GOURMANDS, perhaps even more than cinema-goers, will find something to delight in in The Chinese Feast. It has been a long time since Tsui Hark essayed a contemporary comedy. This tale of competition between master chefs proves that, after his recent string of costume dramas, he is still capable of a light, modern touch. The Chinese Feast works best when it sticks to the frying pan and cutting board. The opening and closing scenes, in particular, are stand-outs, with Master Kit (Kenny Bee Chung Chen-to) defending his status as the greatest chef in China. The finale features Kit and rival gastronome Wong (martial artist Xiong Xinxin) in a no-holds-barred cooking contest that neatly combines kung fu and culinary skills. The two stars' dexterity with knives make professionals Martin Yan and Mrs Fong look like mere amateurs. The accompanying explanations of the complex dishes are most instructive, though the exotic ingredients will certainly win no fans among animal rights activists. The bulk of the story, however, is less concerned with food than the rather 'cute' romance between Anita Yuen Wing-yee and Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing. Cheung is the would-be chef who comes to work in the restaurant run by Yuen's father (Law Ka-ying). She's ultra-punk, he's ultra-cool, and their romance is one of those 'strictly for fans only' affairs. The humour is often too calculated to be 100 per cent fun, like Yuen's obvious attempts at singing karaoke. And scenes that should be moving, such as the young lady's transformation from rebel to filial daughter, lack the emotional underpinnings necessary to be truly effective. In the meantime, Kenny Bee is relegated to more-or-less subplot status as the young lovers help him to get back on his feet after the breakup of his marriage (to the wife played by Taiwanese star Ni Shuzhen). The cooking scenes, and there are plenty of them, are wonderful. Shot with the technical expertise Tsui brings to everything he does, they make The Chinese Feast one of the more palatable Lunar New Year releases. Mack the Knife is a beautifully packaged New Year's film whose contents never quite measure up to the attractive wrappings. Director Lee Chi-ngai has designed a complex comic drama about a non-conformist medical practitioner whose cool exterior belies a deep concern for his fellow human beings. But in trying to make his script palatable to the masses, he has created a slick but emotionally sterile confection. That it amuses is testament to the director's fine ear for dialogue. But other than a few scattered laughs, the picture will leave little lasting impression on the movie-going public. Tony Leung Chiu-wai is the rebellious Dr Lau Man, who treats the prostitutes on Lantern Street. It is a lower-class environment that is romanticised, glamorised, and sentimentalised in a manner that totally undercuts whatever emotional value the characters might originally have possessed. Too many subplots vie for attention: Lau's affection for a ritzy psychiatrist (Christy Chung Lai-tai) who is going out with a brilliant but unscrupulous surgeon (Alex To Tak-wai), who happens to be Lau's chief rival from medical school a decade ago, and the chief reason why Lau never formally graduated. Then there's Lau's idealistic assistant (Andy Hui Chi-on) and his love for a cancer patient (Hui Ho-ying); Lantern Street's undercover cop (Lau Ching-wan), and his romance with an intellectual whore (Tung Oi-ling). The overly-trendy art direction and costume design and the 'cute' performances are connected by a saccharinity that drains the film of its heart-felt potential. However, Mack the Knife is made with such skill that it is not a movie to be lightly dismissed. It just seems that somewhere between the drawing board and the final product, the film-makers lost sight of just what it was they wanted to say.