|Beware sneaky, sword-wielding EUNUCHS!!!|
Dir. King Hu
Starring: Bai Ying, Miao Tien, Han Ying-chieh, Shih Chun, Cho Kin, Hsieh Han
Review By Greg Klymkiw
In the middle of nowhere lies the last outpost before the border, a godforsaken hellhole called the Dragon Gate Inn. This is where political exiles are banished to during the Ming Dynasty of ancient China. When the cruel Emperor executes one of his officials, the unfortunate's family are booted out of town and sent packing to the ends of the earth. Sadly, exile isn't their only problem since the big bad ruler has sent a nasty eunuch to spy on them and eventually effect their deathly eradication from the planet.
Like some mad kung-fu spaghetti western, a whole passel of deadly killers descend upon the Inn and we're treated to intrigue and action.
King Hu was one of the grand masters of cinema and his masterpiece Dragon Inn was recently afforded a gorgeous 4K digital restoration - all the better to take in the sumptuous vistas, cleverly composed (and designed) interiors and the astounding choreography and direction of some of the most stirring sword fights and hand-to-hand combat ever wrought within martial arts movies. Hu's frame is always lively, his moves masterful and his sense of spatial geography always dead-on.
Here you'll have the opportunity to witness a director at the peak of his considerable powers, working in tandem with ace choreographer and action helmer Han Ying-chieh. Between the two of them, Dragon Inn is one of the most thrilling martial arts pictures of all time.
This is a film which influenced Tsui Hark, John Woo, Jacky Chan, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou and yes, Quentin Tarantino. It's a classic in all respects. Best of all, it feels like it could have been made yesterday.
The skill and technique on display has not dated one single, solitary bit and you'll constantly be catching your breath, doing double takes and needing to pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming. And even though it feels as modern as all get-out in terms of its movie-making sophistication and savvy, the fact truly remains that they actually don't make 'em like this anymore.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
DRAGON INN is a special TIFF CINEMATHEQUE presentation at TIFF 2014. The 4K Digital restoration is by the Chinese Taipei Film Archive at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna from the original negative. The film's cinematographer Hui-ying Hua personally supervised the colour grading. For further info, visit the TIFF website HERE.
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