Full Disclosure 2014 The Directors Cut: Tsui Hark

Asian Editor; Hong Kong, China (@Marshy00)
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This year on Full Disclosure we are focusing on a different celebrated filmmaker each month and getting ourselves better acquainted with their body of work. Last week, Hong Kong institution Tsui Hark celebrated his 64th birthday, and so in recognition of the man and his work, Team ScreenAnarchy was tasked with seeking out something new from the man's huge filmography. 

Surprisingly, that led many of our contributors (myself included) to confess to never having seen perhaps the director's most famous film, 1991's Once Upon A Time In China. But that is precisely what this feature is all about - making a conscious effort to address our lists of shame and finally experience some of the greatest offerings of world cinema that have until now passed us by. 
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Full DisclosureHong KongJean Claude Van DammeJet LiMartial ArtsTsui Hark

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  • Mr. Cavin

    It's interesting how many reviewers here haven't seen Once Upon a Time in China; but then again, the fact that it was required viewing in my circles in the era of VHS fan dubs was simply that it was one of the movies we actually got our hands on. Everybody I came up with saw the same movies because we passed them all around like good little nerds. So perhaps my personal experience only felt universal.

    My favorite Tsui Hark movies were always the fantasies: The first two Chinese Ghost Stor[ies] and Zu and the sublime Green Snake. Well, and anything else with Maggie Cheung was also about halfway to sublime.

  • I can recall exactly how I was introduced to Tsui Hark, and it was through a blind VHS rental of both "Peking Opera Blues" and "Once Upon a Time in China" (which were both mentioned in an intriguing review of "The Chinese Feast" I had read). That was the best double feature of my life! Both films blew my high school mind to bits, and got me hooked on Tsui Hark and 90's HK films in general.

  • mwilliams1220

    The Blade was one of the first film's I saw when I first discovered HK films (in the 1990s). Still love it.

  • Kieran

    Yep, Tsui's best are definitely The Blade and Time an Tide... and maybe Don't play with fire.

  • CJ

    A perfect accompaniment to watching ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA is to find the Hong Kong Legends DVD and listen to the commentary with the ubiquitous Bey Logan and Mark King, who played the token 'Evil Westerner' in that movie and a bunch of others throughout the 90's.

    It's most notable for King's complete disinterest in the movie, veering into open contempt for the HK film industry and cinema in general.

    He claims he has never actually seen a HK movie and has nothing nice to say about any of it, despite Logan's continual insistence that the movie they are watching is considered a classic.

    Some of what he says comes off as bitter and a bit douchey, but the man is entitled to his own opinion, and he has the experience to back it up. It's not difficult to imagine that being a Westerner on a Hong Kong movie set is probably not much fun.

  • AlecDumas

    Another important element of OATIC series is that the hero, Wong Fei Hung, is a legendary Chinese hero, who was also one of the Hong Kong film industries first cinematic heroes. Hark's interpretation was was a radical departure from how this revered historic figure had been depicted on film (as well as Hung's students, who are also legendary characters). Hung became Jet Li's signature role, vaulting him to the forefront of Hong Movie stardom.

  • cuttermaran

    Once Upon A Time In China 2 is a better movie then the first part (also considered by many Hk film connaisseurs). Now I see why everyone here on twitch is applauding to the average Detective Dee, not having seen trully masterpieces by this extraordinary director. How about Dangerous Encounter of the First Kind or Shanghai Blues and I would also recommend Seven Swords which is imo very true to the WuXia genre. And yes, if you're lloking for some amazing over the top Action- Time and Tide will serve you well.

  • CJ

    Yeah, it's fair to say that the second film is superior. Especially since it has Donnie Yen beating ass.

    I think the excessive praise for DETECTIVE DEE came because Hark finally seemed to have broken a decade-long streak of stinkers.

    I watched that horror movie he did called MISSING, mainly because I like Angelica Lee. God, that movie was a mess.

  • CJ

    I'm still hoping that one day we might get a director's cut of SEVEN SWORDS.

    I think Hark himself said that there is no interest or money to be able to do it. Maybe Criterion could get around to it when they've stopped releasing every Japanese movie ever made.

    Also, to the writer who mentioned Jet LI's stunt double in OUITIC; Jet Li actually broke his leg during production, so he was heavily doubled in the climactic action sequence.

  • Kieran

    I had a discussion with France's Seven Swords DVD editor. He knows Tsui Hark quite well and it seems that there is nor will be another edition of Seven Swords (which is already kind of perfect).

  • muckerman

    No Time and Tide or OUATIC 2? SMH

    Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain is great and the sequel is a guilty pleasure.

  • Elia StKarene

    The Blade is one of my favorite Tsui movies along with A Chinese Feast (both released the same year I think and Feast having even worse subtitles). Tsui is varied with story arcs that are often over complicated but always fun and experimental with main characters that hold up in their vulnerabilities. Tsui always seems to be experimenting with film styles that later become regular products of big Western productions. His modern 3d films like the Detective Dee films look like they are made for 3D rather than having 3D added in after effects. I still need to watch A Simple Life (not a Tsui Hark film) so that I can watch the scene it in where Tsui plays himself.

    I am surprised you did not mention Twin Dragons and A Chines Ghost Story.

  • Guest

    Is THE CHINESE FEAST the one with Leslie Cheung (R.I.P.), Anita Yuen and Kenny Bee?

    I liked that movie, although these scene with the giant fish was like something out of a Wong Jing film.

  • Elia StKarene

    Yes, you are correct, that's the film. Lighthearted ode to martial arts films in a modern Hong Kong cook off. Pre master chef!

  • Simon

    Just a note on the English dubbed US version which one of your contributors watched - assuming this is the Sony release from some years ago, it's worth noting that it is very heavily cut... something like 40 minutes missing! Might explain why that contributor didn't enjoy it as much as they expected?

  • Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg

    The version I saw was 2 hrs 20 minutes, so not sure if that was cut or not. But if so, yes, that might have contributed.

  • marshy00

    Nope, that sounds like the full version Shelagh.

  • Simon

    Yeah, that should be uncut - the original English dub released in the US was barely over 90 mins.

  • CJ

    The cut version of OUATIC was released here in Australia by Chinatown Video, subtitled and claiming it was uncut. I bought it and was kind of unimpressed as well, although I couldn't really pinpoint why.

    It was only when our local ethnic station SBS screened the real uncut version did the movie all fall into place, and I realised that the cut version loses almost all of the 'connective tissue' of the story that makes it flow much more smoothly.

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