Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Seven Swords

Chris and I headed out to the Seattle International Film Festival again last night for a screening of Tsui Hark's Seven Swords, a film that adapts the wuxia novel The Seven Swordsmen from the Mountain Tian by Liang Yu Sheng.

Originally shot as a four-hour epic, the version of the film that played at SIFF has had 90 minutes chopped out of it. Unfortunately, the film is irrepairably harmed by the brutal, choppy editing. The quest for Mount Heaven, the formation of titular seven swords, what the heck is going on with the fleeing villagers from Martial Village are all obscured or obliterated. There is quite literally a scene where two characters are running through a storm on moment and the next are laying fur-clad in an icy fotress while characters we've never seen before carry on choppy dialog about who is going to give up/uphold which vows to join the quest. You could feel the audience's collective "Wha?" as the film ricochetted through the set-up.

Some of the editing choices I do not understand at all and it's possible that I'm missing some cultural significance that would explain why, instead of giving us any hint whatsoever to the characters and their motiviations or backgrounds, we see the Seven Swords ride off to spend 15 seconds looking at the sunrise together after a tense battle. At points later in the movie, they try to fill in a bit of the characters' backgrounds with "flash-backs" that I suspect were never intended to be flash-backs at all. "Remember that time we were in this field you've never seen, talking about this thing we never talked about?" And let's not even get into why one of the main character's names is subtitled "Han" but every time anyone calls to him they call "Chiba". At least in A Better Tomorrow when they translate A-Git to "Kit" the names are remotely similar. Ah, the trials of the subtitled foreign film...

So, editing issues aside, how was the movie? I'm torn. There are several things that I want to like about it. The locations and scenic shots were great, the costuming was interesting, the ensemble cast were all quite good. Donnie Yen as the brooding, hunky romantic lead worked just fine and boy, the climactic battle in the hallway nearly made up for all the clunky, goofy fight scenes with the evil goths and their decaptiating umbrellas and spiked frizbees.

I think I'm going to wait to see the whole, uncut film before I make a firm decision.


for this post

Leave a Reply