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 M√©lo 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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