Martial Arts
The Bride With White Hair
Dir: Ronny Yu
Star: Leslie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Fong Pao, Elaine Lui
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1993
Format: DVD R2

The future heir and master of the Wu-Tang Clan, Yi-Hang (Leslie Cheung) dissillusioned with his future and with some of the politics of the new association of clans, and regarded as a bit of a rebel by some of his peers struggles to maintain order and the age old credo of the clan amidst changing times. He stands for truth and justice, whilst some of his fellow clan members are rash and dishonest he is seen by some as a beacon of hope for the clan. During a battle he falls in love with an enemy assassin, Lien the wolf girl (Brigitte Lin) who is just as dissatisfied with her position in an opposing 'evil cult', their love enrages the hierarchy of both clans and soon they are outlaws and being hunted by their own people.....

Based on the novel by Yusheng Liang, The Bride with White Hair is an action / romance movie with a distinctly traditional flavour and sporting some good old wholesome elements like love, honour, betrayal and revenge packaged with some of the style of the old Hong Kong cinema classics. Some of the films elements are quite enchanting and touching, ensuring that this is regarded as a 'classic'. Personally, I found the mostly dim and poorly lit direction a bit too dark, as it shrouds the film in a murky haze which the viewer peers through and as a lot of the film is set at night it doesn't help matters. Added to which the flow of the film is a little erratic in places which could be attributed to some sub-standard editing as that conforms to a later feeling that some of the film is missing. The film zips along quite merrily, a battle here a 'moral lesson' there and then it is as if Ronny Yu took a 'cop-out' pill and the film suffers by deteriorating and becoming a little predictable before pretty much stopping dead in its tracks and leaving a very rushed feel to the finale which leaves you wondering what happened to the remainder of the film.

Yu directs his first 'period martial arts' piece with a good eye but it just doesn't quite hit the spot, especially when compared to other 'period' offerings like Once Upon a Time in China. Now and again the film exhibits some quite impressive (if a little cliché) cinematography, courtesy of Peter Pau the award winning cinematographer on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Some of the action scenes are quite reasonable, but there are not a lot of actual martial arts and in a 'period martial arts' movie if there is at least one prerequisite, then it is martial arts. There are a couple of well arranged sword fights however, but they are not enough to successfully carry the film as it lays its whole Romeo and Juliet-esque tragedy theme on pretty thick. The titular character is of course symbolic of a betrayed woman and her transformation is a rather unimaginatively done, almost painfully simple in fact. Maybe I was expecting too much, but you do expect better from John Woo's protégé Ronny Yu and it is apparent that the traditional genre is not his forte. Thankfully his other works are much stronger, most notably the modern horror sequels Bride of Chucky and Freddy Vs Jason.

As you would expect there is plenty of wirework and some good action scenes backed by some pretty deft swordplay and some pretty good performances. With the exception of the two main leads, the cast are rather reticent, providing low-key performances. Admittedly, the wonderful Brigitte Lin does appear to succumb to a bout or two of hamming it up, but with Asian cinema you just never can really tell. Lin is very well suited here and handles the action well, as she does in most of her movies New Dragon Gate Inn or Zu Warriors from Magic Mountain for example. Her veiled features prove captivating for the hero and the viewer alike as she oozes appeal right before she dismembers 20 or 30 Wu-Tang clan with her whip as she flies through the forest. Asian fantasy film stalwart Leslie Cheung (Chinese Ghost Story) provides one of his better performances and who unfortunately passed away in 2003. He delivers a good performance as our laddish hero brimming with matter of fact confidence and vulnerability, which are of course the ultimate cause of his problems.

In-between the manic cackling laughter of the freaky Siamese bad guys, which incidentally is rather freaky, especially the nude thing which is just wrong! There are a couple of very well designed set pieces, but they are ultimately insufficient. The Bride with White Hair is a cool and influential film, but it just doesn't compare well with its peers, as there are better Asian offerings out there. I'm sure that with the sudden renewed interest in Asian cinema thanks to Kill Bill audiences been sucked in by rip-off dude Quentin Tarantino, they will want to track down this one. By Asian cinema standards this is a bit average, but as long as you don't want full bore frenetic action this is an entertaining and enjoyable film.

This is a pleasant and entertaining film, and apart from some mild sexual connotations and a water logged nookie scene the film displays an innocence, affording it a certain likeability and apart from being shot in dark-o-vision it is quite enjoyable.


A Classic Chinese Tale Of Swords And Sorcery Of Honor And Of Love

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Widescreen Good transfer
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (Dubbed Only) Not bad
Animated Menu
Selective filmographies for Wong Jing and 3 stars
Picture Gallery
Verdict Not a bad release with a couple of extras but nothing really interesting. The horrendous dubbing is hard going at times, a "subtitle option" would have been an improvement.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home