King Hu in Taiwan

June 5-7, 2014

All screenings take place at the Museum of Photographic Arts
1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

Tickets are $10 for the general public, $8 for MOPA and Pac-Arts members.

Before the martial arts film was a performer’s genre, it belonged to master directors like Chang Cheh and Lau Kar-leung. And amongst directors, none was as revered, as impeccable in his craft, and as wildly creative as King Hu. While other directors experimented across genres and unleashed countless films per year, Hu was the perfectionist with a razor-sharp vision of Chinese aesthetics and philosophy, and how those principles could translate into bravura action editing, elaborate staging, and cutting-edge special effects – all in the realm of the wuxia film, setting the stage for future masters like Tsui Hark and Ang Lee. While Hu was born in Beijing and cut his teeth with the Shaw Bros. in Hong Kong, the itinerant scholar-director made his greatest films in the then-exploding Taiwanese film industry of the 1960s and early 70s. With two newly-restored prints, “King Hu in Taiwan” explores the filmmaker at his prime, and is the first spotlight on Hu ever in San Diego.

DRAGON INN (1967, 111 mins)
Newly restored 35mm print!
Thursday, June 5, 7pm

The box office sensation that made King Hu’s reputation as a stylist, storyteller, and innovator, Dragon Inn is Hu at his cinematic nimblest. Wandering heroes, imperial guards, and escaped siblings converge at Dragon Inn, the wilderness pit stop that would go on to become one of the most storied settings of the wuxia genre. Within this and other confined spaces, Hu would deploy an arsenal of tightly choreographed trickery that would go on to become his signature.

A TOUCH OF ZEN (1971, 186 mins)
Newly restored HD print!
Friday, June 6, 7pm

While Hu had already been credited for bringing the woman warrior to the forefront of the swordplay film, A Touch of Zen is the apotheosis of his efforts. This is King Hu’s magnum opus, at once a sprawling epic drama of religious proportions and an anthology of brilliant action set pieces, including one that famously inspired the bamboo forest scene in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Just as iconic is star Hsu Feng — hair tied up, sword in hand, eyes ready for the kill.

THE VALIANT ONES (1975, 107 mins)
Saturday, June 7, 7pm

King Hu’s later wuxia films see him in his baroque period. The lashings are maximized, the choreography whirs with an excess of flair and invention, and the villains — in this case a gang of Japanese pirates, including one played by a young Sammo Hung — are as uncompromising as the Ming Dynasty heroes are fearless. This is King Hu at his mostly boundless and his artistic vision at its most rambunctious and even abstract, culminating in one of the genre’s most show-stopping finales ever.

With support from Taiwan Ministry of Culture, Taiwan Academy (Los Angeles), Museum of Photographic Arts, U.S. Trust

Special thanks to Wendy Hau of the Hong Kong Film Archive, Teresa Huang of the Chinese Taipei Film Archive, and James Wicks of Point Loma Nazarene University