhao Hongmei, Yang Wenhong, Zhang Jiaming.

Crew: Directed by Feng Xiaogang. Screenplay, Wang Shuo. Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Zhao Xiaoshi; editor, Zhang Weili; music, Luan Shu; production designer, Shi Haiyang; costume designer, Dora Ng Li Lo; sound, Wu Jiang; line producer, Hu Xiaofeng; associate producers, Bernard Yang, Helen Li.

With: Ge You, Bai Baihe, Li Xiaolu, Zheng Kai, Fan Wei, Song Dandan, Li Chengru, Miao Pu, Du Jiayi, Liang Tian, Li Yong, Guan Xiaotong, Cao Bingkun, Jackie Chan, Wang Baoqiang. (Mandarin dialogue)

More Film

  • Bac Launches 'Alice And The Mayor,'

    Bac Launches 'Alice And The Mayor,' 'My Days of Glory' at UniFrance Rendez-Vous (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based Bac Films is launching a slate of new acquisitions at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris, including Nicolas Pariser’s “Alice And The Mayor” with Fabrice Luchini, and Antoine de Bary’s concept comedy “My Days of Glory” with Vincent Lacoste. “Alice And The Mayor” stars Luchini as Paul Théraneau, a prominent French mayor who has run [...]

  • Viacom International Studios New Management Structure

    Federico Cuervo to Head New Management Structure at Viacom International Studios

    Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) –Americas has announced a new management structure for its fast-expanding Viacom International Studios (VIS) which will see Federico Cuervo filling the role of senior vice president-head of VIS, reporting to Darío Turovelzky, newly named SVP of global contents at VIMN Americas. Turovelzky remains co-chief of VIMN. Under the new structure, [...]

  • Berlin: Edko Films Picks up Zhang

    Berlin: Edko Films Picks up Zhang Yimou’s ‘One Second’

    Hong Kong studio Edko Films has picked up international rights to “One Second,” the newest movie by top Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The film will have its world premiere in competition in Berlin, it was announced this week. “One Second” is pitched as Zhang’s personal love letter to cinema, and as a return to his [...]

  • Sygeplejeskolen sc 205

    Claudia Boderke, Lars Mering Talk SF Studios ‘The New Nurses,’

    The inevitable comparison for SF Studios’ “The New Nurses,” at least from a Danish broadcast perspective, is “Something’s Rockin,’” another 2018 TV 2 Charlie show which was retro but forward-looking. “Something’s Rockin’” described the birth of an independent radio with culture in Denmark. Produced by SF Studios’ Senia Dremstrup (“Norskov”),  “The New Nurses” talks cleverly [...]

  • Robert Redford

    Robert Redford to Receive Honorary Cesar Award

    Legendary American actor and director Robert Redford is set to receive an honorary Cesar award, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, at the 44th annual César ceremony, which will take place on Feb. 22 in Paris. “An iconic actor, an exceptional director, a passionate producer, founder and president of Sundance, the most revered festival of independent [...]

  • Goteborg: Co-writer Hakan Lindhe on Viaplay’s

    Co-Writer Hakan Lindhe on Politics, Image in Viaplay’s ‘The Inner Circle’

    David Ehrling, Sweden’s Minister for Enterprise, who is tipped to be its next Prime Minister, spends a lot of the time in Sweden’s “The Inner Circle” not preparing his speeches, or in impassioned discussion of key political issues, but staring into the mirror, rain checking on his strong-jawed image. He spends much of his enterprise, [...]

  • 'Invisibles' Director Louis-Julien Petit On His

    'Invisibles' Director Louis-Julien Petit on his Socially-Minded Smash

    PARIS —  Far from a dumping ground, the months of January and February have become synonymous in France with the kinds of highly polished crowd-pleasing comedies that dominate the annual box-office. This year is no exception, only nestled among the likely blockbusters “Serial Bad Weddings 2” and “City Hunter” is Louis-Julien Petit’s socially minded dramedy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content