A TOUCH OF ZEN
7:00 p.m. Bijou Art Cinemas
Tickets: $6 students/seniors, $8 general public
A globally acclaimed classic of the wuxia genre, A Touch of Zen is an epic masterpiece that centers on a somewhat clumsy intellectual named Ku (Hsu) who becomes embroiled in a plot to save a female fugitive, Yang (Shih), from execution. Yang is endangered by the corrupt Eunuch Wei’s (Bai) plan to eradicate all traces of her family due to Yang’s father’s threat to expose his corruption. Both protagonists must fight off the East Chamber guards and Yang, at least, has the necessary skills. The situation calls for some of the most brilliantly choreographed fight scenes in the history of cinema.
A Touch of Zen has a prominent theme of haunted settings, from the ghostly energy of Ku’s house to the forest in which Ku and Yang ward off the East Chamber guards. The mystical forest is an ally to our heroes and enemy to the guards. This trail-blazing film became the first Chinese language action film ever to win a prize at Cannes, winning the Technical Grand Prize award. King Hu’s film was a major influence on directors such as Tsui Hark and Ang Lee, whose Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon owes much to Hu. David Parkinson writes in RadioTimes: “A Touch of Zen is at the same time a study of rural life, a ghost story, a discussion of philosophical ideas, and a thrilling fight film, with each element being handled with rare skill by Hu.” According to David Bordwell, “Hu brought the energy and finesse of classical Chinese theater and painting to the new swordplay movie. His films lingered on breathtaking landscapes, treated swordfights as airborne ballets, and created a gallery of reserved, preternaturally calm warriors who fought not for prestige or vengeance but to preserve humane values.”