Film reviews

The Bride With White Hair (1993) – Blu-ray Review

The Bride With White Hair is the latest Hong Kong cinema release from Eureka Entertainment, and joins an ever expanding catalogue of entertaining wuxia films.

The story follows Cho Yat-Hamg (Leslie Cheung), who was raised to be a chivalrous swordsman by the leaders of a Wudang Scet. Over the years we see that Cho is something of a maverick, often getting into trouble for acting out and doing what he sees as right. One of these misadventures sees him being chased by a pack of wolves, before he’s saved by a mysterious young girl.

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Years later, Cho is tasked with leading a coalition of warriors from the eight martial arts sects against an evil demon cult that is spreading through the lands. However, Cho soon discovers that one of the powerful warriors within the cult, Lie Ni-Chang (Bridgette Lin), is the girl who saved him from wolves years before, and who has been in his heart ever since. Fleeing the battle together, these two opposing warriors declare their love for each other and decide to leave their old lives behind to be together; but fate would seem to have other plans for them.

The Bride With White Hair is one of the later Hong-Kong wuxia movies that I’ve seen, having been made in 1993, but it still has a lot in common with many of the other films in the genre; so much in fact that I was surprised to learn that the film was from the 90s, it feeling much more like a production from at least a decade before. A lot of this has to do with the look of the film.

It has some great production values at times, and some of the sets are huge constructions, but I’m struggling to think of any scenes in the movie that were set at daytime. The fact that most of the film, if not all of it, is set at night definitely changes the look and feel of the movie, and many of the scenes are dark and oppressive. I’m sure that this was done as a deliberate choice to add to the downbeat feel of the film, but it also makes it feel like the production is somewhat limited, that perhaps some of it was set at night so that flaws or lack of budget could be hidden in the darkness.

A lot of the drabness of the locations are offset with the brightness of costume and characters, particularly those members of the evil Mo cult that plays host to the conjoined villains Gei Mou-Seung (Francis Ng and Elaine Lui). The scenes with the cult are filled with bright costumes, half naked dancing, Africanised props, and wild orgies. These scenes definitely stand out from amongst the more down to earth and historically accurate parts of the movie, especially as the dual nature of the villain is shrouded in secrecy for a good portion of the film, leaving the audience to try to figure out what it is they’re seeing.

Overall, however, the film has a somewhat dour tone to it, and left me feeling somewhat deflated due to the decision of director Ronny Yu to break away from the traditional happy ending narrative, and take a leaf out of Romeo and Juliet‘s book of having love lead to tragedy. Despite this, the film is still hugely interesting, and kept me entertained throughout.

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Along with this new 4k restoration the new Blu-ray release also comes with a pair of audio commentaries, one with director Ronny Lu, and another with Asian film expert Frank Djeng, both of which offer some great insight into the making of the film, and its place in cinema and the impact that it had. There are also a number of interviews included, if you’re still left wanting to learn more about the film.

The Bride With White Hair is out now on Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment as part of their Classics range.

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