A Touch of Zen

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Posted On: May 5, 2012
Posted In: All Movies, Kung Fu Movie Reviews, Kung Fu Movies, Martial Arts Movies, Shaolin Kung Fu
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This film ranks as #9 on the Hong Kong Film Awards Best 100 Chinese motion pictures of all time and is one of two King Hu films to make the top ten. This Kung Fu classic is a very unusual entry into the cannon of Kung Fu movies and has often been imitated. Thematically, ‘A Touch of Zen’ contemplates the violent asceticism of Zen Buddhism as a means of spiritual enlightenment.

The plot is fairly straightforward, though the mortal combat aspires to spiritual perfection; An artist, Ku, lives with his mother near an abandoned fort, reputed to be haunted. One night, investigating strange noises, he meets the beautiful Yang who is living there. She is being pursued by agents of an Imperial noble who have murdered her family. Ku finds himself caught up in her struggle to survive and many fierce battles take place before all is resolved.

Released in 1971 as a Taiwanese Wuxia film, by renown director King Hu, who is arguably the first true genius of the genre. The film won significant critical acclaim and became the first Chinese language action film ever to win a prize at the Cannes Film Festival, claiming the Technical Grand Prize award.

Although filming began in 1969, A Touch of Zen was not completed until 1971. The original Taiwanese release was in two parts in 1970 and 1971 (filming was still ongoing when the first part was released) with the bamboo forest sequence that concludes Part 1 reprized at the beginning of Part 2; this version has a combined run time of 200 minutes. In November 1971 both parts of the film were combined into one for the Hong Kong market with a run time of 187 minutes. Its running time of over three hours makes it an unusually epic entry in the Wuxia genre. This is one of the greatest Kung Fu classics of all time and a must see for any serious martial arts fan! Thomas DiSanto