Feng Hsu, Yueh Sun, Chun Shih
Colour 120 mins
A masterpiece by King Hu. The plot of the film is about choosing a successor to the Abbot in a remote Buddhist monastery. A general and a rich merchant come nominally to help in the selection, but both bring less than holy retainers as they're secretly after a rare scroll by Tripitaka (the historical monk behind the "Journey to the West" Chinese tale).
The film proceeds steadily and magisterly to its turnabout climax. Slowly the would be thieves explore where the scroll is hidden, slowly they clash with each other apparently invisibly top the rest of the monastery. Slowly we explore the factions inside the monastery, how less than spiritual most of the monks are. The film is rooted in Chinese thought, the concept of "wu wei" or "effortless action" permeates what is going on. And permeates too the martial arts action where King Hu has his actors eluding gravity with leaps and bounds.
The Abbot's successor is chosen to the consternation of many, but the thieves take the opportunity to fight over the treasured scroll. Feng Hsu's character (White Fox) is another of King Hu's strong women warriors, an enigmatic paradox.
At the end of the film we learn the true value of the scroll, and everyone gets what they deserve. There are transcendental moments of great Art in this epic film.