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
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 mans 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
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.
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.