||The Bride with White Hair
1993 - NR - 92 Mins.
|Director: Ronny Yu|
|Producer: Ronny Yu|
|Written By: Liang Yusheng|
|Starring: Brigitte Lin, Leslie Cheung, Kit Ying Lam, Francis Ng, Elaine Lui |
|Review by: Harrison Cheung
With the much ballyhooed release of Quentin Tarantino's fourth movie, KILL BILL, I thought it'd be a good time to publish a review of a cult favorite which clearly inspired KILL BILL as well as another cult director, Sam Raimi.
The Bride is pissed.
For fans of Hong Kong cinema, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR needs no introduction. Directed by Ronny Yu (who went on to Hollywood to direct FREDDY VS JASON and BRIDE OF CHUCKY), THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR is a classic. It's a lyrical merge of styles - at times, it's highly reminiscent of Ridley Scott's LEGEND. And it's much more kinetic than CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.
The story is typical of Chinese love/revenge dramas and may remind Westerners of ROMEO & JULIET. Based on a Chinese folk tale and set at the end of the Ming Dynasty, two rival clans are at odds. Brigitte Lin stars as Lien Ni Chang, a female assassin raised by a strange sect ruled by Siamese bisexual twins. (Yes, you heard me.) The late Leslie Cheung is Yi Hang, the top swordsman from the rival Wu Tang clan.
Lien Ni Chang is a deadly female warrior who is particularly nasty with a whip that can decapitate or vivisect. She punctuates her kills with a few barbed quips. Because she was raised as an orphan, she owes her allegiance to the bizarre Siamese twins though during a chance encounter, she meets Yi Hang.
Not realizing that he is from the Wu Tang clan, she begins to fall in love with him. Love changes all so this female warrior decides she will not kill again. Yi Hang also vows his undying love and trust. The two decide they will elope.
When Lien Ni Chang tells the twins that she is in love and wants to leave the sect, they warn her that she will not be welcomed back. Fueled by jealousy, the twins also warn her that her love and trust are invested in the wrong man and that she will be betrayed. Lien Ni Chang decides to leave the sect in one of the film's most famous scenes, when she runs a deadly gauntlet to make her exit.
The jealous Siamese twins decide to attack the Wu Tang clan and frame Lien Ni Chang. When Yi Hang returns to see the carnage at Wu Tang headquarters, he immediately blames Lien Ni Chang. When she arrives in her traditional Chinese red wedding dress, Yi Hang accuses her of the slaughter. In a scene that is as vivid as a silent movie, Lien Ni Chang's hair goes white as she explodes with anger at his betrayal. She goes beserk and begins her revenge.
Story sounds familiar? Tell it to Quentin Tarantino and Uma since KILL BILL sounds pretty close.
THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR will always be known for its superb casting. Brigitte Lin, now married and retired, was a stunning actress who created a vivid character of love and betrayal. With an incredibly expressive face, she says more with her eyes like a silent film star of yesteryear. It's no surprise that she's still revered as a major star in Asia. Hers is a full-blooded performance that is carefully balanced with the slightly weaker Leslie Cheung's 'sensitive guy' portrayal of a rebellious young soldier.
The movie hasn't aged perfectly. It suffers from a Hong Kong soundtrack which means soapy bubble-gum canto-pop ballads (by Leslie Cheung) during love scenes and tender moments. The special effects are still pretty good but the sound effects are dated - if you've seen Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD, you'll know what I mean. And the frenetic camerawork shows you where Raimi got his moves.
Unlike CROUCHING TIGER's slo-mo ballet where kung fu fighters gently defy gravity, THE BRIDE's warriors kick hard. You really believe that they can jump 20 feet into the air. The fighting choreography is amazing, with a stylized brutality that I haven't seen until... well, until KILL BILL.
Sam Raimi desperately tried to get Brigitte Lin to come out of retirement for an episode of XENA. If Lien Ni Chang's story sounds familiar, it's because Raimi based his Warrior Princess on her as well. The female warrior or female general has been a classic Chinese archetype for thousands of years and thousands of folk tales so it's wonderful to see that spirit burn brightly in KILL BILL and in the must-see THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR.
Though I'm mixed on Tarantino's own work, he has definitely done a lot to raise the profile of Hong Kong cinema - clearly the source of his own muse. It gives movie-goers the opportunity to look for the movies which inspired him, perhaps for inspiration of their own.
THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR is available on video with English subtitles.