Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A CHINESE GHOST STORY - An Oriental 'Twilight'

A CHINESE GHOST STORY (fantasy thriller)
Cast: Louis Koo Tin Lok, Wong Fan Siu, Crystal Liu Yi-Fei, Yu Shao Qun, Wai Ying-Hung and Lin Peng
Director: Wilson Yip
Writer: Adapted from an original tale by 17th Century author Pu Song Ling
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Liu Yi-Fei and Louis Koo

THE INTRO: A line at the closing credits of this film reads 'In Memory Forever of Leslie Cheung' - acknowledging his role in the similarly-titled 1987 film as well as its 1990 sequel. Indeed, the 1987 A Chinese Ghost Story, directed by Ching Siu-Tung in
collaboration with producer Tsui Hark, was a landmark movie because its 'crazy' kungfu (and wirefu) effects gimmicks turned it into a cult hit with western (read: international) audiences. Its two sequels (1990 and 1991) were not as popular.

Here, director Wilson Yip claims that it is not a remake but a 'new' love story - and yet many elements of the 1987 film remain.

Yu Shao Qun and Liu Yi-Fei

THE PLOT: Government official Ling Choi Sin (Yu Shao Qun, taking over Leslie Cheung's role) journeys to the parched Black Mountain Village to help its inhabitants find water. As he leads a group of 'volunteers' up the haunted mountain, he encounters a bevy of sexy demons and well as a lovely 'girl' named Siu Sin (Liu Yi-Fei). After wooing her with some candy, he falls for her - and then realises that he is caught in a deadly triangle: another guy, a demon-hunter named Yan Chek Ha (Louis Koo) is also in love with Siu Sin.

However, before the two men can settle their differences, they have to contend with the evil Tree Demon (Wai Ying-Hung) as well as a one-armed demon hunter (Louis Fan) who is determined to kill all the supernatural beings.

THE REVIEW: The 1987 film has a confusing storyline and even more befuddled action sequences that have become the trademarks of Tsui Hark. Wilson Yip, who gave us the two Ip Man films, does not attempt to make the love story (especially the one between Chek Ha and Siu Sin) more plausible - or try to 'rationalise' the action sequences. Indeed, some of the fighting scenes are more comical than magical and the acting appear over-the-top. Liu Yi-Fei (left) fits the bill as the Enchantress of the forest but I wish she can evoke more emotions besides pouting and winking her eyes.

It is a good thing that Pu Song Ling's story has been adapted on the screen many times before, since The Enchanting Shadow (directed by Li Han Hsiang) in the early 1960s. That way, the plot is familiar to many in the audience and they need not rely on the flimsy narrative.

THE LOWDOWN: Before Twilight, there's A Chinese Ghost Story!


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