Monday, January 23, 2012

The Sorcerer and the White Snake (2011) Celebrating Chinese New Year!

If you want to see the beautiful things that the Chinese film industry is turning out, look no further than this film. Although the effects aren't quite up to the HUGE bloated Hollywood epics they are nicely representative of an industry churning out spectacular images.

This film also marks the return of Jet Li to wu xia films after saying that Fearless and Forbidden Kingdom would be his last go round in the genre. He insists that he was tricked into taking the part by a promise of having little in the way of fight scenes, whether that's true or not I don't know, but I'm glad to see him in action once more.

The story is a well used one in Chinese cinema about a young man who falls in, love with a snake spirit that saves him from drowning. As their romance becomes a marriage and a deeply felt love affair, a Buddhist monk (here played by Jet Li) is traveling around the country side exorcising all of the demons and locking them away. How the course of religious mission collides with true love is the film.

I really like this film a great deal. I'm kind of taken aback that the some people don't particularly like the film. I'm guessing that the fact that the film is more a romance than an action film has turned them off. I also suspect that the fact that Li is a more the second lead makes them unhappy as well.

For me this film is a wonderful touching exercise in romance and action. The central love story is compelling and continues a streak of good romances that I've seen recently (I'm writing this up in November, days after seeing Extraterrestrial, Every Song Talks About Me and Dancing Zoo in a two day stretch which means it certainly stands up to some stiff competition.)

What I like about the film is that every character arcs. We have the demons turning out to be less evil and the monks finding out that things are not always black and white nor as we have been lead to believe. There is something about the arc of Jet Li's character that is nicely warming.

The action sequences are plentiful to keep the film from becoming totally mushy. They are truly spectacular and magnificent enough to make me wish I had been able to see this when this played as the opening night film of a Chinese Film Festival at Avery Fisher Hall. As I said at the start this is a great looking film that is a great introduction to what the Chinese visual effects wizards have been turning out lately.

There is a great deal of comedy in the film that helps to liven things up. Sequences such as the animal demons trying to hold human form so that our heroine can pretend to have a nice human family for her beau is both clever and laugh out loud funny. We also have the joys of the silliness of the novice monk turning into a bat demon.

As I said I really liked this film a great deal.

And yes it's derivative at times with bits cribbed from elsewhere, A bit of in the Hall of the Mountain King in some of the music, A fall into hell with a bat demon that mimics Gandalf's fall with the Balrog in the Two Towers, but the film still is it's own unique animal, the battle on the canal is marvelous as the fake demons prove real and Jet Li chases the king demon by running across the boats it kicks up into the air.

Definitely worth seeing. I know the film is available on DVD as an import. I'm not too sure what US release is going to be.

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