2 November 2007 | ChungMo
Beautiful Imagery in a Mountain Temple, Slow Story
Made at the same time as the ghost film, "Legend in the Mountain", "Raining in the Mountain" is in some ways a more traditional film for King Hu. His aesthetic is old fashioned in some ways and more akin to the New Wave of Mainland China. Regardless he tries to experiment and that's what makes a King Hu film fascinating to watch.
An ailing temple Abbot has summoned his best laymen friends to assist in the choosing of a new Abbot from among the monks. One a businessman brings along a woman and a servant. Another, who is a general and district governor brings along a shady lieutenant. Both friends seem to have ulterior motives in their visit and that turns out to be the theft of a rare scroll kept in a storeroom. In addition, another friend of the Abbot arrives. He is an elderly man who, despite being a layperson, has a deeper understanding of Buddhism then most monks. Oddly, he is accompanied by dozens of women who carry his palanquin. Finally, by coincidence, a convict is delivered to the temple to be reformed into a monk. The cast of characters is assembled.
First off, for all fans of King Hu martial art extravaganzas, there are only three fight scenes in the whole film, the first being at 50 minutes in, a second short fight about fifteen minutes later and the third extended fight about 1 hour and 40 minutes in. They are all well done in King Hu's abstract but lively style. There is more going on in this film than an excuse for action.
It takes about ten minutes before we have any idea about the story of the film. Up until then it's a series of attractive shots of mountains, fall foliage and eventually the temple while the businessman and his entourage travel. The photography in this film is great from beginning to end. The Chinese traditional inspired music is very good as well. The story is good despite some plot holes and some predictable twists. The Buddhist philosophy and the dialog were very interesting to me.
Overlong at 2 hours and missing dramatic tension at the climax, it's still an above average film from Taiwan. I am not sure what the "raining" in the title refers to since it's bone dry for the entire film except for one shot at the beginning.