you have sympathy for a demon like Xiao Wei?
You might if she looked like Zhou Xun.
Her story is indeed a tragic one, rooted in heartaches past. Nonetheless, as a fox demon, she must
constantly consume human hearts. Still,
she yearns to become human herself in Wuershan’s wuxia paranormal romance Painted Skin: The Resurrection (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
who have not seen the previous Painted
Skin (or King Hu’s prior adaptation of the Pu Songling story) should not be
concerned. The sequel is practically a
complete reboot. Xiao Wei is doing her
thing once again, tearing men’s hearts out (literally), with only the bird
demon Quer for companionship. As she preys
on powerful men, she hopes in vain someone will willingly and knowingly offer
theirs up to her, so that she may become human again. The clock is ticking though. A looming solar eclipse may spell the end of
deliverance might have arrived in an unlikely form, when a warrior with a smoldering
heart “rescues” Xiao Wei from marauders.
However, this is no hero—this is the Princess Jing, masking herself to
hide the scars she received in a rather nasty teenaged encounter with a
bear. General Hou Xin blames himself for
that incident. He also still harbors a
forbidden love for the Princess he failed, which she reciprocates. Yet, even the true blue palace guard is no
match for a fox demon’s bewitchments, setting the stage for a supernatural love
triangle. Meanwhile, the rival Tian
Liang clan is making threatening noise.
Unfortunately, the Princess and her General are distracted by the
agitation caused by Xiao Wei’s presence.
That’s what happens when you have a demon in your midst.
again, Xiao Wei is not really the villain in this story. Her yearning to live is somewhat akin to
Larry Talbot’s search for the secret of death in the classic Universal Wolfman films, except Zhou Xun is
obviously no Lon Chaney, Jr. to look at, not by a long shot. As Quer the bird demon Mi (Mini) Yang is also
cute as a button. In fact, she develops
some surprisingly sweet romantic chemistry with Pang, an unprepossessing demon
hunter, by virtue of his bloodline. It
is a surprisingly appealing turn by Feng Shaofeng, evolving from somewhat
cringy comic relief into a legit secondary hero.
a special effects-laden tale of demons and swordplay, Resurrection has unexpected depth of feeling and a third act
reversal that works quite well, at least before Wuershan resorts to the Harry Potter-esque thunder-and-wrath
climax. The real fireworks involve the
two alluring co-leads. Blessed with an
extraordinary expressiveness (check her out in Equation of Love and Death, if you can), Zhou renders the fox demon
as a fully dimensional, deeply tragic figure.
Though Zhao Wei occasional flirts with melodramatic excess, as Princess
Jing, she effectively expresses romantic longing while totally rocking the
Phantom of the Opera-style mask. Chen
Kun’s Hou broods and pines well enough, while Yang and Feng consistently inject
energy and verve into the proceedings.
Unfortunately, the evil Tians are not well defined, though Chen Tincha
and Fei “Kris Phillips” Xiang certainly look menacing as the dastardly clan
princess and sorcerer, respectively.
Featuring several dangerous women, a few men who
are a bit slow on the uptake, and a whole lot of frustrated ardor, Resurrection is a far better date movie
than most wuxia epics. It is also a
great showcase for Zhou. Recommended for
her fans and those who appreciate big, dark uncanny spectacles with a strong
human element, Painted Skin: The
Resurrection opens this Friday (8/17) in New York at the AMC Empire and in
San Francisco at the AMC Metreon and Cupertino.
Labels: Chinese Cinema, Mi Yang, Paranormal romance, Wuxia, Zhou Xun