King Hu’s influential masterpiece depicts a naïve, unmotivated artist, Gu (Shih Chen), finally find purpose when he crosses paths with a fugitive on the run, Yang (Hsu Feng). The latter’s family have all been murdered by the Eunuch Wei, as her father told the Emperor about the Eunuch’s corrupt ways. Yang seeks refuge in Gu’s small village, which is rumoured to be haunted. While Yang doesn’t need much protection, with her advance martial arts skills, Gu cannot resist to help her find peace.
A monumental scene in the wuxia epic is the fighting which takes part in the Bamboo forest, and leaves an evident impression on Chinese cinema to come. Hu is said to be inspired by photos of Japanese samurais as well as the elegant movements of Peking Opera to create an aggressive, brutal scene of anger composing of a beautifully graceful presentation of the body and its distorted shapes.
Due to the vast length of the movie, it was never appreciated in its full light. Against Hu’s wishes, the film was cut into two pieces. However, the complete film was released by the director, as he first intended. In 2016, The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu Ray and DVD restoring it using 4K restoration, partly sponsored by Hsu Feng.
A Touch of Zen
director SHUNJI IWAI
director of photography HUA HUI-YING
cast HSU FENG, SHIH CHUN, PAI YING and ROY CHIAO
words PRIYESH PATEL
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