6 February 2003 | clevelander
Underrated classic of the chinese action adventure form
I saw this movie in an English Cinema, in Birmingham, in the mid- 1970's, and was quite bowled over by its startling originality, at least to my eyes as a western viewer. It is far better constructed than most of the Kung Fu type movies that have world popularity, and will appeal to a discerning audience. The intricate plot deals with the fate and adventures of two women, masters of their marshal arts, and sworn to vengeance. The significance of the relationship between the two women grows until it becomes central to the film. That alone was original enough in the 1970's - but amazingly it is still original now.
The film has a legendary, classical feel to it, and is absolutely not self-conscious about the role of its female leads. The plot twists and turns down to its tragic denouement, breathtaking in its melodrama and beauty. I don't know enough about this but it felt very rooted in chinese culture , and had the classical structure of a greek or shakespearian tragedy.
It is also beautifully filmed, and has many of those chinese fencing scenes the mass public has only really just become familiar with in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. But the latter is really not a patch on the earlier film.
There may be many more like this - I don't know - and although it didn't feel formulaic to me, perhaps it might to the chinese audience. So I only gave it eight, rather than the nine that was tempting me.
So why is this film so unknown, alone and unrated? That, I think, is the result of the unfortunate terms of its original release. Subtitled chinese movies at the time would appeal only to a specialist audience - (and Enter the Dragon had not yet appeared to change all that ) . But the specialist audience would instantly have been put off by the unfortunate "Confessions" marketing title, which immediately put it into the category of the contemporary naff British comedy series "Confessions of a window cleaner" and the like. Many a time I have tried to recommend this film title to friends only to be looked at incredulously as if - oh dear - how pathetic. Not that they would have found it easy to see it - it can't have enjoyed wide release.
Now is the time for re-release.