Tuesday, 29 October 2013


I can't find it in myself to be a grouch when watching a Tsui Hark film. The colour, the action, the effervescence of it, and Tsui's crystal clear adoration for what he does are all so winning. This is supremely kinetic filmmaking, as Tsui finds all manner of means of manipulation, trickery to enhance the effects he creates. With a fantastical narrative, he employs a fantastical style of direction, pulling the film one way and then another, from shot to shot, fashioning a wild film unrivalled in its brio in the canon of any other director. It's mad as hell, and if utterly devoid of cohesion, it is the sheer energy and brilliance of each and every moment that coheres these elements into a whole. Be it the majestic Tang dynasty architecture or the fleeting glimpse of the razor blade of some curious weapon caught in slow motion, Tsui's love for the visual (and aural) composition of his shots is not just palpable, it's infectious. Plunged into the action, confronted instantly by plot and by movement, two hours seems like a hefty haul for such a fast-paced film as this, but constant innovation and a light tone keep it buoyant, and make all this content easily digestible. Tsui is much better off when he doesn't relinquish to temptations to modernise his style - this feels crass and uncharacteristic. Nobody else makes films like this, at least not nearly as successfully, and were I him, I'd hone that niche incessantly. Note how he utilises every detail of the physical space of each scene, turning the set design into props for advancing the action - any other time, I'd call this economical, were it not for the volume of stuff he makes such clever use of. Huge swathes of the narrative come apart upon slightest inspection, though that's all part of having one's cake and eating it, and there's no greater joy than that!