19 June 2011

COME DRINK WITH ME (DA ZUI XIA)/1966/KING HU'S

COME DRINK WITH ME (DA ZUI XIA)

1966/Director: King Hu/ Writers: King Hu, Yang Erh

Cast: Cheng Pei Pei, Hua Yueh

Cheng Pei Pei was a formal dancer who Shaw Brother’s actor, set designer and eventually director King Hu cast as the master sword fighter Golden Swallow in the groundbreaking film Come Drink With Me. She was most recently known as Chow Young Fat’s antagonist Jade fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Cheng Pei Pei could easily be said to be the first of the sword fighting women and 1966’s Come Drink With Me was her grand entry into the world of Kung Fu cinema. The film followed the tradition of Wuxia (wu=kung fu, martial arts, xia=hero) literature and films in China. The hero in the tradition is similar to the hero in Japanese Samurai films or the gunfighter in American Westerns. Usually a lone traveler with a code, or on a quest of some nature, confronts a ruthless opponent or gang. There is usually the matter of justice being served or an old score being righted and honor upheld. The film is actually part of a larger tradition of such films from China (Hong Kong) and was not the first one that spawned the genre as is sometimes claimed. The film is memorable for the way the fight scenes are filmed, the way it used music, Hu King’s marvelous sets and of course the lithe and elegant moves of Cheng Pei Pei ( the Hong Kong spelling of her Chinese name).

This film follows the tradition and many martial arts that followed seem greatly influenced by this early classic of the genre. It is not a comedy and the fight scenes are not flashy and hyper by today’s standards but they are finely choreographed. The general storyline tells of the hero Golden Swallow on a quest to free her brother from the hands of a ruthless gang. There is the first confrontation with the gang in a tavern where everyone thinks she is a young man. This is my only complaint about the film and a similarity here exists with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Cheng Pei Pei not for instant resembles a young man or boy, anymore than Zhang Ziyi does in the nearly mirror scene in the Ang Lee (Li Ang) film. There seems to be no reason for them thinking sgge is a boy and later in the film they show no surprise at the fact she is in fact a woman. She meets up with Drunken Cat played by another early star of Kung Fu cinema Yang Erh and soon they are both on the same mission but for different reasons. In the tradition of many Wu Xia Pan films Drunken Cat is on a personal quest to avenge the death of his teacher by another Kung Fu students, whose Kung Fu skills surpass he own, but Drunken Cat is motivated by a just cause.

As in westerns the life of the Wuxia hinges on his Kung Fu and sword skills as he or she travels the land righting wrongs and confronting those who have submitted to the dark temptations of their Kung Fu mastery. One thing I noticed, and liked, about this film was an absence of a music score during the fight scenes as well as the absence of the swooshing sounds the fighter’s feet and hands would later make. It added to the realism. And while there are some super Kung Fu moments like gliding through the air or running up walls it is not as over done as in later movies. This film along with Dragon Gate Inn and A Touch of Zen are considered King Hu’s best works and reviews of those two films are in the works here and will be posted soon.


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