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Filmby Shane “Did Somebody Say Wuxia?” Hnetka

Last time I wrote about Akira Kurosawa. Why stop now? The director’s brilliant masterpiece Ran is getting a 4k restoration and re-release this year. Ran is a classic samurai period piece that is also an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The film was released in 1985 but it hasn’t had the best of luck when it comes to home theatre. The first couple of DVD releases were horrendous to put it mildly: fuzzy, blurry and just plain crappy looking. My current Blu-ray looks vastly better but from what I understand this new version looks brilliant — the way the movie should have always looked.

A Touch of Wuxia

I love kung fu movies. They’ve been around since the 1920s but it was only in the 1960s that they really made the leap to international attention. At the start of the ’60s the wuxia genre was more prominent.

What the hell is wuxia? I’m so glad you asked.

Wuxia features more sword and fantasy elements, and one of its best directors was King Hu. Hu made several classic movies. 1966’s Come Drink with Me was one of the first that featured a female sword-fighting lead. Dragon Inn followed in 1967 but in 1971 Hu created his masterpiece: A Touch of Zen.

A Touch of Zen is a three-hour epic that follows Ku (Shih Jun), a painter who meets the wanted fugitive, Yang (Feng Hsu). Ku ends helping and eventually falling in love with her. The film is beautiful — it won the Cannes Technical Grand Prize in 1975 and was nominated for the Palm D’Or. It’s also number 183 on the BFI’s greatest films of all time list.

Like Ran, this is another film that has seen some rough treatment on home video. But actress Feng Hsu just paid for a full restoration of the film, and as a result it’s getting a re-release screening from the Criterion Collection and will be on Blu-ray later this year.

Touch Of Zen’s influence is enormous. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of the Flying Daggers both borrowed a lot from it. It will be nice to see the movie finally at its best.

Shane Hnetka is a Regina film and comic book nerd. He also writes Dog Blog’s weekly “Sunday Matinee” column at prairiedogmag.com.