3 October 2004 | rsoonsa
All Involved Provide Superior Artistic Entertainment.
Although achieving fame in the United States for martial arts spectacles, the Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong produced many other, and indeed superior films, such as this Huangmei (traditional folk) opera bedded upon a tale from the Sung Dynasty during the rule of Emperor Jen Tsung (1023/64), showcasing graceful Ivy Ling Po, eloquent in voice and gesture and in full possession of her panoply of performance skills. Shot in splendrous Eastman Color, the work profits from the customary superior production values of the Shaws that intensify an interesting plot and sterling acting, relating a story that has not lost its appeal over centuries, replete with beautiful music, conspiracy and betrayal, along with the vagaries of fate, expertly directed by Kao Li. An intricate plot depicts the feral talents of concubine Madame Liu that are utilized in enabling her to become Empress at drastic expense to rival court favourite (Madame) Li Zhenfei who is dishonoured and exiled while her infant son, claimed by Liu and reared to become future Emperor, is unknowing of his actual mother's existence. Costuming and production design is each startling in beauty and imaginative quality, at the same time largely correct, the songs revealing internal conflicts of the principals, while the cinematography, editing, sound mixing, and makeup and hair styling are in league, supporting the capable direction and nuanced playing that bring forth a fascinating film; the Mandarin original is the one to experience - the subtitles in English are enormously odd.