The Water Margin (Sui woo juen)

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The Water Margin (Sui woo juen)

Postby Nau of Sands » Thu 17 Nov, 2005 22:23

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THE WATER MARGIN

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thanks to the success of several chinese movies these last years, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, DVD editors are now realising dozens of Hong Kong classical Kung Fu films from the 70s or 80s.

Among these is The Water Margin, aka Outlaws of the Marsh. It is among the countless adaptations of the classical chinese book The Water Margin about the stories of the 108 Bandits (that is the 36 heavenly warriors and the 72 hearthly warriors) who rallied the hero Song Jiang in his quest for true justice against the corrupted Song dynasty administration in the 11th century.

The main reason I get interrested in this movie is that I did actually read the entire book, and I consider it to be among the greatests achievements of my life  :roll: , since The Bible, in comparison, looks like the quick summary of a short story  :P . It took me months (partly because this is the kind of book you have to read with all the little notes down page in order to understand a single word of what is going on  :( ) but was worth it (even if I ll wait some time before reading another one of its kind, but i will do it, well yes, i confess I am a masochist if you want to know  :D ).

Well, back to the movie  :bounce:

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The Shaw Brothers Project :
Since the story is still popular today in China and that it is one of the main source for Kung Fu stories, the Shaw Bros decided to do their version. It was intended to be popular but prestigious, and the producers hired among the best Kung Fu stars of the time : David Chiang, Lung Ti, Kuan Tai Chen, Wang Chung, Ku Feng, Lily Ho, Feng Chin, Miao Ching and even japanese actors reinforcing the crew : Tetsuro Tamba, Toshio Kurosawa.

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The budget was huge for the time, and the Shaw brothers chose Chang Cheh as the main director, for they considered him as their most talented and reliable director of the moment, who realesed over 100 movies for the Shaws, including the legendary The One Armed Swordsman andThe New One Armed Swordsman. But the movies is corealised by Li Pao Hsueh and Wu Ma and several assistants were on the set, among them a young John Woo.

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The Plot :
Chang Cheh chose to tell one of the stories of the book, the story of the arrival of Lu Jun Yi among the 108 outlaws. Song Jiang and his companions want to recruit him as he is an amazing Kung-Fu fighter and is likely to be one of the few able to defeat Shi Wengong , a new recruit of the corrupted administration.

But, even if he knows that the so-called outlaws are actually righteous wise Martial Arts brothers, Lu Jun Yi turns Song Jiang's offer, as he wants to remain faithful to the Emperor. But he ignores that a treacherous Intendant lurks after his wife and goods, and is going to denounce Lu Jun Yi as an ally of the Outlaws. As this false accusation arranges the local authorities, happy to get rid of this righteous man, Lu Yun Yi is jailed and soon sentenced to death.

In the meantime, Song Jiang and the 108 heroes feel they are partly responsible in Lu Yun Yi disgrace and decide to come to help him, as a duty for true Kung Fu followers. A path of rebellion, treachery and vengeance sets up, conducted by action.

(it mays sound complicated like that, but actually this is quite simple :p it is a Kung Fu movie, don t worry)

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The number of characters has been limited to 8, a special mention must be done to the character of Li Kui, the Black Whirlpool. He is among the best Kung Fu fighters but is direct and clumsy in his behaviour. When he wants to hit someone, he does it whatever are the consequences. Happily he is here, because he often re-launches the action when the movie is slowing down and brings a comical touch.

The character of Yen Ching is over-present in the movie because of the star status of David Chiang at the time. The reasons of this characters appearances in the movie are not always clear, but bring variety to it (and much subtelty as an actor, see the pic below :p). Actually it seems that the director Chang Cheh admired him, and overexposed him at every occasion.

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The Kung Fu :
The Shaw Brothers asked the action directors Tong Gaai and Lau Kar-leung a very specific job : respect as much as possible the Kung Fu as it is depicted in the book. This led to strange choregraphies closer to wrestling than the Kung Fu of others movies of the time.

Some people dislike the movie partly for this reason, but it seems that the choregraphers have done a difficult job of "archeology in Kung Fu", and would have been displeased to betray the fights of the time.

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I find the fights impressive, they drive the action and were done without special effects. Their relative lack of acrobaty does not make them simple, as many complicated fights can take place at the same moment, it even seems that it has been one of the most difficult kung fu movies for actors and stunts.

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The Movie :
This is a great Kung Fu movie, not conventionnal with all his characters. This a mix of various styles such as epics, comedy, pure kung fu, quite violent in its story which is reflected in the fights.

It can disarray the fans of more "classical" Kung Fu movies, as there is no quest of a main charcater, but it remains a great work of cinema and action. The music is strange as it looks like a mix of western music with indie rock of the 70s, a bit weird but somehow fits.

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I like it, for this mix of styles that can make it appear unbalanced an think it deserves a 5/6 for it is a really nice moment to watch it, and does not look like any other Kung Fu film.

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Postby Wulf » Thu 17 Nov, 2005 23:57

Ahhh... this brings back memories of the old 70s TV series about the knights of Liang-Shan-Po...  check this out - I've been planning on getting the DVDs for ages.

I remember describing it to my friends as a Japanese production of the Chinese legend of Robin Hood - close enough, I think ;)

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Postby Cold Can » Wed 23 Nov, 2005 18:37

I must check this out. As old git I remember the classic 70s TV series complete with some very dubious use of english in the dubbing translation. Epic series. Will watch the movie but did the series ever come out on DvD. Much better then the very silly Monkey series around the same time but nowhere near as good as The Flashing Blade.
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Postby Wulf » Thu 24 Nov, 2005 10:57

Cold Can wrote:Will watch the movie but did the series ever come out on DvD.


look Here :D

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Postby Cold Can » Sat 26 Nov, 2005 20:03

Ah looks like another xmas prezzie sorted. Hope she likes it!!! :lol:
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