Directed by Tsui Hark
Produced by Tsui Hark
Written by Raymond To
Starring Brigitte Lin, Sally Yeh, Cherie Chung, Wu Ma, Cheung Kwok-Keung, Paul Chun Pui, Ku Feng, Kenneth Tsang, Huang Ha, Poon Hang-Sang, and Mark Cheng
Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues has acquired itself a bit of cult classic prestige in the West, my senses tell me it is due to a certain Tarantino. Apparently, the film is little known today in its home countries which are sad. Such a film deserves to be remembered for its great quality. Peking Opera Blues is a fusion of many genres which are notably are a political drama, slapstick comedy, thriller but at its heart, it is a martial art action film even though much of the cast aren’t martial artists. But the film doesn’t solely rely on its action scene for entertainment like most martial art films.
Underlying the film is a great effort it takes to cast a social commentary on gender roles in the 1920s China where women are even barred from acting in a role as a woman in plays. Oddly enough, Brigitte Lin’s character undercuts this entire gender limitation by becoming a woman dressed as a man. Her character is probably the closest thing the film has to a main character but it’s more of an ensemble film. But each of the main cast is solid enough to stand on their own and their struggles are personal enough that the viewers are able to connect with them. The solidarity that develops between the cast feels authentic thanks to a solid performance by everyone. Although the male members of the cast are the underdeveloped, this doesn’t seem necessarily like a bad thing.
The film being driven more by female characters fits into the central ”feminist” if you can call it that overtone of the movie. The male characters although not given characters arc of their own but they do complement the female character pretty well. A bit odd that the gesture of the supposed romances seems to go nowhere. The title seems odd at first but the Peking opera is basically a set piece for many of their plans and almost as a result becoming their savior in many ways.
Previously, I said it is a martial art film, but that shouldn’t give the impression that this is a kung fu film but the film isn’t or at least, not in the traditional way. On the surface, it seems like a simple movie, it probably still is, but the film strives to be more; the execution of the film is helped by the fact it is a hodgepodge of many genres at once. Elevating the film to greatness. Despite being so many things at one, it doesn’t forget to be fun in the end.
I wrote this review for IDMB on January 29, 2017, but I had it removed from there and put it on my blog instead.