A Touch of Zen

Directed by King Hu

Starring Hsu Feng, Tien Peng, Roy Chiao, Shih Chun and Pai Ying

Ming dynasty noblewoman Yang must escape from the evil eunuch Hsu. She seeks refuge at a decrepit town where she gets assistance from a naive scholar & a group of mysterious yet powerful monks.


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  • ★★★★★ review by matt lynch on Letterboxd

    casts nature as mysterious, tangled but carefully deliberate, and casts reformers combating totalitarianism as potential ghosts, the past returning to claim its place, the dead returning to vanquish their living betrayers. Hu famously continues to restore to film from Chinese literature the female knight, another piece of the past that now points forward. and the male hero finds his strength only after he sleeps with her and meets the Abbot; the power here is sexual, literally balls to bones, naturally emanating from within. the villain, corrupt and unseen, is a eunuch; his power is baseless, empty, founded on lies. sex vs death. the film folds themes in so gradually that you truly float down the river without ever seeming to get wet.

  • ★★★★★ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd

    Someday, some enterprising company is going to restore and rerelease these King Hu movies and then they're going to get a whole lot of my money.

  • ★★★★★ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd


    As dreamy as the rivers in which we seek nourishment and as haunting as the figures which impede the voids which we yearn to observe in the darkness. One of those movies that check every box on the list and even invent a few new categories just for the hell of it.

  • ★★★★★ review by Joe on Letterboxd

    It's probably a good five minutes before we see any human beings in A Touch of Zen - before that it's the title sequence, then some close-ups of insects in spider's webs, and various shots of water, trees, light, nature at rest. It's like a soft prayer before the story begins, and it's your first clue that this is no typical kung-fu action movie, containing almost none of the genre's usual concessions to audience attention spans. Even when the action does start up, it's pretty removed from the expected Shaw Bros. athleticism, instead punctuated by long stretches of patient waiting in between the jump-cut-aided fight choreography, just outside physical reality as we (think we) know it.

  • ★★★★½ review by Filipe Furtado on Letterboxd

    I love how this starts as something of an horror mystery develops towards earthly matters and later achieves heaven.

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