Old School Kung Fu Festival at the Metrograph

    The 10th anniversary of The Old School Kung Fu Festival begins this Friday, April 21 at the NYC’s Metrograph Theater. The annual event is co-presented by Subway Cinema, a New York non-profit dedicated to the exhibition and appreciation of Asian popular cinema. Go here for more information and tickets.

    This year’s festival focuses on Kung Fu films from Taiwan, particularly Taiwanese wuxia (sword fighting hero) films. King Hu’s 1967 film “Dragon Inn” sparked new interest in the genre due to his masterful compositions and editing and his pioneering use of trampolines to catapult fighters into the air.

    Shih Chun in “The King of Wuxia”

    The festival will present the US premiere of The King of Wuxia, a 3-plus hours documentary about King Hu. The marathon-length doc is never boring, though some time may have been cut by not having so many Hu quotes displayed as title cards. Other martial arts film masters such as John Woo testify to Hu’s influence and genius. There are painstaking reconstructions of how the visually dashing stunts were created for his films, accompanied by two percussionists who do thrilling live demonstrations of how drum sounds were coordinated with the action. Director Lin Jing-Jie does a great job of documenting the inspiration of the Peking Opera in Hu’s balletic fight scenes.

    One of Hu’s lead actors, Shih Chun, revisits some of the locations used in his films, contrasting their current condition with their appearance in Hu’s work. Hu preferred locations, we are told, that were difficult to get to and his brilliant use of nature is showcased in the bamboo forest scene in his 1970 masterpiece A Touch of Zen.

    Illness and lack of funds plagued the last years of Hu’s life and this remarkable film does a fine job of recognizing what a master of action cinema he was.

    Along with A Touch of Zen, his films The Valiant Ones and The Fate of Lee Khan will be screened.

    Also screening at the festival:

    All three movies in the Tsai Ying-jie Trilogy: Joseph Kuo’s The Swordsman of All Swordsman (US premiere of the new digital restoration), The Bravest Revenge (online only), and Ghost Hill.

    The action heroes of Kung Fu are often played by women: four films will be screened starring actress Hsu Feng (A Touch of Zen, The Fate of Lee Khan, The Valiant OnesA City Called Dragon), four starring Polly Shang-kuan (Swordsman of All Swordsmen, Ghost Hill, Grand PassionThe Bravest Revenge), and one starring Josephine Siao Fong-fong (The Daring Gang of Nineteen From Verdun City), filmed when she was only 12-years-old.

    Vengeance of the Phoenix Sisters, a 1968 film that combines wuxia with a French new wave influence.

    The Legend of the Sacred Stone, an all-puppet wuxia from master puppeteers the Huang family.

    Hou Hsiao-hsien’s 2015 tribute to the wuxia genre The Assassin.

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