4,5. Outside the kitsch delirium that sometimes determines him, but not exactly being spartan or epicurean in his conception of cinema, this is a film that exemplarily defines Tsui Hark's method: an extreme phrase construction, highly structured, by appropriating a world of adventures, where the human touches the limits of its possibilities, becoming a figure of an utter animic dynamic. A cruel tale of synesthesia.
Now i truly know how those people in the audience of the first screening of The Arrival of a Train felt back then in Paris. There is something coming towards you, it is getting bigger and bigger with each second and you are scared of what it will do to you once it has caught up. Scared 'cuz you've never seen something like this before. Those images, they truly move and when the get to you, they will rock your world.
Only a year after "Ashes of Time," Tsui Hark succeeded at making a martial arts film more cryptic and abstract than Wong Kar-Wai's 1994 wuxia deconstruction. The final fight scene proves a flawless study in 'chaos cinema,' as Hark manages to convey the obvious skill and athleticism of the combatants even as his editing grows more frantic. "The Blade" is another assured, stylistic masterpiece from Hark.
Oh, how my opinion on this film has changed, to the extremely positive, on a second viewing. The "Delete" function for comments is so useful, especially as I'm still thinking about the brief moments of a tracking camera, extreme close-up, from the side of the protagonist and how it completely makes you feel like you're in the scene.
Loaded with visual flair and imagination, but lacking in a compelling story or characters. But that's part of the tradition here, too, so it's an admirable iteration of the genre. Some of the set-pieces and stagings are exceptional.
Certainly a powerful impressionistic demonstration of physical violence, masterly crafted, but in the end, it lacks a cohesive story telling structure, and I don't think this picture of violence that Tsui Hark put forward, is a reason good enough for this loose narrative and half-baked characters. I hope I can change my opinion when I re-watch the film.
Hark's bold, jarringly sensual, Wuxia romance told in retrospect by Ling, the nostalgic daughter of the weapons foundry master, tells of her childish love for her father's two outstanding apprentices, Ding On and Iron Head, who in turn long for the same courtesan. After losing an arm and nursed back to health by a homely peasant woman, Ding On becomes the masterful one armed swordsman who revenges his father's death.