General Yu is executed after having been accused of treason by the powerful eunuchs, and his children will be deported. Eunuchs plotting to kill even the children, and prepare an ambush on Dragon's shelter in the middle of the desert. There are other guests, who are also interested in the deal.
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★★★★★ review by matt lynch on Letterboxd
elementally perfect. enough to make you want to work at a movie theater where it's all they ever show.
★★★★★ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd
★★★★★ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd
So exciting to finally see this on the big screen, finally can get a sense of the sublimity of King Hu's use of space, the 'scope frame arranged so precisely in the various stand-offs, the judicious close-ups lunging out at the audience. Even smaller stuff, like the "take the shortcut" joke, which would be just as at home in a Mel Brooks movie, works so much better on the big screen, similarly the whip pans of Pai Ying's leaps out of danger, the gradual reddening of Shih Chun's eyes, and the gorgeous natural vistas that would go on to become an integral part of Hu's films. Having perfected the action movie in 1967, he was free throughout the 1970s to take it places no one has yet managed to follow.
★★★★★ review by laird on Letterboxd
I ended up watching this on YouTube, because there's not even a legitimate release on DVD. This is wrong. This should be on Criterion. Still trying to decide which is cooler: When Xiao catches an arrow in a porcelain wine carafe and with a flick of the wrist tosses it right back at the man who shot it at him OR every single camera movement, shot composition, and edit.
★★★★½ review by Edgar Cochran on Letterboxd
King Hu... Wow. Just wow.
-Remember the tension in the opening scene of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)?
-Remember how tension escalated from an indoors conversation into a stylish outburts of tragic violence in the opening sequence of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)?
-Remember the basement scene in one of the best referential films of the decade, Inglourious Basterds (2009), where there was a non-stop, upwards sloping trend of tension until it culminated in an explosive aftermath?
This was Leone's legacy. But so it was Hu's.
King Hu, even if I must resort to the most childish pun regarding his name, is unquestionably the Taiwanese king of the wuxia genre. What an awesone name to have for such an honorable genre task. He makes the act of witnessing the birth of wuxia a stunning and magnificent spectacle. His influence extends way beyond just A Touch of Zen (1971). Do not even try to caress or play mentally with the hypothesis that he became a master of filmmaking until 1971. During the sixties, he already had extraordinary artistic talents that translated magnificently into the screen.
The film is set in 1457 China during the Ming Dynasty, in the 8th year of Jing Tai. Eunuchs had a strong control over the government and the two most important agencies were "East Agency" and the "Imperial Guards". The East Agency special agents are immediately marked as cruel individuals. They were highly trained in martial arts and are the enemy to defeat after Tsao, the emperor's first eunuch, bested General Yu (a political opponent) and beheads him. After the general's children are exiled from China, Tsao sends his dangerous police team to kill the children and stop the general's legacy. After the police team takes shelter at The Dragon Gate Inn, the place will be the witness of incredible, notoriously violent and exciting confrontations after the martial experts Hsiao shows up at the inn. His identity is mysterious, but will be smartly tied to the fate of the children later on.
Dragon Inn aka Dragon Gate Inn excels in every single technical and storytelling capabilities and is rich in historical and plot abundance. Character development is rich, balanced and empathetic. Deeply rooted on the values of justice, tradition, honor, anti-government authoritarianism and the moderate use of violence solely for purposes of justice and personal defense, the film is incredibly abundant in content and marvel. The cinematography is stunning and out of this world. Transitions are greatly edited. The camera moves in the most intelligent of ways and in all directions: upwards, downwards, sideways, diagonally, zooms in, zooms out and remains still. The way the characters enter the frame is supremely intelligent.
And boy, the action sequences: palpable, exciting, relentless, stylish, choreographed beautifully and featuring those beloved superhuman abilities that separate those capable of exerting a suspension of disbelief for the purpose of entertainment or not. Leaving A Touch of Zen aside, name any wuxia film that can come to your mind. This film easily surpasses it in magnitude, heart and content. It ties with Ang Lee's revival popularization of the genre for the modern masses but everything feels purer in its non-CGI nature. The feeling and environment establishing obeys the strictest rules of the samurai films and spahetti westerns of the era, and the result is a visual and emotional megablast.
This is a very basic review, but also very enthusiastic, for a much more superior film, I have to admit, but my recommendation for this film could not be higher.
Now, I hear that the great Ming-liang did a comedically bleak farewell both to this film and to a movie theater almost forty years later. Let's look into that and his purposes.
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