is a temple, not an inn, but the principles are the same for King Hu. A motley
cast of characters have duly assembled to hunt for a precious scroll and influence
the succession at Three Treasures Temple. Worldly greed and ambition will clash
on sacred ground in King Hu’s Raining in
the Mountain, which screens during BAM Cinématek’s retrospective, All Hail the King: the Films of King Hu.
Wen is a man of means, who has faithfully supported the temple, but he is also
a crooked operator, who would prefer to acquire the temple’s priceless
Tripitaki scroll as cheaply and dishonestly as possible. To that end, he has
retained the services of the notorious thief White Fox to masquerade as his
concubine while she cases the joint. Conveniently, the Abbott has requested his
presence to offer counsel while he chooses his successor.
Wen is not the only double-dealing guest. General Wang Chi is also staying at
the temple for the same ostensive and covert reasons. His chief enforcer is the
former brigand turned corrupt cop Chang Chen, who had railroaded the temple’s
newest acolyte, Chiu Ming on bogus charges. At least the Abbott can trust the
counsel of revered layman Wu Wai, who arrives with entourage of beautiful
women, because he is already beyond such earthly concerns (but from a cinematic
standpoint, it is quite considerate of him).
is plenty of action in Mountain, but
Hu saves most of the martial arts for the climax. Instead, he treats viewers to
a feast of acrobatic sneaking around, which looks absolutely fantastic in and about
the striking temple setting. It is a huge place, but White Fox and company duck
in and out of every alcove and cranny. Hu served as his own art director on Mountain, crafting a wonderfully
elegant, richly appointed widescreen-friendly period production.
Mountain is an absolute
blast for wuxia fans, thanks to the half-roguish, half-heroic nature of Wen’s
party. They are inclined to do the right thing and help Chiu Ming, provided
nobody is watching and it will not interfere with their own plans. Nevertheless,
there is still plenty of tragedy and irony in the mix, clearly informed by
Buddhist religious traditions.
regular Hsu Feng dazzles as White Fox, another woman of great action. Yet, for
sheer mischievous glee, it is hard to match Suen Yuet as Wan, the scheming
anti-hero. In contrast, Tung Lam’s salt-of-the-earth Chiu Ming has an acutely earnest
and forgiving presence, who delivers the film’s Buddhist teachings with
This is a great film, partly because there are
so many contradictory facets to its personality that nonetheless fit together
perfectly. It is briskly paced, but increasingly deep and meaningful. Very
highly recommended, Raining in the
Mountain is a terrific way to conclude All
Hail the King when it screens this Tuesday (6/17) at BAM.
Labels: BAM, Buddhism on film, Hsu Feng, King Hu