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Going for a Chinese in Venice

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Every year in Venice, the Chinese invade the film festival with their massive army of delegates to launch a movie they hope might permeate through to make it big in the West.

It's always a massive gamble, and often they don't succeed.

But this year, with Tai Chi 0 I think they're finally onto a winner with what I'd describe as the hyperactive lovechild of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and Kung Fu Hustle.

It's a typical superhero story with atypical story devices. There's a misfit child called Yang Luchan, born with an unsightly cyst on his forehead. But it's only when this cyst gets hit that his power surfaces - and his super-powered kung fu comes out.

However, like every superhero, this comes at a price. The more his cyst gets hit, and begins changing its pigment from pink to purple to black, the more likely he is to die a sudden death and the only way he can survive is to train himself in 'inner kung fu' to get his cyst back to the normal pink colour.

So he goes in search of a small village where the locals have their own secret type of kung fu, which they use on a daily basis, whether it be the tofu maker or the pig-tailed school kid. Despite being friendly enough, the villagers are forbidden from training up outsiders in their martial arts and will go to any lengths to protect their style.

But what makes this movie special is its style. It drastically changes from scene to scene with each sequence governed by a modern cultural influence from Street Fighter and Manga, to Google Maps and Steampunk.

One of the only consistencies is that the characters all remain cartoon-like in their uniform clothing.

This may sound like a mess, but it is an absolute romp.

The style and direction of the movie is the brainchild of Hong Kong born and German schooled Stephen Fung, who went on to study Graphic Design in the US, and is now a film director in China.

He's also been a confirmed gamer for his entire life, but it's the gaming element which he believes will give the film an international edge.

"When I was shooting this movie in this remote village in China, the kids they knew Angry Birds and I'm talking three to five years old here. Every time they heard an electronic squawk they'd run over and grab my phone and start playing with it. That's obviously a very Western invention and we're talking about kids from a place where the water ain't too clean and they know Angry Birds."

And he explained that behind all the post-production and zaniness of the piece, at the heart there is historical fact.

"Yang LuChan did try and learn Shunzi kung fu at this village and this village obviously didn't look like this - this is more like a Miyazaki type village in this movie - but he did try and visit this village to try and learn this style of kung fu and got beaten up three times trying to enter this village. After he learned this, he developed this kung fu into Yang-style kung fu which is the Tai Chi we see people doing today - very soft and gentle."

Tai Chi 0 is the first part of a trilogy, but I don't expect the next two parts will show any sign of calming down like the Kung Fu style.