Chen Kaige is an acclaimed Chinese filmmaker I have no familiarity with. Too classy for me, I guess. Now I finally watched one, but not one of his famous ones from the ‘80s or ‘90s, it’s his 14th film, a straight up kung fu movie from 2015 called MONK COMES DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. And the reason is because it’s based on a book by Xu Haofeng, who wrote Wong Kar Wai’s THE GRANDMASTER and directed THE SWORD IDENTITY, JUDGE ARCHER and THE FINAL MASTER. I adore his style and his themes and his two most recent (THE HIDDEN SWORD and 100 YARDS) aren’t available here yet, so I’ll take what I can get.
This is a good one but totally different from those other movies I mentioned. The ones Xu directs have a very artful economy and restraint to them, the compositions and camera movements are often very classical, the fighting styles are uniquely straightforward, often based around quick, simple movements rather than flying around all over the place. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I love flying around all over the place, but I like how distinct this other approach is.
MONK COMES DOWN THE MOUNTAIN is not that. Nor is it a TV movie starring Tony Shalhoub. It’s a big show-offy kung fu fantasy, with lots of digital FX, some of them pretty goofy. It was released in 3D Imax, and (unlike American movies, which are too cowardly to do 3D stuff in 3D movies) you can tell. And it’s often comedic in a broad, muggy kind of way. Xu’s movies tend to have a much dryer humor. (read the rest of this shit…)