Rerun: Two King Hu Films

We have two WUXIA-Clas­sics by King Hu in our Programm:

DRAGON INN, Tsao, the emper­or’s first eunuch, has suc­cess­ful­ly bes­ted Gene­ral Yu, his poli­ti­cal oppo­nent. The gene­ral was behea­ded and his remai­ning child­ren have been exi­led from Chi­na. As the child­ren are being escor­ted to the wes­tern bor­der of the Chi­ne­se empi­re, Tsao plots to have the child­ren kil­led. Tsao’s secret poli­ce lie in ambush at the deso­la­te Dra­gon Gate Inn. Mar­ti­al arts expert Hsiao shows up at the inn, wan­ting to meet the inn­kee­per. Unknown to the secret poli­ce is that the inn­kee­per, Wu Ning, was one of the gene­ral’s lieu­ten­ants and has sum­mo­ned Hsiao to help the child­ren. A bro­ther-sis­ter mar­ti­al-artist team (child­ren of ano­t­her Yu lieu­ten­ant) also show up to help. The­se four race to find Yu’s child­ren and lead them to safety.

 

A TOUCH OF ZEN,

The sto­ry is lar­ge­ly seen through the eyes of Gu, who is a well-mea­ning but unam­bi­tious scho­l­ar and pain­ter, with a ten­den­cy towards being clum­sy and inef­fec­tu­al. A stran­ger arri­ves in town wan­ting his por­trait pain­ted by Gu, but his real objec­ti­ve is to bring a fema­le fugi­ti­ve back to the city for exe­cu­ti­on on behalf of the East Cham­ber guards. The fugi­ti­ve, Yang, is befrien­ded by Gu and tog­e­ther they plot against the cor­rupt Eunuch Wei who wants to era­di­ca­te all trace of her fami­ly after her father attempts to warn the Emperor of the eunu­ch’s cor­rup­ti­on. His daugh­ter fled, and Abbot Hui inter­ven­ed to pro­tect them.

The stran­ger, Yang and her friends are all supe­ri­or war­ri­ors. The stran­ger has a spe­cial fle­xi­ble sword that bends and that he can wear wit­hin his belt, making him seem unarmed.

One of the uni­que aspects of the film is that Gu is a non-com­ba­tant all the way through the film and only beco­mes invol­ved when he sleeps with Yang. Upon doing so, he is no lon­ger the naï­ve bumb­ling inno­cent, but ins­tead beco­mes con­fi­dent and asser­ti­ve, and when Yang’s plight is reve­a­led, he insists on being part of it – and even comes up with a fien­dish „Ghost Trap” for the East Cham­ber guards. This is a plan to use a sup­po­sed­ly haun­ted site to play tricks on the guards to make them belie­ve they are prey to the undead. He first spreads rumours of ghosts, with his mother play­ing a part. The film then brief­ly uses split-screen with six sepa­ra­te views to show the spread of the­se rumours.

In the after­math, Gu walks through the car­na­ge laug­hing at the inge­nui­ty of his plan until the true cost of human life dawns upon him. He sees Abbot Hui and his fol­lo­wers arri­ve to help bury the dead.

After the batt­le, Gu is unab­le to find Yang, who he is told has left him and does not want him to fol­low her. He tracks her down at the monas­te­ry of the saint­ly and power­ful Abbot Hui Yuan, whe­re she has given birth to a child by Gu and beco­me a nun. She tells Gu that their desti­ny tog­e­ther has ended and gives Gu their child. Later, when Gu and the child are tra­cked down by Hsu Hsi­en-Chen, the evil com­man­der of Eunuch Wei’s army, Yang and Abbot Hui come to Gu’s res­cue. In the ensuing batt­le, Hsu is kil­led and Yang and Abbot Hui are bad­ly inju­red (the lat­ter blee­ding gol­den blood). The film famous­ly ends with the inju­red Yang stag­ge­ring towards a sil­hou­et­ted figu­re, pres­um­a­b­ly Abbot Hui, seen medi­ta­ting with the set­ting sun forming a halo around his head, an image sug­ges­ting the Bud­dha and enlightenment.

 

DRAGON INN (Die Her­ber­ge zum Dra­chen­tor | 龍門客棧 / 龙门客栈 Lóng­mén Kèz­hàn) TW 1967 111 Min. OmU

A TOUCH OF ZEN (Ein Hauch von Zen | 俠女 Hsia Nu) TW 1971 180 Min. OmU

Trai­ler Dra­gon Inn

Trai­ler A Touch of Zen