Director: Nick Hooker | Time to play: 90 minutes | Year: 2023
It’s an immediate hit as soon as Michael Chow starts talking. With his charismatic character, he captures your attention and draws you in with his great ideas and stories. This intoxication returns in many aspects of the world-famous restaurateur’s life, but Also known as Mr. Chow It mainly shows how Mr. Chow always knows how to keep his poker face.
Chow, born Zhou Yinghua in 1939, grew up in pre-war Shanghai, in the shadow of his father Zhou Xinfang, who single-handedly introduced a new style of acting to Beijing Opera. The young son was soon expelled from unstable China and sent to boarding school in England, where he began his career as an actor and restaurateur. Driven to become one of the greats, he opened his first restaurant in London during the sixties, called Mr. Chinese Dog. A cultural phenomenon was born.
At Mr. Chow’s restaurant chain, which soon expanded to the United States, he offered visitors an overwhelming experience. Hong Kong’s top chefs cooked eccentric Chinese dishes, served by Italian waiters in a room packed with bold gadgets. In the words of Michael Chow, only “the chicest of the chic” was there, and the clientele served accordingly: regular guests included Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, and filmmaker Federico Fellini. At the head of it all was the icon Mr. Chow, with his trademark round glasses, his wide smile and his extravagant lifestyle.
The documentary tamely follows Michael Chow in his funny story about his life’s work. Images of major Hollywood stars alternate with family photographs, interviews with Chow’s relatives, and black-and-white animations about the bond between Chow and his theatrical father. This colorful palette enhances every event. Also known as Mr. Chow lived, felt and wonderful. Each subsequent stage of the nostalgic journey to a different era in the world of art, fashion and film seems to get better. But the striking Mr. Chow’s photo album, full of beautiful snapshots and great stories, also contains much suffering from broken marriages and lost family members.
An uncontrollable impulse of theatrical extrapolation pursues the eventful man of his biography. Also known as Mr. Chow, but he never lets himself be seen behind his mask of a proud Chinese and successful businessman. Like a lavish multi-course menu, the dishes keep appearing, each one more impressive than the last. But what’s hard to detect is a deeper layer of taste that reveals something about the one who connects all the courses: the man behind the name. The eyes behind his glasses shine, but he still holds his cards close to his chest.
Also known as Mr. Chow can be seen in maximum HBO.