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Shih Erh (Biao Yuen), a Taoist monk disciple, takes in a scholar named Tsui Hung-Chuen (Lawrence Ng) after he inadvertently burned down his house after battling a demon. Shih Erh and his master Wu Men-Chu (Ma Wu) house and attempt to protect Tsui from the demons and spirits that lurk nearby; however, Tsui encounters a benevolent female ghost named Mo Chiu (Joey Wang), who is confined to the hands of the wicked King Ghost (Elizabeth Lee). As Tsui falls in love with Mo Chiu, he paints a portrait of her, which the spirit uses to conceal herself from the King Ghost's clutches. Written by
PICTURE OF A NYMPH is a 1988 romantic fantasy and a clone of Tsui Hark's A CHINESE GHOST STORY from the previous year. It features two of the stars of that film, Wu Ma, who played the taoist priest, and Joey Wang, who plays the beautiful ghost in both films (she also played the part in two CHINESE GHOST STORY sequels). Wu Ma also handled the directorial reins on this film.
The hero character from the earlier film is split into two characters here: the priest's adopted son, an aspiring ghost-chaser played by kung fu star Yuen Biao; and a hapless young scholar who becomes the ghost's lover, played by Lawrence Ng. There is an interesting plot twist in which Joey Wong's ghost has to hide from the grasping and possessive `King Ghost,' played by Elizabeth Lee, by magically entering an ink painting of herself done by the scholar. At one point she leaves the painting to tidy up and decorate the scholar's room in an abandoned mansion.
This film is charming and pretty, but lacks the intensity and heart-wrenching melancholy of its predecessor. Its action scenes are well handled, but are few and far between and not as frenzied as in the earlier film. Lawrence Ng plays too comical a character in contrast to Leslie Cheung's vulnerable, lovestruck scholar in the earlier film. Overall, it's a much gentler film and more family-friendly. If that's your cup of tea, you'll be pleasantly surprised. But if you're looking for monsters and supernatural battles, stick with the original CGS series. The DVD transfer is beautiful and showcases the film's lovely cinematography to great effect.
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