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PREVIOUSLY PLAYED

A TOUCH OF ZEN

12:30  3:50  7:30

Must End Thursday, May 5

THE COMPLETE, UNCUT EPIC

NEW 4K RESTORATION

(1971-72) In 15th century China, toothily nerdy scholar and painter Shih Jun and his nagging mother live next to an abandoned fort reputed to be haunted – so who is that mysterious, beautiful Hsu Feng who’s moved in? – a ghost? And what is that stranger who wants his portrait painted really up to? And what about the doctor who won’t take money and is the blind fortune teller really blind? But a flashback to scheming and murder at the highest levels of the court starts the answers and the battles coming: the elaborate ambush at the fort that engulfs an entire assassination cohort, to the chortling delight of its unlikely strategist – until, he realizes, in the light of day, there are dead people here; the fight in the bamboo forest that took 25 days of shooting (its hollow was sunlit only a few hours a day); the fight through incredible rock formations and rivers cutting between up-rearing crags; and a final showdown in spectacularly godforsaken desert that leaves one opponent’s vision reduced to color negative, the other bleeding golden blood, a climax mystically Buddhist (Taiwanese writer/director Hu admitted that he himself was not Buddhist). Hu’s epic of wuxia (ancient martial arts), begun in 1969, entailed meticulous preparation and care – the fort took 9 months to get right, partly to let the overgrowing vegetation to grow in place; and an epic battle with the producer, who insisted it be released in two still-truncated parts; Hu only got it his way in 1975, when a nearly complete version was shown at Cannes, where it won the Grand Prize for Technical Achievement – and an apology from his studio heads. This new restoration of Hu’s complete 3-hour epic returns the exemplar and template of an entire genre to his original vision. In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Restored in 4K by L’Immagine Ritrovata, with original materials provided by the Taiwan Film Institute. Approx. 180 mins.

A JANUS FILMS RELEASE

Reviews

“GORGEOUS! The undisputed poet laureate of wuxia films, Hu treats his genre material as if it were high art, balancing action and atmospherics in each battle. Accept no substitutes.”
– David Fear, Time Out 

“Pivoting on fight sequences that seem constructed at the molecular level, [King Hu’s] cinema is designed to be, first and foremost, a formalist’s reverie. Blades clanging, arrows flying, bodies tumbling through the air: the rituals of martial-arts combat unfold again and again and again in impressionistic jabs of sound and image … It’s yet another source of astonishment that works of such sustained sublimity, which at their best feel willed by an intelligence more cosmic than human, could prove to be of this world.” 
– Andrew Chan, Film Comment 

“When it comes to the wuxia film, all roads lead back to the great King Hu: supreme fantasist, Ming dynasty scholar, and incomparable artist. For years, Hu labored on his own, creating one exquisitely crafted film after another (with astonishing pre-CGI visual effects), elevating the martial arts genre to unparalleled heights and single-handedly introducing Chinese cinema to the rest of the world.”
– 2015 New York Film Festival notes

“JAW-DROPPING! King Hu’s most elaborate wuxia…a superlative series of choreographed action set pieces in fantastic widescreen landscapes.” 
– J. Hoberman

“King Hu's remarkable Ming Dynasty epic deliberately makes itself impossible to define, beginning as a ghost story, then turning into a political thriller, and finally becoming a metaphysical battle.”
– Tony Rayns, Time Out (London)

 “King Hu has demonstrated that pictorial artistry, Zen mysticism and the stylized martial arts, can make a fascinating mix.”
– A. H. Weiler, The New York Times

“A magical metaphysical tour that begins with the understated elegance of a haiku, unfolds into a tension-packed action film, and climaxes with a sense of wonder to rival Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Through it all, there’s a symmetry reminiscent of classic tragedy.”
 – Don McLeese, Chicago Sun-Times

“Widely and rightly regarded as not only one of the finest martial arts films ever made, but one of the greatest works in all of Chinese cinema. What distinguishes A Touch of Zen as much as anything else is its fluctuating tonal and narrative development, its interplay of diverse textures, sights, and sounds, and its mingling of generic tastes, ranging from mystery to ghost story to full on martial arts. Yet A Touch of Zen never loses an appreciation of its essential foundation, and its diverse ingredients form a unique, solidified whole. Straight martial arts films undoubtedly have their place, and many are great works in own right, but Hu’s 1971 masterpiece gives extra substance to the wuxia form, resulting in an experience that is indeed bursting with flavor.”
– Jeremy Carr, MUBI

“MAGNIFICENT! Proof that Taiwanese filmmakers have been sending their warriors sailing into the stratosphere for a long, long time… It calls out to serious genre fans.”
– Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out (New York)

“SUPERLATIVE! RADIANTLY RESTORED! Endures due to its astonishing visuals, sprightly movement, progressive gender dynamics, and spiritual heft.”
– Aaron Hillis, The Village Voice