Dir. King Hu
1979, Taiwan, Hong Kong, 184 min
Mandarin with English subtitles
A traveling scholar, intent on translating a Buddhist sutra, loses his way in the mountains. Time and space collapse around him as he continues his journey, encountering ghostly visitations amid a haunting fantasia of color, light and landscape. King Hu rose to prominence in the 1960s and 70s as a superb director of wuxia, a prevalent genre in Chinese-language film and literature built on ancient lore of swords, sorcery and chivalrous heroes. Legend of the Mountain comes from the director’s later period, when his artistry, specifically his landscape compositions, was at the height of its powers. The film’s astonishing nature scenes, shot on location in the Korean countryside, are reminiscent of Terrence Malick, while the reflective blend of myth and history is all Hu’s own.
For Asian Heritage Month, the Dave Barber Cinematheque presents Dancing Swords: The Wuxia films of King Hu – showcasing five of King Hu’s exhilarating wuxia epics – Dragon Inn (1967), A Touch of Zen (1971), The Fate of Lee Khan (1973), Legend of the Mountain (1979), and Raining in the Mountain (1979). Known for his genre-defining swordplay films that encapsulated breathtaking cinematography, graceful action choreography, enigmatic warrior heroines, densely structured mise-en-scenes, and existential transcendence, we celebrate Hu’s visionary artistry and formal innovations that raised the bar for the wuxia film and influenced the work of contemporary Hong Kong and Taiwanese directors such as Ang Lee, Wong Kar-wai, and Tsai Ming-liang – whose film Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) will screen adjacent to Hu’s five film retrospective.
Generously sponsored by IATSE 856 Manitoba.
Every pan and snap zoom and dissolve is exact, every whorl of smoke and wind-thrown swath of leaves pulled from a dream and placed methodically before our eyes.
– Greg Cwik, Slant Magazine
Beautiful settings and eccentric effects work to enliven a tale that’s more than meets the eye.
– John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter