Final Blog

Before this class I knew absolutely nothing about King Hu. I didn’t know who he was, what he did, and how he has impacted filmmaking. Now I know a lot about King Hu. I know that he was born in Beijing, and faced a few obstacles in Hong Kong before discovering his place in the film industry. I learned that even though he had become quite an influential filmmaker, especially for Chinese-language wuxia films, he started from not knowing anything about film and had to make sacrifices in order to become what he never knew he could be.

King Hu has definitely become an inspiration for me.

sjff_02_img0720

My first favorite film by King Hu was Come Drink with Me.cdwm3ji8

This was an exciting film because of all the elements that introduced me to the wuxia genre and Cheng Pei-Pei!

My second favorite film was A Touch of Zen part 2.touch-of-zen_07

This film demonstrated the distance King Hu would go in order to create his perfect scene.

My third favorite film was Raining in the Mountain.image-w1280.jpg

This storyline was engaging, flowed well, and seemed the least experimental. It was a new kind of film for King Hu’s style.

My three least favorite films were Sons of Good Earth, Fate of Lee Khan, and Painted Skin. Sons of Good Earth was too difficult for a first film, and was also about a very sensitive time. It’s too sad. Fate of Lee Khan was a good film but too edgy for me. I’m not into the sudden death scenes. Painted Skin was okay but the film as a whole had quite a sad vibe. I felt a loss of enthusiasm from King Hu.

King Hu’s role in history of martial arts cinema is huge. He has impacted martial arts films that I’ve seen and I didn’t even know it until I learned about him. King Hu definitely deserves more recognition than he has received thus far. When you first watch King Hu’s early films like Come Drink with Me, you almost just want to laugh because of some of the awkward flying and over dramatized action scenes. But when you see films like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , which was made years later and turned out so well, you understand that King Hu was the original mastermind behind those ideas. Filmmakers that followed just took King Hu’s ideas and expanded them with the newer technology that King Hu never had during his time in filmmaking. I also hope that newer filmmakers, like Quentin Tarantino, do remake a lot of King Hu’s films because they have a lot of potential in this day in age to become what King Hu had worked so hard to create.

Not only were King Hu’s films influential to films that followed, but King Hu himself is an inspiration alone. For people who know about King Hu’s life and his accomplishments, they also know that things weren’t always easy for him but he persisted. King Hu had a very creative mind and the passion for creating and experimenting with new elements showed greatly in his films. That is why even though you shouldn’t take some of his early films too seriously, it still shows the amount of hard work and courage it took in order to try something that no one else has ever done before.

Painted Skin – Film Review

painted-skinThis film definitely had a different vibe to it than the rest of King Hu’s films that we’ve seen. It seemed like a darker story with less wuxia action and more ghosts and suspense. Maybe knowing that this is the last film King Hu got to release affects my interpretation, but it does give a sense that he is less ambitious with his experimentations and action scenes. I think this is also because he was a more experienced filmmaker by this time.

This was both good and bad for me. I’ve learned to expect something crazy and ridiculous to happen at some point in King Hu’s films, and often near the ending, but this film just flowed normally and nothing really popped out. It feels like this is one of his more serious films and the special effects weren’t too out of control.

I thought he did a good job with the twists. There was seduction from a ghost to a human, as we saw in Legend of the Mountain. The yin and yang king was interesting. I wasn’t quite sure how that girl got stuck in there or why she had to go to hell, but I liked the fact that each scene really flowed into the next and the reverend had a good character arc in this film. At first he is consumed by growing his peach trees and in the end he sacrifices it, which leads to the ghost’s exit to hell.paintedskin

Introducing the baby in the end and glancing at it after receiving the scroll painting left that a little up in the air, but overall, this was a good film because of the fact that everything else flowed well and tied together in the end.

Review of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

2000_crouching_tiger_hidden_drgon After watching how King Hu experimented with the wuxia genre over and over again in his films, and then seeing how a younger director like Ang Lee has continued to use the same ideas in a much more advanced style, it really shows myself how a single filmmaker is able to make a difference in filmmaking for years to come.

One of the reasons why this is so inspiring is because Ang Lee did a terrific job with this film. Although the fight scenes still included flying, they were also choreographed extremely well, which makes it easy for someone to dismiss the unrealistic flying and focus on what beauty those moments of flying adds to “dancing” between the characters. I say dancing because that is what it was originally meant to seem like with King Hu’s films, and it definitely shows in Ang Lee’s most advanced versions of wuxia.10

Another very honorable thing that Ang Lee did in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was cast Cheng Pei-Pei. It is always so thrilling to see one of the original actors in a genre, appear in the much newer version. It’s like a flashback to the film that has inspired to this newer one and is very respectful, in my opinion.

The story in this film is also incredibly moving. This was the first time I have seen this film, and everyone thing was just on-point. I definitely would watch this again.

Although this is not a King Hu film, this film is essential in being able to fully appreciate how much King Hu has impacted martial arts in films that followed.

king-hu

Legend of the Mountain – Film Review

137836-legend-of-the-mountain-0-230-0-345-crop

This film was much different from the previous King Hu films I’ve seen so far. In Legend of the Mountain, we see King Hu starting to experiment with special effects. This was a fun film for me and the effects didn’t seem too overdone. There is also a great ghost story behind this film which kept me engaged throughout and I never found myself bored at any point. One thing that would have made this film greater is if there was more of an establishment of why there were so many spirits lingering that area. I felt like that kind of introduction would have made it way more suspenseful and meaningful.

The casting was great once again. I enjoyed seeing those familiar faces that I associate with King Hu films. This time we met a new actress that I felt was perfect for her role as cloud in comparison to her evil enemy, who was also perfect for her role. I thought it was very interesting that King Hu chose to use a male to play Madam Wang. I think this was very experimental and creative of him and it was a great – a nice unique touch to this film.

I’ve noticed that we are starting to see less flying scenes as well. Overall, this was another creative film by King Hu and I really enjoyed seeing how King Hu developed up to this point in his career.

Raining in the Mountain – Film Review

I enjoyed this film a lot. This is probably one of my favorites so far because of the storyline being so engaging and very easy to follow. It is quite different from King Hu’s previous films, and I think that is what made it fresh for me. This showed King Hu’s talent beyond many of his experimentations in his previous films. By this I mean that there was never really any moments in the film that I felt was exaggerated so much to the point that it was awkward. We still saw some of the regular King Hu touches in this film, such as the type of sound effects used in the action scenes and some flying, but also that cast.

hu_raining

What was also fresh about this film is that a few of the main characters are actually new faces to King Hu’s films at that point in his career. The new monk, Chiu Ming who becomes the new Abbot Hui Ming, is a very likeable character. This is something that I think King Hu does really well with in all of his films. The actors/actresses always seem to fit very well in their roles.

I can’t recall his name in the film, but Hui Lo Chen did a great job as his role in playing one of the bad guy’s annoying little helper. Without these actors/actresses, this movie would not be as perfect.

734306

I liked the fact the a woman, or women, still had a significant role in the story and especially in the end, but once again, it was different and “fresh” as the story was not so typical for a King Hu film.

The Valiant Ones – Film Review

valiantones-box

Although the version I watched was not of very great quality and the legibility of the subtitles were terrible at times, I enjoyed what I could understand. My first thought was about the fact that King Hu used so many of the same actors that we seen in his other films. I really liked that he did this because watching it was way more engaging and he also gave all of them very significant roles in this film.

I also noticed that he used one of the same locations as a A Touch of Zen in the scene with all the tall trees. Another thing that I learned about King Hu’s style is that there is a specific sound he uses to build up suspense. This sound told me that something was about to happen before it was even expected in the film, and  I thought this was neat that I have become this familiar with King Hu’s movies.

I really enjoyed the build up of Mr. Wu’s character. There were multiple scenes in the film that showed how great Mr. Wu’s Kung Fu skills were in comparison to others. I thought these were fun scenes. Even the very short scene where he tells the boy, “Don’t move” and the boy has to stay completely still while Wu fights off the bad guys, as he literally just predicted would happen.

movie-the-valiant-ones-by-hu-jinquan-still-mask9

This film was a lot easier to distinguish the sides during most of the fight scenes. Maybe this was because some were supposed to be Japanese so their costumes were different but I’m not too familiar with that. I wasn’t sure if the samurai guy at the very end was supposed to be Japanese or Chinese. That could be because the introduction to the movie was not very clear to me with the subtitles being so hard to read at times.

hu-valiant

I also noted how King Hu once again introduced the strongest villain only near the very end. We saw this happen in A Touch of Zen as well. This guy that doesn’t come in until the very end is the one who ends up killing all the kung fu masters, while also getting killed himself. Therefore, they all die in this scene. We saw this happen at the end of Dragon Inn. This is quite an interesting way to end the film. I definitely was not expecting them all to die, but I understand why King Hu would do that. With the voiceover introduction and ending, it seems as though King Hu wasn’t going for the typical happy ending that we all expect. It seems that he was going more for telling the history of this issue that they faced in China with the Japanese pirates, and real-life history doesn’t necessarily have happy endings all the time. I think this is because of his passion for history and place, and this is something special about King Hu and his films.

The Fate of Lee Khan -Film Review

Chinese Title Translation: Affairs in the Spring Pavilion

The first thing I noted while watching this film was that he once again began the film with Chinese music, writing, and voice over, which appears to be common in his films. The really interesting thing about this introduction is that King Hu tells the history of a specific person, which shows his passion for history, and then goes into the story. Another thing that I really liked in this film, and that King Hu often does in his films, is that he used a woman, or women, to be very powerful characters in the story. This is one thing that really makes his films great for me. If he hadn’t used such powerful women in his story I don’t think it would be nearly as spicy.

ad423-fateofleekhan-helena-ma-hoi-lun-angela-mao-ying-li-lihua-hu-chin-ng-ming-tsui_7b00e0f694b26ef8eb3611c1eb28df5a.jpg

The scene near the beginning had the three men come in to rob them and out of all the people there, the waitresses are the ones who end up fighting them off. This was expected for me because by now I am a lot more familiar with King Hu’s style, but it is still a great method for introducing that characters in a very engaging way. King Hu also used another familiar idea, which was to have a solo mysterious male add humor to the story. It was very interesting that he used the bad guy from the end of A Touch of Zen to play this part, but it worked and he played the part well. King Hu seems to like to use the same main actors and actresses in for his following films.

There seems to be common threads within all of King Hu’s films and I enjoy this because I feel like I am getting to know King Hu better as a director.

A Touch of Zen (Part two) – Film Review

Part two of this film was more entertaining. There was a twist with the character Gu. He seemed to be the main character in part one, but part two focused a lot less on him. It started part two with Gu still seeming like the main character. Gu laughs hysterically for an exaggerated amount of time when he sees that his plan has worked. After he realizes that Miss Yang is gone and he goes to look for her and finds the baby, the story changes it’s focus.

524940_053.jpg

If he was supposed to be gay in this story, I wish it would have been made more obvious. If it was more clear in the storyline that he was supposed to be gay, I think the film would have been even more interesting. The part about Miss Yang giving him a baby would have been even more meaningful as well.

I have entered the monastery. The Gu family has their heir.”

Speaking of the baby, I wish the film would have shown Gu’s mother’s reaction to the baby. I think this would have been a good closure for her character because she is the one who prompted the idea of having – or not having – a baby to carry on their family name.

The best part about this second half of the film is the Abbot monk. I was really engaged when he was on screen because I was curious how he would defeat the bad guys without violence.img_3.jpeg

The suspense really comes when the abbot fights without weapons and tries to leave peacefully but the eunuchs try to trick him.

28791id_055_primary_w1600.jpg

I liked the idea of having the bad guy become so confused that he kills his own men and then himself, because what they did was really wrong, and of course because the abbot should remain peaceful throughout the movie. The end where the monk bleeds gold and goes and sits on the rock was a bit much, but the idea worked for me. I think this film ended better than the others that we saw.

A Touch of Zen (Part one) – Film Review

I am always interested in the translations of the film titles with King Hu’s films; this film in Chinese translates to “Female Warrior”. I feel like the titles are really important so I look forward to seeing which title relates more to the meaning of this film. I thought King Hu did  a great job at portraying “a touch of zen” to begin the film by using a lot of nature shots including the spider, plants, darkness of the night, bird noises, and the moon. Once the story begins, then we see why the film might be titled “Female Warrior” instead.

Image result for a touch of zen

I’ve noticed and also read in another article that King Hu films often begin with beautiful Chinese music and a voice over. A Touch of Zen begins with very nice Chinese music, but as I waited for the voice over, the story just began and there never was one, which was great! Although the V.O.s in the previous films were helpful and creative as it portrayed some real life history from King Hu’s knowledge, I felt a little relieved that there was no voice over because that would just be too expected and I would hope for something different and more unpredictable every now and then while watching a new King Hu film.

There are a few things that stood out to me after seeing part one of this film. The first thing is idea of having a ghost story in the film. I’m still unsure if there is going to be any ghost story here in part two, but that is a good way of building suspense in the beginning. The next thing that I really appreciated about this film is that it has another badass female that has to fight for herself. This seems to be another common thing in King Hu films but it definitely makes them more exciting to watch and I hope to continue to see this in the rest of the King Hu films that I see.

Another very powerful thing that King Hu did with this film is include the monks. This was definitely the most intense part of the film so far because King Hu did such a great job at introducing the monks by showing respect and making the leader of the monks have so much power without needing any weapons.

Image result for a touch of zen

Although this film seemed to begin a little slower than the others, part one did a great job at setting up suspense for part two and I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen with the rest of the story. I really want to see why it is titled “A Touch of Zen.” I am really looking forward to seeing if and how the monks will continue to play a role in this story.

 

 

Dragon Inn – Film Review

King Hu’s film, Dragon Inn, is interesting firstly because it was created once he left Shaw Brothers and moved to Taiwan, which gave King Hu more freedom to experiment further with the wuxia genre. This is also a neat film for that fact that it has been restored, and it does show, but the film also shows its worth for restoration.

Having seen this film after watching Come Drink With Me definitely made me compare the two of his films. This film was obviously given more time to work out the ending, which the other really lacks. I also thought it was interesting that the costume and make up for Xiao (the hero) in this film was very similar to Jade Faced Tiger (the villain) in Come Drink With Me. Although the costume was great for each role, this may have added to the confusion I had in the beginning with trying to distinguish who the good and bad guys are in the film. This was not a huge issue though, as it does add to the suspense of unfolding the story.

Image result for dragon inn xiao
Xiao
Image result for come drink with me
Jade Faced Tiger

This film really did a great job of maintaining the suspense throughout, especially in the end. It did, however, have quite an abrupt ending and wasn’t completely clear what happened – who else died and who didn’t. Another thing I have to point out about the ending is how beautiful the backdrop is with the snowy mountains and close ups of their faces when Xiao is finally about to fight the leader of the bad guys.

A fun fact about this film is that the Minister Yu Qian, who was executed in the beginning of this film for opposing the corrupt men, is based on a real-life historical minister of war. This is very interesting because King Hu’s knowledge and passion for both history and wuxia can both be seen in this film.