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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Bride With White Hair (1993)
(2020 4K Restoration)


Starring: Leslie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Francis Ng, Elaine Lui, Kit Ying Lam, King-Kei Cheng, Eddie Ko, Jeffrey Lau, Fong Pau, Leila Tong, Richard Yuen and Joe Tay
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £22.99


Certificate: 18
Release Date: 09 November 2020

Ronny Yu’s exquisitely beautiful Wuxia martial arts operatic fable is a gift to world cinema and to the homebound collector who wants art that is re-viewable for repeated enjoyment. This is cinema that parallels great music with which one can immerse oneself again and again and the experience never gets old or stale. It qualifies (forgive me here for being windy) for what the Whiteheadian process philosopher, Suzanne K. Langer, signifies as philosophy in a new key. That most original thinker in the last one hundred years drew from Whitehead and combined a theory of rite, symbol and image from her deep female intuition to construct a metaphysics on our deepest of animal responses: feelings. The Bride With White Hair teleports us into love haunted by hate - the mega Formgeschictchte (“form story”) of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet - projected on the shadowy cave walls of Wuxia in our psychic back of beyond where love is cursed by demonic denial.

Eureka’s outstanding 4K restoration is blessed with a fresh colour palette, exclusively for the UK label, officially approved by the auteur then compressed into 2K for maximum lucence for this 1080p Blu-ray. Stereo is restored 5.1 presentation. Tracks are optional Mandarin, English. The special features are a treasure: new feature length commentary by Asian film scholar Frank Djeng; audio commentary with director Ronny Yu himself plus a new interview; a new interview with actor Joe Tay; new interview with screenwriter Jason Lam Kee To; interview with composer Richard Yuen (seeds of Morricone here); new interview with editor David Wu; archival ‘making of’ featurette; Limited Edition (first 2000 copies O Cover Slipcase) collector’s booklet with new writing by James Oliver.

Ronny Yu (Warriors of Virtue, The Bride of Chucky) casts Cheung and Lin (Warriors From the Magic Mountain) as lovers hopelessly cursed between two warring clans. Love at first sight. Eye to eye over helping a dying mother give birth to her baby. Its very profundity marks their hopelessness and sneering hatred from both clans. Their refuge is a tale of love both erotic and spiritual.

The cinematography by Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) has a delicacy of tone befitting a silk banner and the better your screen, the better will be your viewing experience. The descent from pastel on silk into frozen chasm is the first setting for explosive violence.

Leslie Cheung‘s Wuxia warrior crouches in guard over a blessed flower imbued with the gift of life. The emperor of one of the warring clans is dying. The flower will give him life. Cheung has guarded the flower ten years... Cheung refuses to hand it over. Now there are only four hours left before the flower blooms in its icicle encrusted bed. The opposing soldiers attack and are sliced to death in mid-air mayhem. The last flower thief asks, ‘Who is more important than the Emperor?’ Cheung’s answer: "The most important person in my heart is a woman."

The narrative swings from flashback to flash forward. Each scene reveals something new. The biggest revelations are about the intensity of the unfolding love story. At one point Brigitte Lin asks Cheung if he would still love her if her hair turned white. His answer is unbounded erotic passion and worship of her feminine self. She exults in this for it is trust she treasures above all.

The action exceeds all expectation and delivers operatic swordplay worthy of contemplation. Action is prepositional. So-so action is predictable, derivative, anticipated and inevitable. Great action utilizes prepositions in as many recombinant ways as the Greeks, followers of Mithra and the Masters of the martial arts in China knew possible: simultaneous, parallel, oneiric, orbital, parabolic, mobius, Fibonacci, balletic, aquatic, avian, feline, simian, canine, chaotic. And yes I’m showing off here but the movement in space Ronny Yu captures makes flirting with flamboyant words worthy of the effort. It’s one of the greatest action opera fantasies I’ve ever seen. It is never without humour either. (Oh, at least until the end.) When Lin’s martial witch is told by a soldier he’ll hack her into nine pieces, it’s what she does to him. I love Brigitte Lin.

Brigitte Lin is the Wolf Girl, raised by the wolves, adopted by one clan as a living military weapon but standing apart because that clan is demonic. Cheung is the kind and gentle martial artist of the other clan marked for his hesitancy to enjoy killing. Their love transcends political differences. They are a profound confusion to both sides. They simply do not fit in.

There is a brother and sister haunting the lovers throughout. To call them joined at the hip is putting it mildly. Their back-to-back androgynous cleaving is nothing but scary. They are dynastic demons capable of transmogrifying gender, opponents, anybody worthy as a tool of deceit. The sister, older sister in this case, has a maniacal laugh that really gets on the nerves. Because it’s meant to. Tarantino drew from this fiend for Kill Bill to inspire a gang member in Lucy Liu’s killer horde, the preppy schoolgirl psychopath in a pleated skirt. Remember her laugh? This is her big bad sister.

The finale battle is beyond ordinary carnage but the reveals in this finale are even more galvanizing. They are spiritual as well as physiological in a hymn to trust and love with the stumbling block of hate ever-present. The Bride With White Hair is to be visited again and again. All the Wolf Witch asks is that you trust her. Easier pledged than done.


John Huff

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