To be completely honest, I knew absolutely nothing about King Hu before this class. I had never even heard of him either, but then again I don’t usually know the names of directors except for the mainstream ones like George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. When George mentioned that we will be learning about “King HU”, I literally thought “King who?? George doesn’t know the name of this King?” (lol.) However, after taking this class, I learned that he was probably one of the best martial arts directors back in the day. Honestly, I learned that many of martial arts movies that we see nowadays that have been mainstream are all influenced by King Hu, for example, Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger. Learning about how he got to where he is, learning techniques, having conflicts with Shaw brothers before finally going independent, all the hardships he faced got him to where he was before he passed, and probably would have been a VERY well known director if he was still living.
Films I Liked:
- Sons of Good Earth- Story was pretty good, had a good plot and a lot of humor. I thought it was very cool how they fought for their own country. Ending was a bit cliche, but I thought it could have been better, maybe a more meaningful ending.
- A Touch of Zen- Contrast in calm nature vs. eerie ghost/murder scene, had a lot of spirituality, also the forest battle scene, I felt, was most iconic.
- Fate of Lee Khan– Loved that most of the cast were of women, shows how good they can fight vs. men. Attire was creative. Love that each women had a different personality.
- Crouching Tiger- I know, this is not a King Hu film, but it is one of my favorite martial arts movie, so I just had to include it. Plus, it was influenced by King Hu himself, like the forest scene compared to the one in A Touch of Zen.
Films I Disliked:
- Valiant Ones- I felt this was a bit confusing for me, and boring due to the plot not building up quick enough to the point where it kept me interested. Really hard to watch and write about.
- Painted Skin- Not the “horror” movie I was expecting of him. No offense, but I can see why this film was not one of King Hu’s “better” films. Not a lot of humor (felt off-putting) and everyone was just all over the place, which made it hard to keep up.
- Dragon Gate Inn– Found the movie too confusing and hard to keep up with. The beginning looked interesting, but as the plot develops, that’s where I got lost..especially the ending. The ending was probably the worst ending I’ve ever seen in my entire life..left me utterly confused.
Now that we have come to the end of the semester, I can honestly say that learning about King Hu has been a privilege. I now see that King Hu, who is a nobody to most people, actually was a somebody to many people, especially well known martial arts directors. As I mentioned previously,the bamboo scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is influenced by the bamboo scene from A Touch of Zen. Comparing his early works to his later works, it can be seen how King Hu has revolutionized the display of such special effects, even if his later works did not receive as much recognition as his earlier works. The casting of Cheng Pei-Pei in Come Drink With Me, King Hu placed an emphasis on dancing, which correlates with fighting. I even remember that Cheng Pei-Pei mentioned that martial arts is much like dancing in similar ways by paving the way for wuxia with his interest in putting the dances of Chinese opera into his film so he could use their beautiful choreography in place of actual martial arts. Nowadays, the usage of wire works and acrobatics used in many Chinese martial arts films can lead back to King Hu and his first film, Sons of Good Earth.
Picture can be found here
Painted Skin was one of the movies that I found rather similar to Legend of the Mountain due to the film’s genre of being another ghost story, but this one was supposed to contain more “horror”. While watching the movie, I felt that instead of the film being categorized as a horror ghost movie, I thought it was more fantasy due to the lack of gore and jump scare scenes that one would normally expect when they watch a horror movie. I think the only thing horrific about this movie was when the ghost took off her face mask and the scholar and wife then discovered that she was a ghost.
When one talks about a horror movie, naturally, jump scare scenes are important and most effective, but it’s mainly due to the music. The music is the one that creates the mood and suspense when it comes to horror films. Similar goes for this one. The music kept on ascending and descending a lot to create the feeling of suspense within us, makes us guessing and keeps us at the edge of our seat.
Also, throughout the film, the color changes a lot between night and day, or shall I say, “warm” and “cold”. In the “colder” scenes, there is mostly blue and a bit of yellow(?) which takes place at night, thus making the scene that much more suspenseful. The warmer scenes had a bit of orange(?), which expresses the character’s reactions and allows viewers to see their expression.
In honor of our special guest that visited our campus, veteran actress, Cheng Pei-Pei, we watched Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Now, although the film is not necessarily a King Hu film, the film was inspired by King Hu, but was directed by Ang Lee.
The film casted Cheng Pei-Pei (Come Drink With Me) as Jade Fox, but is the antagonist in the film. Her role in Come Drink With Me as Golden Swallow had a scene that was similar to her role as Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, which was her on the ground backing away in one of the battle scenes. Yes, the scenes in both of the movies were pretty much the same, except Cheng Pei-Pei is 34 years older than when she was Golden Swallow.
Not only that scene was inspired by one of King Hu’s film, but also the forest scene. We see in A Touch of Zen, a popular scene that was the battle in the forest with bamboos. This film, however, consists of actual fighting on the trees as the characters sway up and down on the thin branches and “fly”/jump across through trees and even by the waterfall.
Aside from that, the amount of action in the film kept me on my toes, especially the fighting scenes that involved Zhang ZiYi and Michelle Yeoh. The jumping from one roof to another, the walking/running on walls, Michelle stopping ZiYi’s character from escaping with her foot, the various weapons Michelle uses in the temple, etc.
The lighting in the film was mainly consisted of low-key lighting as it darkened the mood, which I believe enhances the scene as it keeps viewers at the edge of their seats. Overall, although this film was not necessarily a King Hu film, King Hu’s techniques and aspects are what influenced Ang Lee to create Crouching Tiger, just a more modernized version.
Legend of the Mountain (1979) is a sequel of Raining in the Mountain, which we viewed the week before this one. You would think that this film continues off of the first one, which it did, but the plot and the genre did not stay the same. Raining in the Mountain had more action, but Legend of the Mountain was more mystical and horror/thriller, if you were to ask me.
What gave me the vibe of the film being a “horror” movie was the lighting, the setting, and the music. The lighting mainly consisted of low-key lighting and the setting would always be barely visible or dark like the shadows. It gave off the spooky vibe as the scenes in the temple would be barely visible due to the mystical fog and the usage of shadows, candles, suspenseful music, the “strange” acting, the props and the after effects when they used the props to battle like the constant drumming with their hand, etc. It was more fantasy and mysterious, especially the character Cloud, played by Sylvia Chang…was she a ghost or an actual woman? Was everything an imagination of the scholar’s mind or was it real?
Overall, because it is a horror/fantasy kung fu movie, it is not your average film that King Hu produces. IT stood out compared to the other movies, at least, in my opinion. Fun Fact: The film was written by King Hu’s wife, so maybe that’s why I found it a bit different compared to the other King Hu movies that were screened in class.
After watching Raining in the Mountain (1979), I can definitely say that this was a better King Hu film compared to last week’s, The Valiant Ones. Raining in the Mountains brought me back to one of the films that we first watched in the beginning of the semester, A Touch of Zen, due to the mystical ghosts, monks, kung fu battle scenes, trickery, etc. I felt Raining in the Mountain had more of a suspenseful, adventurous, and “supernatural” type of feel to it.
Hu was able to practice elements of suspense in this action packed film, which enhances the suspense and made the film that much more fun and entertaining. In the suspense shots, the lines of the walls and roofs, directed the audience’s eyes to the spies creeping through the shot and innocent bystanders that could give away their location. There were also a mix of high angle, low angle, and unbalanced shots to keep the spy sequences interesting and the viewers at the edge of their seats.
Fun Fact: The temple that was shot in the film was not located in China, but South Korea!
In conclusion, Raining in the Mountain by King Hu is a must- see film if you’re looking for ghost, suspense and action film, along with Kung Fu battles of course!
Picture found here
Upon watching The Valiant Ones, I didn’t think this film was all that good. Aside from the action, which I love about these movies, I felt that the story plot was the same as any other King Hu film. Nothing new, just something I felt like I’ve watched before, but really wasn’t. I guess you can say that I felt that the storyline was predictable from beginning to end, likewise, did not grasp my full interest or attention. Maybe it could be due to the fact that King Hu uses the same cast from his other films so I know what kind of fighting style each actor/actress portrays. If he used new cast members, it would probably grasp my attention more and interest.
Aside from my personal thoughts about the film, the amount of action used in the film was what kept grabbing my attention and pulling me back in. The sequences that were used to better enhance the action scenes were portrayed rather well. There were extremely quick shots and effective use of both silence and natural sounds to enhance the aftermath of the fight scenes in order to make it more intense for us viewers. The music that was used in the film when the characters would travel, I felt, portrayed more of suspense and intensity. As the story progresses, that’s when the music comes in to enhance the scene more.
The Fate of Lee Khan was one of the movies that I wouldn’t mind seeing again. That’s how much I liked the film. If I’m being honest, I think this is one of my favorite King Hu films aside from Sons of Good Earth and Come Drink With Me. I thought it was very entertaining to watch and what makes it more interesting is that instead of fights between men, the usage of women being able to fight shows that they are just at good at fighting as men are in other films.
However, I was a bit confused at first on who was good and who was bad, and I always thought that the guy who betrayed Lee Khan was a bad guy all this time. If it wasn’t for the narration that was provided in the beginning, I would have had a hard time understanding what was going on and keeping up with the plot along with the characters. The usage of fight scenes were pretty good, in my opinion.
I do, however, have one complaint! I did not like that some of the characters that I was rooting for and so happened to be in my favor always got killed off. For example, one of the woman fighters ( I think it was Pai Ying) that got choked to death when she was battling the princess.