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Hong Kong, 1978 (MIFF 1980, Programme 16)

Director: King Hu

King Hu is already known to Festival audiences for his brilliant film The Valiant Ones (MFF, 1975), and since that film he has now completed two productions, Legend of the Mountain and Raining in the Mountain, shot back to back over 15 months in Korea.

Since their completion, King Hu's name is back among the leading directors of the world and his work is once more being seen and discussed in many quarters and quarterlies.

As an eminent sinologist, King Hu's films are always based on historical records and one of the reasons for his long shooting schedules is his meticulous attention to all matters of detail. In addition to this, however, he is a master film-maker and his films have an extraordinary sweep and grace. He is one of the few major directors in the world still using cinemascope (a ratio still widely used in Hong Kong, though), and his employment of it can be compared to such a master as Nicholas Ray.

With regard to Raining in the Mountain, Tony Rayns wrote for the film's London festival appearance - "King Hu describes his major new film as dealing with a 'power struggle in a Ming Dynasty monastery', but that tells only half the story. The retiring Abbot of the huge San Pao Temple must choose between his chief disciples, who are rivals for the succession. He seeks advice from secular friends, but two of them come to the Temple with an ulterior motive: they will go to any lengths to possess the Temple's greatest treasure, a cop of the Mahayana Sutra hand-written by the 7th century monk Tripitaka. The resulting intrigues maintain a scrupulous balance between spiritual strength and physical struggle. As you'd expect from the director of A Touch of Zen and The Fate of Lee Khan, there are moments of great beauty, spectacle, humour and suspense, as well as occasional eruptions of stylised violence. As a whole, though, Raining in the Mountain breaks new ground for Kinc Hu. Its excellent cast is headed by Hsu Feng and Shih Chung (the leads in Zen), and its photography (by newcomer Henry Chan) is supremely fluid."

King Hu Filmography: Born Peking 1931

Sons and Daughters of the Goo Earth (1965), Come Drink with Me (1966), Dragon Gate Inn (1968), Four Moods (episode titled Anger) (1970), Touch of Zen (1972), The Fate of Lee Khan (1974), The Valiant Ones (1975), Raining in the Mountain (1979), Legend of the Mountain (1979).

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