Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mondocurry NYAFF report vol. 9: Go Hark Or Go Home - ZU plus Q & A with Tsui Hark!

Today the New York Asian Film Festival’s focus on Wu Xia films continued while at the same time, its celebration of director Tsui Hark began. Both were carried out with a screening of ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN and a conversation with Tsui Hark!

The film was a trip and then some. It’s the kind of thing that would probably leave me lost, confused, and disinterested after a few minutes had I watched it at home. Yet, on the big screen I was still very lost and confused, but also in a constant state of fascination with the swirling images tearing across the screen.

The story is extremely confusing and highly irrelevant. There is a very witty opening sequence that finds warriors from different groups caught in the middle of a battle between other warrior clans. Their allegiances are marked simply by the color of their robes. From there, it’s all mystics and their disciples and a quest to destroy a powerful evil entity.

There is an awesome interlude along the way that takes us to the lair of a group of female mystics. Their costumes and flying powers are as exotic as the airy hall they inhabit. The effects may be dated, but are incredibly imaginative. Laser-like beams zip across the screen, huge statues float and, as the conclusion draws nearer, close-ups of the goddess Li I Chi form hypnotic psychedelic imagery.

I can’t emphasize enough how this is a movie for the big screen, which in turn, speaks to why the New York Asian Film Festival and what they do is so essential. Yes there are copies of ZU and other classic movies out there. But these images should not be compressed onto a television screen. They should be appreciated sprawling across a theater wall to capture the grand scale on which they were imagined.

Tsui Hark did not introduce the movie and reportedly expressed bewilderment at the excitement over it. He did join the audience for a Q & A and humbly discussed how he presented the concept of ZU to producing company Golden Harvest, his earlier days spent in New York City, and his ambitions as a film maker. The substantial audience responded enthusiastically, setting the tone for NYAFF’s screenings of other Tsui Hark films which the director will also attend.

DRAGON INN (produced by Tsui Hark) plays Sunday, July 19 at 4:00 pm
THE BLADE plays Monday, July 11 at 6:00 pm
DETECTIVE DEE AND THE PHANTOM FLAME (Hark’s lastest film) plays Monday, July 11 at 9:00 pm. It’s a sold out screening, but standby tickets will be available.

All screenings are at Walter Reade Theater and all will include a Q & A with Tsui Hark!

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