A Touch of Zen
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
shadows It seems a bit late to be reissuing this classic and obviously very influential 1969 Chinese epic. This Wuxia film is clearly a key source for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and there are also heavy whiffs of Star Wars in the central Leia-like character as well as the Jedi-like fighting. The plot centres on Yang, a young woman (Hsu) on the run from the authorities who tortured and killed her father. She links up with the nebbish scholar Ku (Shih) who, with her two colleagues (Pai and Tien), helps plot her escape from the brutal baddies.

There's a lot more to the plot, which swirls out like Crouching Tiger to encompass several film genres all at once: comedy with Ku's nagging mother (Chang), mystery with all the strangers in town, horror with the haunted fort where the action takes place, adventure withal the conspiracies and counterplots, romance with Ku obviously smitten by Yang, religious epic with a band of quietly fierce monks, and action with all the gravity-defying fight sequences. All of this is brilliantly directed with gorgeous cinematography that makes the film look like it was made last month, not 35 years ago (although it merely uses editing where Crouching Tiger used digital effects and wire stunts). Even if the story is sometimes hard to follow, and all the fights seem to happen at night, the passion and emotion keep us profoundly involved. The action scenes actually mean something, and there are also extended flashbacks that fill in the story nicely. And even though it's very long, it flies past because we are completely swept away by the beauty of the images and the passion of the characters. A real masterpiece that deserves its place in film history.

cert 12tbc themes, violence 31.Oct.02

dir-scr King Hu
with Hsu Feng, Shih Chun, Pai Ying, Tien Peng, Hsue Han, Chiao Hong, Chang Ping-Yu, Wang Chung-Shan, Miao Tien, Tsao Chien, Wan Jei, Han Ying-Chieh
reissue UK tbc
69/China 3h07

Inspiration. A Touch of Zen has inspired films from Star Wars to Crouching Tiger...

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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