27 reviews in total
2 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Why do People Like This?
martensj from Greater Baltimore, MD
30 January 2008
I skimmed the favorable reviews and wonder if I just watched the same
film. For the first hour or so, I was hoping it would get better. Then
I was hoping it would just end. The pacing is very slow. The night time
scenes are poorly lit. The dialog--at least in English translation--is
at best stilted.
The film is poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted. It often
seems like the actors are moving from pose to pose rather than acting.
Among the funniest scenes are when characters are attempting to not be
seen by moving about in the open in very conspicuous fashion.
Another point of humor: when characters are chasing other characters in
fight scenes, the chasers are often on wires and hop down the bunny
trail towards their opponents. I'm not used to bunnies doing the
pursuing. The unfortunate thing is that this was, apparently, not
intended to be humorous.
4 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
It Hasn't Aged Well
Imhotep77 from White Plains, USA
21 July 2005
With all due respect to the HK Movie Association who puts this movie as
#9 on the 100 best Chinese films of the last 100 year, I believe this
movie is rather dated. As with "Lady Snowblood" (1973) which I put in
my two cents recently, they might be at the vanguard of their
respective genres at the time, but now, 30 odd years later, they
haven't age well at all. This happens, I think, especially with genre
movies where technology plays an important part. Dramas such as
"Rebecca" (Hitchcock) or "Now, Voyager" (Bette Davis), which are still
some of my all-time faves, fare much better because technology won't
really make them better; they already have great direction, story,
pacing, acting, etc.
I also want to dispute a reviewer from UK who mentioned that this movie
is much more Chinese than "Crouching Tiger" which is too westernized. I
can't disagree with him more. Having actually read the wuxia novels
that many of these movies are based on, I have to say "Crouching Tiger"
beautifully captures the lyricism and essence of the wuxia world
without any Western influence. But I digress.
The pacing of this movie is really too slow. Fully an hour was devoted
to people, chiefly of the male protagonist, walking around and around
in that same little village. An HOUR of nothing much happening to
propel the story! As a matter of fact, a large portion of the 3-hour
movie time is eaten up by showing people walking from point A to point
B which is totally pointless. The bamboo forest scene will remind many
of a similar scene in "House of Flying Daggers" and is probably its
inspiration. Alas, it was done much better in the newer movie, due to
better choreography, wire works, and kinetic energy that "Zen" sadly
lacks. Same argument for all the other set pieces. The ending is
anticlimactic since there is no tension when one party is the living
Buddha (or something like that). The use of negative film to denote
some sort of divine intervention is jarring and a little laughable.
During the opening credits, it indicates that this movie is based on a
book which is written in the Manchu dynasty, probably in the late 18th
or early 19th century. I don't know of a direct translation of the book
but it is available in English with the title, "Chinese Ghost and Love
Stories" by Pu Songling (I coin him the Chinese Edgar Allen Poe). It is
one of the premiere books in Chinese literature. Not all his stories
are about ghosts but all have a fantastical element and most have a
moral to it. But the book are all short stories and none is long enough
to be a novella; so stretching a short story to 3 hours entails lots
and lots of padding; hence, all the walking. I haven't actually looked
for the story that the movie is based on but I can say for sure that in
old Chinese society and in Pu's stories as well, no woman who is from a
respected family (as the female character is) would bed down with a
practical stranger, EVER, unless she is a demon or a ghost, which does
happen quite frequently in his stories and are almost always not a good
thing. It probably had happened in real life when there was a strong
attraction, but she was basically feeling pity for his mother and so
decided to give her virginity to him. Yeah, I don't think so! The DVD
quality from Tai Seng is abysmal which probably also contributes to my
discontent. The transfer is horrid; pixilated (like in a VCD) in some
scenes, looks like it's forever raining in dark scenes, some black
spots permanently imprinted on the screen throughout the entire movie.
The big fight scene that happens at the deserted house at night is so
dark that is practically unwatchable. Moreover, the audio is muddy and
barely audible even with volume turns to the loudest.
The Chinese title is translated as Heroine but the official English
title is a better description of the movie given the spiritual element
in the movie.
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