Sunday, July 8, 2012

Co Dau Dai Chien (Angry Brides)

When we were visiting our favourite DVD shop in Cabramatta recently the owner slipped an extra disc into our bag for free. "You'll love this one," he said. "A brand new movie from Vietnam."
Which is how we discovered Co Dau Dai Chien, a sex-comedy released in 2011 that details the adventures of a rather gormless nouveau riche lothario and the clutch of women to whom he has promised his hand.

Now, don't be expecting any great delicacy of observation in this movie. In terms of sexual politics I dare say it is quite problematic. But in terms of entertainment this is a wonderful, and surprisingly sophisticated film. It represents the most fascinating meeting of cinematic traditions, combining the martial arts aesthetics of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with the sleek and sexually-charged repartee of the Rock Hudson & Doris Day movies, throwing in a generous dose of camp self-knowingness which at times put me in mind of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
It is also a remarkable evocation of contemporary Saigon, with its yuppie try-hards, its ambitious young career women, and centuries of tradition being fast jettisoned in the face of a growing prosperity. The film's hero is despicable in his treatment of women, but he is also ultimately punished for it in the most intimate and devastating way.
I absolutely loved this film, and simply couldn't stop laughing. The comedy veers from the slapstick to the cerebral, and the performances similarly slide from exquisitely subtle to over-the-top campery. But it is all such tremendous fun, and with such a complicated and even wicked moral, that the variety of experiences seem to be an intentional part of the journey.
Watch it with an open mind and tell me that the end isn't a kind of feminist triumph. Or I could have got it totally wrong.  

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