The House of 72 Tenants, 1973

Adapted from a stage play, Chu Yuan’s enormously popular peasant comedy The House of 72 Tenants is a delirious, unabashedly old-fashioned lowbrow ensemble confection that features immediately recognizable film stars from the decade, over-the-top caricatured performances, preposterously convoluted schemes, and a requisite – and justly deserved – comeuppance of the powerful, self-indulgent, and corrupt evil doers. Treading in a similar territory of escapist nostalgia and burlesque comedy that Alain Resnais would subsequently inhabit in his late phase works such as Mélo and Not on the Lips, the film nevertheless presents a meticulously constructed and incisive snapshot of early 1970s Hong Kong as the then-British colony struggled though a period of economic recession (in a running premise of tenants coping with an overnight 100% inflation), while espousing egalitarian ideals of community, self-reliance, and collective strength.

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