A Touch of Zen (1969)

King Hu directs Feng Hsu, Chun Shih and Ying Bai in this kung-fu ghost story epic where a calligrapher falls for an on-the-run warrior woman who is hiding out in the “haunted” monastery next door.

That above precis of the plot isn’t half of it. The second half is a series of year long chases and battles through the sun soaked forest with wandering monks intervening and transcending existence. Yep? Yep! There’s also comedy, soapy romance and shifting antagonists. It is quite the overwhelming experience, and I’ll admit I was a little tired from a late night shift to fully be patient and alert throughout its indulgent three hours running time. Yet the care and beauty imbued in A Touch of Zen does stand out among its generation of fight flicks. It echoes more in Crouching Tiger than it does Enter the Dragon. Next time I’ll drink three coffees before getting absorbed in King Hu’s expansive, unfettered big one.

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