16 September 2004 | gray4
Not just a kung-fu masterpiece, one of the last century's great cinema triumphs
I just never expected anything like the experience of watching "A Touch of Zen". I settled down to watch a quaint old film from 1960s' world cinema. Three hours later I was exhilarated after stumbling across of the greatest films made in the 20th century - and it wasn't a moment too long.
The film is carefully structured, in three contrasting sections. It is only when you look back that you realize just how cleverly King Hu has created those three sections. The same characters, for the most part, appear in each section, but each focuses on a different combination. The first section focuses on the artist Ku, slowly building a picture of a quiet life in a rural backwater. The second switches tempo, with amazing martial arts action focusing on the fugitive Ku and her friends. The final section calms down again, as the mysterious Buddhist monk comes into sharp focus, and the martial arts become more and more amazing.
All this takes place in the most beautiful Chinese countryside, sometimes bathed in light (the use of sunlight and the monk is particularly impressive) and sometimes in dramatic thunderstorms, making the film even more of a delight to watch. Don't be put off by the 'kung-fu' label, this is even better than "Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger".