NOW SHOWING : PAINTED SKIN: THE RESURRECTION (Mandarin)
Directed by Wu’ershan
Starring Vicki Zhao Wei, Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Yang Mi, Feng Shao-feng and Fei Xiang
Duration 135 minutes
Rating PG 13
SEVERAL years ago, Chinese fantasy movies were the vogue. The fad started with Tsui Hark’s The Legend of Zu and the Pang Brothers’ The Storm Riders, which were based on Ma Wing-shing’s comic book series, Fung Wan.
In recent years, the genre was resurrected with bigger budgets and breath-taking special effects, seen in movies like Wilson Yip’s A Chinese Fairy Tale and The Sorcerer andWhite Snake by Tony Ching.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection is a sequel to the highly acclaimed 2008 fantasy movie, Painted Skin, which was directed by Gordon Chan. In Resurrection, director Wu’ershan never rushes to tell his story. Instead, the director, who made his debut in The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman last year, takes his time to draw his audience’s attention into the storyline. The result is a satisfying viewing experience with great cinematography and a good script as well.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection tells the tale of Xiao Wei (Zhou Xun), a thousand-year-old fox spirit, who is imprisoned under a frozen lake as punishment for violating the demon laws. Her beauty attracts a bird spirit, Que’r (Yang Mi), who breaks the ice and frees Xiao Wei.
To regain her youth and beauty, Xiao Wei devours human hearts, and her first victim is the prince of Tian Liang Kingdom. But Princess Jing (Vicki Zhao Wei) of the Han Dynasty has been betrothed to the Prince to maintain peace between the two kingdoms. The marriage turns out to be a trick by the Queen (Chen Ting-jia) of Tian Liang kingdom and its chief wizard (Fei Xiang) to reincarnate the dead prince through black magic using Jing’s heart.
Based loosely on Pu Song-ling’s classic short stories in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, Painted Skin 2 has little or no connection with the first instalment. The sequel has the underlying theme of inner beauty.
The biggest selling point of the movie is its compact storyline. Every detail is told in a compelling way that leaves the audience glued to their seats the entire time.
For example, the love story between Princess Jing and General Huo Xin is developed well without giving too many unnecessary details. At the same time, their ephemeral love story does not overpower the movie and allows the fantasy story about the fox spirit to move along comfortably.
The special effects in this movie is slightly better than in the first part too. Wu’ershan is in his comfort zone as he plays with a lot of slow motion shots as well as panning technique which fans of his earlier films like Butcher will immediately notice. He knows exactly when to go easy on the effects or to use it fully.
Zhou Xun gives a wonderful performance despite playing the main antagonist in the movie as the seductive fox spirit. She has come a long way since her debut in 1991 in the Old Grave. It wasn’t until 2005 that she won a string of Best Actress awards, including at the Taipei Golden Horse Awards and the Hong Kong Film Awards for her role as Sun Na in Perhaps Love.
Also onboard is Zhao Wei, who first caught viewers’ attention in the popular Chinese series, My Fair Princess. It was reported in a Chinese daily that the friendship between both actresses soured after competition between them became intense. However, Zhao Wei, who is in her 30s, has improved by leaps and bounds after her breakthrough role in the series. She carries her emotional scenes well compared to her co-star, Chen Kun, who plays the general.
While some might complain of the film’s length, viewers should have faith in Wu’ershan’s judgement in telling the story.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection moves away from the typical fantasy film known for its cheesy effects. There are quite a few comedy scenes as well as some laughable black magic rituals that seem unnecessary. Putting that aside, the movie could be one of the greatest fantasy films this year.