Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Movie Review: A Chinese Ghost Story 4 Stars

Ching Siu Tung, celebrated Hong Kong filmmaker and stunt coordinator of John Woo’s The Killer, directed this phenomenal love story based loosely on ancient Chinese vampire legends. Action-packed, mythic, hauntingly beautiful, A Chinese Ghost Story rivals (and in my book beats) any Hollywood epic in its breadth and scope and, ultimately, in its fantastic storytelling.

In Medieval China, Ning Tsei-Shen (Leslie Cheung), a hapless young debt collector, takes shelter from a storm in the Nan Ta Buddhist temple. As fate would have it, the temple is haunted by several ghosts. One of them, Tsing Fung (Wong Tsu Hsien), is a beautiful young woman with whom Ning falls in love.

She is also the betrothed of an evil vampire Old Tree Woman. Old Tree Woman uses the beautiful Tsing to seduce strong warriors so the vampire can steal their souls and turn them into ghouls. Ning throws a monkey wrench into the works because he is neither strong nor a warrior. But as Ning and Tsing fall further in love, they put both of their lives (or Tsing’s ghostly equivalent) in jeopardy and the only one who can save them is a Taoist swordsman monk.

With incredible kung fu action and amazing special effects (especially considering a fairly low budget), A Chinese Love Story is one of the greatest Hong Kong exports from the ‘80s. Ching Siu Tung followed the movie up with two subsequent sequels continuing the adventures and romance of Ning and Tsing.

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