It's official - Jeff Lau is on crack! The film starts where Journey to the West presumably finishes (Tripitaka, played here by Nic Tse, has reached his destination and acquired the sutras)... then goes off somewhere else entirely, mixing some seriously disparate elements around a love story and various meditations of a more or less philosophical nature. The film has as much to do with the tale of The Ugly Duckling as that of The Monkey King.
A CHINESE TALL STORY is reminiscent of Chen Kaige's The Promise in several ways - not least in the heavy use of CGI to create its fairy tale world. The quality of the effects is impressive - certainly some of the best work to come from Hong Kong. Combined with some fine art direction and cinematography, the film can look really quite beautiful. The films also share an erratic tone, though at least with Jeff Lau at the helm we can be sure that the comedic moments are intentional here :-p I guess both films share Nic Tse too - his casting as Tripitaka was certainly an odd choice, but he carries it off. This is not the Tripitaka we are used to seeing, anyway.
I suspect that many people will dislike the film as much as they did THE PROMISE - it's such an uncompromisingly odd film that I'm sure it will simply come across as self-indulgent to many (and perhaps it is), or just a nonsensical train wreck to others (it's not). I think it's a brave film - perhaps not completely successful in all it attempts, but at least attempting something interesting. I enjoyed it :-)