Posts tagged "Ronny Yu Yan-Tai"

The Bride with White Hair 2

The Bride with White Hair 2

aka 白髮魔女2 aka Bai fa mo nu zhuan II
Bride with White Hair Part 2
1993
Written by Raymond To Kwok-Wai, David Wu Dai-Wai, and Ronny Yu Yan-Tai
Directed by David Wu Dai-Wai

Bride with White Hair Part 2
When last we left our star-crossed lovers, everyone except them was totally dead! Also Lien Ni Chang hated Cho Yi Hang, her hair having turned white upon his betrayal of her trust, and she went on a total killing spree ending. With The Bride with White Hair Part 2, it’s now ten years later, and Lien Ni Chang has turned the killing spree into an art form. She has been hunting down and killing all members of the Eight United Clans, her vengeance focused on anything that reminds her of her scorned lover. Ni Chang has set up a fortress filled with female warriors, and they often dish out punishment on men, an extension of her hatred.

While Part 1 focused on Cho Yi Hang as the main character, Part 2 features Lien Ni Chang as the member of the couple who gets the major role, though as an antagonist. The focus of the story is on a different pair of lovers, offering a parallel to the love story from the prior film. There is a greater amount of side characters with stories, which hints as the clan and political intrigue from the wuxia serials the tale originates from.

The prior film featured a love that ended in accidental betrayal, here the ending has a reconsiliatory tone, but there is a price to be paid for the actions done. The two films are united by the lovers and completes the story, ending in the somber but touching way tragic romance tales often do.
Bride with White Hair Part 2
The Bride with White Hair Part 2 is noticeably less cinematic than it’s predecessor. While Part 1 would have huge energetic scenes with lots of characters and action happening (be it an insane cult orgy or a choreographed battle), Part 2 is smaller scale, with a limited amount of scenes involving a large number of choreographed elements. This adds touches of a more personal tone which reflects on the love stories, but it also reveals the smaller budget and smaller skill set of the director. Instead of Ronny Yu, the assistant director of Part 1, David Wu Dai-Wai, steps into the chair. Yu was still involved in the writing and producing, so it is not clear how much of the change in elements is the fault of Wu vs. Yu, but the result is an inferior product. This doesn’t mean a bad product, far from it, but while Part 1 was exceptional, Part 2 becomes just another good film. For some reason the aspect ratio is also different from Part 1, but with Hong Kong DVDs it is sometimes a mystery as to why films are presented the way they are.

Lien Ni Chang has clearly become the villain. In the ensuing years, she has become more like her insane adoptive conjoined twin parents than comfortable, She often breaks out in insane laughter when doing evil deeds, a mirror of the female half of Chi Wu Shuang. She’s formed a cult of her own, all females who hate men and are prepared to violently destroy any male that crosses their path. There is even an initiation ritual that is packed with religious symbolism. Lien Ni Chang at times channels a cartoonish man-hater. Characters openly declare that all men should die. The women have only male servants – musicians and bathers – who always seem to end up dead before the scene ends. Lien Ni Chang becomes more fleshed out as the story progresses. Beyond her great hatred of men, there is still an underlying pain and longing for Cho, even Chen Yuen Yuen(Ruth Winona Tao) sees it (and hates it!) A hint of a lesbian romance between Lien Ni Chang and her assistant Chen Yuen Yuen is summarily rejected by Ni Chang. Many of her army of killer women have past stories of lovers betraying them and selling them into sex slavery, so it’s hard to not feel sympathy for women who are finally freed from bondage and given tools to strike back against their oppressors.
Bride with White Hair Part 2
At the opposite extremes, several of the male rebel characters spend all their time insulting the women, implying all they need is a real man. The weird feminist and antifeminist straw man arguments that pepper some of the scenes give it a strange flavor. The contempt of some of the male characters for the killer women in light of the women’s pasts come off a chauvinistic, even though those women are killing their families. The annoying and goofy Liu (Richard Sun Kwok-Ho, character also called Green in some subtitles) is a huge jerk, but also sympathetic due to his quick wits to save his friends and regret that he never took his kung fu training seriously enough to be an effective enough fighter to help his family. He went from a character I dismissed as simple cannon fodder to something more. Good films will go beyond the typical black and white of right and wrongs, and the multi-layered characters are some of the strongest features of Part 2.

Warning, spoilers below the fold!

Lien Ni Chang (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia) – Having turned white and gaining super-powered hair, Lien Ni Chang and kept herself busy by killing everyone connected to the 8 United Clans, and most men in general. She has an army of women and a base headquarters. But there is a hint of something missing in her heart. Hmmmm…
Fung Chun Kit (Sunny Chan Kam-Hung) – The last of the Wu Tangs and new husband, except his wife is kidnapped by Lien Ni Chang and brainwashed! Don’t worry, he’ll lead a ragtag group of leftover kids who haven’t been killed (yet!) on a rescue mission.
Lyre (Joey Man Yee-Man) – Wife of Kit, but abducted and initiated into the She-Ra Men Haters Club. She subscribes to their ideology shockingly easily.
Ling Moon Yee (Christy Chung Lai-Tai) – Tomboy martial arts student who likes Kit, though is not the kind of person to settle down for just anyone. Her character is pretty cool, and doesn’t get enough screentime.
Yip But Chow (Lee Heung-Kam) – Nicknamed Granny, she’s sent to help the students of the clans (as the elders are too busy being lazy and arguing to hunt down Lien themselves!) and shows that someone can have white hair and not be a killer. Suffers the fate of most wise mentor characters. Lee Heung-Kam has been in hundreds of films since her debut in 1956 (including the original Story of the White-Haired Demon Girl!) and was still making appearances as recently as 2012. Shockingly she is only on TarsTarkas.NET in All’s Well Ends Well 2011, but we suspect she’ll pop up again sooner than later!
Cho Yi Hang (Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing) – He spends most of the film guarding the magic flower off camera, only to show up at the very end.

Bride with White Hair Part 2
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 20, 2013 at 8:26 am

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The Bride with White Hair

The Bride with White Hair

aka 白髮魔女傳 aka Bai fa mo nu zhuan
The Bride with White Hair
1993
Written by Elsa Tang Bik-Yin, Lam Kee-To, David Wu Dai-Wai, and Ronny Yu Yan-Tai
Directed by Ronny Yu Yan-Tai

The Bride with White Hair
The Bride With White Hair films are classic wuxia tales from an era when Hong Kong cinema was undergoing its latest periodic resurgence. They’re one of a pack of films that helped hook people like me into becoming Hong Kong cinema fans for life, and Part 1 is one of the best films from 90s Hong Kong period. The frenetic pace, heartfelt romance, and sorrowful endings propel it to the top. The sequel picks up a lot of the story threads but goes in its own direction (and will be discussed in its own review), but is necessary to see the conclusion of the tale begun in The Bride With White Hair.

Lien Ni Chang and the rest of the characters originated in the serialized wuxia novel 白髮魔女傳 (Baifa Monü Zhuan) by Liang Yusheng (published between 1957-58). Each filmed version of the tale borrows different elements from the source, using it to tell their own tale. While Pearl Cheung Ling’s Wolf Devil Woman goes in the direction of energetic insanity to create a tale of revenge, The Bride With White Hair films go with a love story with an ultimately tragic ending (though still romantic.) I have not seen the 1950s Cantonese version (the three parts of which may or may not still even exist!) The character surfaced again in The Forbidden Kingdom, has been the subject of several television serials, and will be getting a new big budget film version in 2014 (which will hopefully break the trend of big budget Chinese cinema being boring and empty despite the effects!)
The Bride with White Hair
The story of the Bride with White Hair is famous enough that images of a man-hating white haired woman, with her prehensile hair used as a weapon, has become an iconic imagery in wuxia. The original stories contain all sorts of clan intrigue, palace conspiracies, regicides, and bandits with a mix of historical and jianghu characters. The simplification of the tale to turn it into a passable movie is understandable, though I’m sure there are purists upset that yet another adaptation isn’t true enough to the original tale. Every version of the tale I have seen has strayed drastically from the source, using it as a springboard to tell their own interpretation based on what elements stood out to them. Ronny Yu Yan-Tai saw is as a tragic romance, and the two films are united by their shared love dynamic.

The Bride With White Hair is packed with great action sequences, with plenty of wirework and sword battles. The set design in particular is well done, the madness of the Supreme Cult displayed by the decoration of the headquarters and the writhing and dancing pandemonium that mirrors the extremeness of the twin Chi Wu Shuang. Chi Wu Shuang are presented at times in extreme angles and odd closeups, while their makeup and costumes enhance their feeling of wrongness. It is no mistake the villains are so beyond evil, without their influence, Lien Ni Chang would lose sympathy upon her transformation and eventual turn as villain in the sequel.
The Bride with White Hair
The love tale begins after it ends (or at least as it ends at the end of this film), with Cho Yi Hang guarding the magic flower as he waits a decade for it to bloom, in the midst of a never-ending blizzard atop a mountain. A group of soldiers working for the Emperor arrive, demanding the flower to save the Emperor himself. Cho kills them all, and the leader’s dying breath asks who could be more important than the emperor.

Cho narrates that he has a woman in his heart, and the film drifts into a the flashback…

Cho Yi Hang (Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing) – The proud chosen successor to the leadership of Wu Tang Clan, Cho Yi Hang is almost too righteous, causing trouble with his acts to protect the weak. He grows disillusioned with the politics of governments and martial clans, and meeting Lien gives him the excuse he needs to run off. But fate does not have that future in store for him.
Lien Ni Chang (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia) – An orphan raised by wolves, and then adopted into an evil cult where Lien was trained as their best killer. She was never given a name until Cho Yi Hang. His betrayal of her trust causes her to completely flip out.
Chi Wu Shuang (Francis Ng Chun-Yu) – Lord of the Supreme Cult. Part of a conjoined twin pair with his sister, who mocks everything he does in her fits of hysteria. The male Chi Wu Shuang enjoys slaughter, and aspires to be a grand mastermind. But none of his plans and schemes have won him the heart of the wolf girl, who he adopted as a child and raised to be a killer.
Chi Wu Shuang (Elaine Lui Siu-Ling) – Sister pair of the Lord of the Supreme Cult. While her brother takes on more of a leadership aura, the female Chi Wu Shuang is more mad, finding everything darkly amusing and not hesitating to cut anyone down with insults, even her favorite target, her brother. The manic insanity is an outstanding performance. Elaine Lui Siu-Ling starred in several of the girls with guns films, including the breakthrough that launched the imitators, Angels

The Bride with White Hair
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4 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 19, 2013 at 8:18 am

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