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February 11, 2006

That Fiery Girl


Gong la Jiao
Yan Jun - 1968
Celestial Pictures Region 3 DVD

At the 2002 Denver International Film Festival, several vintage films from The Shaw Brothers were screened in advance of the Celestial Pictures DVD releases. Cheng Pei-Pei attended the showing of Come Drink with Me. Like many people in the audience, the only previous film I had seen with her was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. While my knowledge of Chinese language films was limited to a few titles, I could recognize that Ang Lee had essentially made a bigger budget version of a King Hu movie. Until I had checked Ms. Cheng's filmography, I was unaware that she was a Hong Kong star who paved the way for her younger Crouching Tiger co-stars, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi. More than thirty years before Crouching Tiger's sword, Green Destiny, was fought over, Cheng appear as "Red Chili".

That Fiery Girl doesn't have King Hu's religious and mystical motifs, and the fight choreography and wire work are somewhat clunky compared to the pyrotechnics initiated by Tsui Hark. The film is good-natured silliness beginning with an overly literal title sequence filmed in a building in flames. That Fiery Girl is the swordfighting equivalent of a B Western, the kind one enjoys because of the familiarity of the actors, the plot and even the twists in the plot. Reinforcing that the film is entertaining, if not original, is the music. I wouldn't be able to identify how much of the score was from other films, but at one point Elmer Bernstein's familiar themes from The Magnificent Seven popped up. With Asian martial arts films and American westerns informing each other over the years, one could say the quoting of Bernstein was a musical reminder that what goes around, comes around.

Posted by peter at February 11, 2006 06:04 PM