Hong Kong actor/director Stephen Chow made it into the mainstream US consciousness with 2001’s Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle 2004. Both films were solid examples of Chow’s already well established comedic styling. Hong Kong movie makers are no slackers IMDb lists 68 separate movie appearances for Chow, he’s definitely a seasoned pro. There is something about his earnest and soulful depiction of the underdog that cannot help but win your heart, especially when one is wiping away tears of laughter from his zany, over the top slapstick humor. God of Cookery holds a special place in my heart. Long before there was Top Chef, long before anyone in the US even knew what Iron Chef was this film rocked my world. Combining two of my favorite things, supernatural kung fu movies and insane attention to detail in food. One of the central precepts in this movie is one of my own life mottos. Every one can cook. Actually my motto is “if you know how to eat you know how to cook”, but it’s pretty close – we all know how to eat.
Chinese language characters are dense in meaning the two characters in the title of this movie can translate as “the god of cookery” but could also translate as “the spirit of cooking”, “the spirit of eating” or “eat god”. I like the last version of this translation because it is at once sublime and also ridiculous. There are beautiful circular references in this film where the same words are spoken on separate occasions to both the highest and lowest form of self, where lowbrow food is made into unforgettable food, where simple ingredients are imbibed with subtle life force. Nods to magical Taoism and Buddhism somehow sit easily side by side with some of the crudest over the top and simply stupid situational humor imaginable. It’s a rollicking good time and even though I’ve seen this film so many times, somehow, a few minutes in and I am committed and ready again for the ride.