When it comes to the wuxia film, all roads lead back to the great King Hu: supreme fantasist, Ming dynasty scholar, and incomparable artist. For years, Hu labored on his own, creating one exquisitely crafted film after another (with astonishing pre-CGI visual effects), elevating the martial-arts genre to unparalleled heights and, as the film critic and producer Peggy Chiao noted in her obituary for Hu, single-handedly introducing Chinese cinema to the rest of the world. Hu’s three-years-in-the-making masterpiece, A Touch of Zen, was released in truncated form in Hong Kong in 1971 and yanked from theaters after a week. A close-to-complete version was constructed by Hu and shown at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, where he won a grand prize for technical achievement (and earned an apology from his studio heads). This beautiful restoration of A Touch of Zen was presented at this year’s edition of Cannes, 40 years after the film’s first unveiling to Western eyes. Restored in 4K by L’Immagine Ritrovata, with original materials provided by the Taiwan Film Institute. A Janus Films release.
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