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Temptation of a Monk More at IMDbPro »You Seng (original title)

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The subtlety of plot and the extravagant costumes MAKES this film

Author: anonymous from Australia
18 May 1999

Temptation of a Monk is a treat for those viewers who value character development and self discovery. The movie is the story of a army general who strives to transcend the trappings of his position, social expectation and his current state of existence. He enters a monastery which shakes his social foundations (an elder brother monk, 10 years old ordering an ex-general around), but the teachings are ineffective because of his hidden motivations in joining the monastery. After a traumatic event, he moves on to another monastery, where his life begins to change. His newfound learnings and knowledge are again tested to determine whether he perseveres.

The subtlety of the plot and the gradual development of the character is wonderful, much like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar. This is the strength of the film, enticing viewers to watch on to find out whether the protagonist perseveres. The contemporary style of the costumes is another feature of this film adding to the beauty of the landscape. Overall, Temptation of a Monk is an oriental treat -- displaying both the beauty of the land and of the human soul.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The spiritual transformation of a warrior

Author: lyone-fein from Iowa
7 April 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This excellent film gives viewers an entry into some of China's religious cultural traditions--from the point of view of a very irreligious man. Beginning in a traditional Confucian setting, the film follows a successful military man as he finds himself at the mercy of the fickle politics that dominate the court of the T'ang Dynasty. Inadvertently manipulated into betraying some of the most fundamental values of Confucian virtue and filial piety, the main character is forced to go into hiding, taking refuge in a Buddhist monastary. Of course, "taking refuge" is a pun--for that is what it is called when a person converts to Buddhism--but for the central character it is quite literal.

As he continues to live in his new environment, the former general finds himself struggling with profound inner questions about the kind of life he has lead up until now. Throughout the course of the film, even as he continuously tries to flee his former life, he is forced to confront and deal with the consequences of his many past actions. He learns the truth of the Buddhist teachings as, one by one, all the things that he held dear--his family, his lover, his pride--are taken from him.

This is truly a sublime film that can speak to audiences on many levels: as beautiful cinema, as great art, as engrossing entertainment, and as an opportunity to reflect on some substantial questions.

(P.S. This film also contains the most visually stunning sex scene I have ever seen.)

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Highly enjoyable medieval spaghetti eastern

Author: bgilch from Montreal, Quebec
5 September 1999

"Temptation of a Monk" has a bit of everything. It starts out as a dry morality tale of a kingdom collapsing under historical duress. Here it is pretty and easily mimics Chen Kaige. It then turns into a wandering ronin movie with comedic touches and low culture carnival. But then our hero, the exiled and chased bodyguard, hides in a monastery and brings violence and sex that threaten the spiritual lessons of the cloistered environment. And so on.

This film manages to make numerous changes of course and imitates almost every genre of historical Chinese filmmaking. From the high culture ideal of the court to the equal severity of the cloister to the comedic about face of the hot-tub scene, director Law shows a playful seriousness and the power of mimicry as she rapidly changes forms--even as the film heads towards a seemingly inevitable spaghetti eastern showdown replete with fire and destruction to make Clint Eastwood blush. That is, if Clint hadn't already blushed at the fabulously hetero sex scene. Stoic lust never looked so good, or so demanding.

The acting is very strong; the cinematography first-class and often breathtaking with its numerous different landscapes and set constructions. And the battle scenes are of course expertly delivered.

SUM: This film is knowledgeable fun for those who know the high forms of Asian cinema but who want the swords put to good, if tasteful, use. Deserved winner of numerous Hong Kong film awards 8.5/10

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

An excellent way to learn about Chinese Buddhism

Author: lyonefein from United States
8 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In addition to being a superb film--with stunning visuals, an uplifting plot, and superior performances all around--this film also provides audiences with a wonderful window into the history of the development of Chinese Buddhism.

The main character's own personal spiritual development actually parallels several centuries of Chinese history--what a subtle genius this director is!! As we follow the General's progress---from a superficial adherence to the rules and forms of Buddhist practice, through his initial explorations of Pure Land doctrine, and finally on to his confrontation with his own inner flaws as he truly embraces Chan's paradoxical koans and teachings---we also follow the forms of traditional Buddhist development from 4th through 9th century China.

This is not only a cinematic triumph, it is also a spiritual gift to the rest of us. I use it in all of the Buddhism courses I teach.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Beautifully directed

Author: contronatura ( from Los Angeles, CA
23 February 2000

Though a little slow at times, Clara Law's Temptation of a Monk is a beautiful and well-acted epic, at times achieving a Kurosawa-esque level of stunning imagery and battle scenes. Joan Chen has two roles, one as a vibrant princess the other as a mysterious assassin. She is very good in both roles. This film is not perfect. The story ultimately doesn't go anywhere, for one. I must recommend it on the basis of its sheer beauty, however. And one battle scene in particular is terrifyingly beautiful. For fans of Kurosawa this is worth seeing. Others might grow restless, though.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Comic Book of a Movie but a Comic Book of Genius

Author: cloudsponge from Japan
21 March 2011

Throughout, I felt that this movie had the sensibility of a comic book, but a comic book of genius. The visuals were ceaselessly stunning, every single scene change led to another beautiful surprise; both dramatically and with what we were allowed to gorge our eyes (and sometimes ears) on. Rather than call it "directing", or "photography," or "set design," I want to say that the artwork was breathtaking.

What are movies but comic books with the added dimensions of movement and sound? Both largely tell their stories with visuals, and dialog or narration. Too often I am a stickler for believability in movies but I could not help cutting this movie a lot of slack. "Yes, that is just how a comic book might treat the story but with nowhere near the impact," I found myself thinking throughout...

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:


Author: BeanPuncher from United States
26 June 2006

One of the greatest non-Kurasawa movies of it's kind, this film has epic scope. The somewhat over the top action sequences are subtle compared to most Chinese films. It all fits and works well together. I viewed this film by accidentally recording it on DVR the first time. What really surprised me was the macho style warrior stuff. You wouldn't think a female director would pull off those stereotypically male sensibilities so well. The film takes several turns, has comedy, adventure, drama, and near the end becomes very spiritual. It's sad that more of the great movies being made in China, Korea, and Thailand don't get any press here in the states. The stream of regurgitated watered down garbage choking out of Hollywood can't compare to many of the movies from overseas these days. Perhaps one day the moguls will realize that people really respond to art and personal stories more than what star is in the film. The American movie audience isn't nearly as sedate as the marketing specialists think. We just don't have much of a choice.

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Much more than just a single sex scene

Author: david-sarkies from Australia
13 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now, Margret Pomenez, one of SBS's movie critics, says that this movie has an unforgettable sex scene. This is a shame because I was expecting something incredibly erotic, and what I got was a monk literally screwing a woman simply because he had not had sex in a long time. What it was was him falling to temptation rather than the beautiful act that occurs between two people in love. I guess that this is the whole point of the movie, and it was at its climax, but there was much more to this movie than a monk succumbing to his lust.

Temptation of a Monk is set in 1626 in the Tang Dynasty and is focused on General Shi. He witnesses his emperor overthrown by his brother but is forbidden to seek revenge, so he flees to a monastery with some devoted followers to hide from his enemies. Unfortunately his enemies seem to always find him. The first monastery that he goes to is farcical as his followers, even though they become monks, behave in a very unmonklike manner, while Shi cannot handle being commanded by a boy. After he witnesses the princess and his lover murdered by his enemies, he flees to another monastery high in the mountains were he is cut off from all that is the real world. It is not until a woman who is dying comes to the monastery, and after her life is saved, she decides to stay. Only after Shi succumbs to his lust does he realise that she is in fact his enemy and has led the emperor's soldiers to the monastery.

What impressed me about this movie was the beautiful cinematography. The story is hard to follow, and the fact that subtitles are there, the following movie is even harder. Despite that it is a beautifully made movie in which the costumes are beautifully constructed and the scenes marvellously put together. Unlike Pomenaz, I will not praise the sex scene, but rather praise the story of a man trying to flee from his enemies while taking up a lifestyle of abstention, which he is not used to. It is the psychology of Shi that makes this movie great, not the sex that he has with a woman at the end.

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Visually stimulating, needs more intellectually

Author: gcd70 from Melbourne, Australia
6 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although good in design and in content, Clara Law somehow fails to invoke emotion or response from her audience due to lack of character depth.

The topics of betrayal and loyalty are confronted here, but neither are deeply explored by Law, who instead opts for visual grandeur in bloody battles and breathtaking backdrops. Andrew Lesnie's cinematography is an outstanding feast of colour and movement, with stunning scenery thrown in for good measure.

Wu Hsin-kuo does convince us of the struggle within to forgive an free himself of his past, and his performance goes some way to lending the film focus and strength. In worthy support is Joan Chen, who makes the most of her rather meaningless character. More enjoyable is Michael Lee as an hundred year old abbot whose wit serves him well.

Alas any true depth or searching, meaningful dialogue in Eddie Fong Ling-Ching an Lilian Lee's screenplay (based upon Lee's novella) is lost in Clara Law's all too grand approach which is visually stimulating yet intellectually void.

Monday, April 28, 1997 - Hoyts Croydon

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

You're the monk!

Author: johnnn (
21 August 1999

The first and foremost aspects to be appreciated in this movie by Clara Law are its cinematography and directing. Both aspects are marvelous. The scenes are beautiful and you'll see magnificent colors skillfully contrasted. The performances are great as well. Just watch it. At least you wouldn't see a monk and a nun 'caught in action' anywhere else. By the way, in general Clara Law is a great filmmaker. I recommend you to watch her 'Farewell to China'. Have a good viewing :)

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