Thursday, August 30, 2012

Coming soon: Tsui Hark's Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Posted By on 08.30.12 at 03:29 PM

Zhou Xun and Jet Li star as mysterious lone warriors.
  • Zhou Xun and Jet Li star as mysterious lone warriors.
The movie I'm most looking forward to seeing this week isn't opening in Chicago, unfortunately, but at Skokie's Crown Village 18. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is the latest wuxia adventure by writer-director-producer Tsui Hark, one of Hong Kong's most prodigious filmmakers and, as I've written elsewhere, one of the greatest entertainers in film history. Like Frank Tashlin or Joe Dante, Tsui often suggests a cartoonist set loose on physical reality: his characters freely break the law of gravity and change their appearances at will. His best films (Peking Opera Blues, Knock Off, Time and Tide) take place in a world in which anything is possible, and they make most other action movies feel dour and unimaginative by comparison.

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate was made for IMAX 3-D, and I suspect the movie will take full advantage of this often gimmicky format. As early as Zu Warriors From the Magic Mountain (1983), Tsui has shown predilections for deep, seemingly infinite chasms and for characters flying straight at the camera—both of which should look fantastic on a giant screen and in three dimensions.

The movie is a sequel to King Hu's Dragon Inn (1967), a classic of wuxia cinema that's inspired countless period action movies (Tsui's such a big fan that he produced a remake of it in 1992). According to the press notes, it takes place three years after the titular palace was destroyed and follows several characters whose paths converge at the ruins: two mysterious warriors (Zhou Xun and Jet Li, with whom Tsui previously worked on the Once Upon a Time in China series), a concubine carrying a child of the emperor, and a gang of bandits searching for a city of gold rumored to be hidden underneath the palace.

Writing about the movie for Variety, Richard Kuipers complained that it's hard to follow the film's series of deceptions, which involve several characters impersonating each other, and that the movie lacks the emotional content of Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (a film that ripped off and sentimentalized many of Tsui's stylistic innovations). Reading these complaints only made me more excited for Flying Swords, as Tsui's movies tend to be most entertaining when they defy common sense as brazenly as they do gravity.

Lastly, am I the only one who thinks that Tsui and French director Olivier Assayas look a bit alike?

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