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An artist, Ku, lives with his mother near an abandoned fort, reputed to be haunted. One night, investigating strange noises, he meets the beautiful Yang who is living there. She is being pursued by agents of an Imperial noble who have murdered her family. Ku finds himself caught up in her struggle to survive, and many fierce battles take place before all is resolved. Action adventure with a lyrical feel, this is a kung fu film with a strong spiritual element. Written by
Richard Hills <R.Hills@wlv.ac.uk>
Hsia Nu is not only one of the most remarkable martial arts movies one could imagine, but in any sense a most remarkable film. I at least am unable to name many other three hour long movies which I have not found slightly lengthy (not to say boring) at some stage. Moreover Hsia Nu is the kind of film one definitely would want to watch on the big screen of a cinema, something rather rare as far as martial arts films are concerned and generally rare for anything not an extremely expensive super-production.
Its panoramic nature sequences have not only esthetic value, but are also symbolically relevant. In fact if one wanted to do this, it would be possible to interpret the whole movie as an allegory of human existence. Fortunately there is really no need to get out the heavy guns of symbolism and artistic value to convince oneself that Hsia Nu is a great movie. It is gripping and entertaining, amusing and serious, and infused with a pathos hardly ever encountered in European (or American) movies. Pathos of course is something difficult to handle, but the director and cast of Hsia Nu manage it very well. The film has its deliberate light moments, but it never invites laughter at its moments of pathos.
Of course we are talking here about a martial arts movie. And indeed, the fighting sequences are brilliantly done - there definitely has been no progress since 1969 - but there is not only that. There is in fact not all that much fighting if one considers that this is a three hour film, and the fights do not carry the plot. In some sense Hsia Nu resembles more a Japanese samurai drama than what we more customarily associate with the Hong Kong and Taiwan martial arts genre.
The plot is very long and complex - though perfectly understandable, and even logical - therefore I do not see any real interest in retelling it here. Suffice to say that it contains most principal human emotions: loyalty and treason, love and revenge, hunger for happiness and for...enlightenment. The acting is brilliant, and especially a more masterly 'great master' character, a monk in Hsia Nu, would indeed be difficult to find in any martial arts movie.
If anybody is not convinced by the merit of the martial arts genre and just wants to give it a sole and unique chance, then this is the movie that might convinced such a snob that cinematographic 'art' is not necessarily grey, quiet and slow, but can be colourful, vibrant and full of pathos.
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