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
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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Tracing Shadow (Review)

Tracing Shadow

aka Zhui ying

Directed by Marco Mak Chi-Sin and Francis Ng Chun-Yu

Tracing Shadow hit the scene when a trailer with cool shots floated around the net and got people all exited it was a cool martial arts action film. But it is not a drama, is an action comedy fantasy reportedly inspired by the classic King Hu film Dragon Inn. And it does have some gorgeous shots, but it suffers from some plot weakness.

One thing Tracing Shadow does do that is unique is the use of look-alikes. Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Andy Lau are all represented by not the actual performers, but by look-alikes. Eventually, more look-alikes show up, and we have a who’s who of Hong Kong celebrities running around, often in multiple instances. If this becomes more common, then we might have modern day versions of Brucespoiltation films! But, I would watch Clones of Jet Li, because, why the heck not? If it has dancing naked girls and bronzemen, all the better!

Let’s get on with the show….

Changgong (Francis Ng Chun-Yu) – A Mongolian martial arts master who gave up the martial world to live a life up peace. But then this hot chick he’s in to keeps getting into trouble, and he’s sucked back in. Francis Ng is co-director.
Xin (Pace Wu Pei-Ci) – A Japanese ninja in China searching for long lost treasure, but instead finds a husband. Pace Wu is a Taiwanese model, actress, and singer.
Jet Chu (???) – Jet here is the look-alike for Jet Li. He’s a criminal trying to find the hidden treasure while not paying any rent. I have no clue who plays him.
Jackie Tang (???) – Jackie Tang is the look-alike for Jackie Chan. He’s another criminal trying to find the hidden treasure while not paying any rent. I have no clue who plays him.
Andy (???) – Andy is the look-alike for Andy Lau. He’s yet another criminal trying to find the hidden treasure while not paying any rent. I have no clue who plays him.
Lord Xu Sanguan (Jaycee Chan Cho-Ming) – Lord Xu owns all the buildings and land in the area because his father set it all up. Likes Wei, but is frustrated by her refusals of his advances. Jaycee Chan is Jackie Chan’s son, thus leading to comic hijinks with the Jackie Tang character.
Wei (Xie Na) – The adopted daughter of Changgong and Xin. She runs their restaurant and cannot read. Her abrasive personality attracts Lord Xu. Xie Na is a popular emcee in Chinese entertainment, her own show is Happy Show, and she is also a television actress.

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