A Touch Of Zen Blu-ray Review
“A Touch Of Zen” is a groundbreaking but flawed martial arts film.
In “A Touch Of Zen,” the story primarily revolves around a single dopey scholar/painter (Gu Sheng-Zai) who lives with his overbearing mother near an allegedly haunted Fort. One day, Gu meets a woman (Miss Yang) whom he later discovers is hiding out in said fort. You see, Miss Yang is a wanted fugitive on the run from the evil corrupt Eunuch Wei who wants to wipe out her entire family line. Unsurprisingly, Gu gets mixed up in all of this as he decides to help Miss Yang from those who want her dead.
When it comes to film history, writer/director King Hu’s “A Touch Of Zen” is often hailed as an ambitious, groundbreaking, epic Taiwanese wuxia film about nature, Buddihism, corruption, the supernatural, and death. The action and cinematography are particularly technically astonishing and influential for their time (1971 to be exact) as they helped usher in a new subgenre of cinema. While there’s no question that “A Touch Of Zen” is a visual and intellectual triumph, the film itself does have its fair share of problems.
Even though the film obviously comes from a different era of filmmaking, it’s hard not to judge it by today’s standards. I understand that the first third of the film is intentionally a bit of a slow burn as it establishes character and story, but I’d argue that some fine tuning would have help cut out some of the padding such as the numerous scenes of Gu wandering and observing, the drawn out ending, and the multiple nature shots. There’s simply no need for this film to be 3 hours in length as it hurts the film as a whole.
Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration is both dazzling and frustrating. The colors look better than ever here (see the bamboo forest scene for reference), but there are plenty of noticeable print damages that stick out.
Audio Track: Uncompressed Mandarin Mono. How does it sound The music and action sound fx sound sharp, but the dialogue sounds muted to be sure.
* A double sided booklet that contains a poster, an essay by author David Bordwell and articles written by King Hu.
* “A Touch Of Zen” trailer.
* Newly shot interviews with actors Hsu Feng and Shih Chun. Topics include their careers, characters they played, “A Touch Of Zen” (obviously), King Hu, acting, and more.
* A new lengthy 34 minute interview with film critic Tony Rayns about the film’s influence, King Hu, martial arts, etc.
* Another new interview. This one is with acclaimed award-winning director Ang Lee who talks about “A Touch Of Zen” and his own work.
* Last, but not least there’s an informative documentary titled “King Hu: 1932-1997.” The content of which is pretty self-explanatory.
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