The Bride With White Hair (1993) dir. Ronny Yu
Once when I was in high school I picked up a cult Asian movie magazine from Barnes N’ Noble. This was before a lot of this stuff was available on video and the DVD cult revolution was still years away. Many of these films were only available through underground catalogues. They were expensive and the quality was often dubious. This magazine in particular covered mainly sexploitation roughies. However, a section of it covered more mainstream Asian fare and included was a review of Ronny Yu’s ‘The Bride With White Hair’ that was over the rainbow in its praise of the film. I never forgot the film and years later when I got a DVD player it was one of the first DVDs I bought. While not a masterpiece rivaling ‘Citizen Kane’ as the review had claimed, it is certainly a classic of Chinese cinema and in my opinion, one of the best fantasy films ever made.
An evil cult has been terrorizing the land and a famed warrior falls in love with the cult’s chief enforcer. This is a dark fantasy ‘Romeo & Juliet’ story. Brigitte Lin and Leslie Cheung are perfectly cast and their chemistry is uncanny. They hold the tragedy of their characters’ destinies in the palms of their hands with the weight it deserves. This is forbidden love at its most fierce.
Director Ronny Yu has razor sharp instincts. He knows you can’t confuse action with soul when it comes to these types of films. The action sequences can only be as good as their emotional content. The way he blends the two here is nothing short of remarkable. Many of the images her are iconic as well. No way around it. You won’t be able to shake some of these shots. Peter Pau sealed his reputation as a cinematographer with this one. The work of a master.
This film is mounted on an epic scale though it is only 92 minutes long. Not many films that go for that scope with such a short running time can pull it off. Usually, something feels missing or seems off. But not here. It all feels deserved and earned. Though the same can’t be said for the cheesy song that plays over the end credits sequence. Woof! No offense to all you early 90s Asian synth pop fans out there but…
Ronny Yu would later have to flee China for political reasons and washed up on Hollywood’s gold encrusted shores to make movies like ‘Bride Of Chucky’ and ‘Freddy Vs. Jason’. He would not come close to making another film of this caliber until ‘Fearless’ starring Jet Li in 2006.