Chinese Ghost Story


This film produced by Tsui Hark and directed by Ching Siu Tung is a masterful and magical ode to romantic love; a movie full of visual poetry, stunning imagery and wondrous story telling. It is a movie that was often imitated but never emulated afterwards in HK and though some had more spectacular special effects, none had as much heart as this film. The film rushes by in dream like hypnotic fashion – and when it ends one can only wonder how so much was fit into a ninety-minute film. In many ways, this film personifies the very best in HK film. It is a film that will touch all your senses – it is a masterpiece.
From the opening scene, the viewer enters into a world of sumptuous colors, sensuality and mystical happenings. It is a world where beautiful ghosts, hungry wolves, greedy bounty hunters and murderous swordsman roam the land. It is a world in chaos. Into this land enters a gentle government tax collector (Leslie Cheung) whose innocence and naivety seems dangerously out of place – but in fact turns out to be his salvation. Only the pure of heart can walk through this world unscathed.
In a small town, the people (who have no love for tax collectors) advise him that he can lodge free of charge in Lan Ro Temple outside of town. After escaping through the forest from wolves in the early evening dusk, Leslie arrives at Lan Ro Temple to finds himself in the middle of a sword duel between Yan (Wu Ma) and his opponent, Lin Wei. After defeating his opponent, Yan turns his fierce eye on Leslie and warns him to be gone – this is no place for the likes of him. Yan is a Tao swordsman – as capable of battling ghosts as humans – who is so sick of the human world that he prefers refuge among the supernatural which he understands better than humans. Their evil is not hidden, as humans are all too capable of doing.
Leslie stays though and soon hears the siren call of Joey Wong. He is soon lost in a dizzying spiral of love. Now Leslie is very innocent and handsome, but not necessarily the smartest fellow and it takes him quite a while to figure out that this lovely vision is just that - a spectral vision, a ghost. But love being love - it doesn't really matter in the end. Joey is being forced by the Tree Monster to seduce men - "to attract the Yang element in men" so that the Tree Monster can feed on them with her tongue that can shoot out and surround and crush a house.
Joey has also been consigned to become the bride of the Black Knight of Hell. In a scene of incredible surreal imagination, Leslie and Wu Ma have to enter through a portal into Hell to battle the dead and save her eternal soul.
This film is a movable feast of imagery – ravishing close ups, beautiful sets, flowing robes and flying ghosts. It is a rapturously glorious film It is set to the wonderful and melodic music of James Wong. Joey is incandescent in this role – her mournful watery eyes could make any man’s heart and resolve melt. Never has she or any ghost looked so beautiful. With this performance she nearly cornered the beautiful vulnerable ghost roles for years to come. The scene of her kissing Leslie underwater in order to supply him with oxygen is one of the most innocent yet erotic moments in film.
Interestingly, the source material - Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio a 17th century tale - for this film had already been used for two previous films - Love with a Ghost in 1954 and Enchanting Shadows in 1959.
My rating for this film: 9.5

DVD Information:

Distributed by Mega Star

The transfer isn't perfect - but it's very good and certainly the best I have seen of this film by far. The richness of the colors are captured very well.

Letterboxed

Removable subtitles with 8 choices:  Chinese (Traditional), English, Chinese (Simplified), Japanese, Korean, Thai, Bahasa (Malaysia) and Bahasa (Indonesia)

9 ChaptersIncludes it's own trailer plus the Media Asia compilation.

The sub-titles are on a black border and very easy to read.