Friday, September 26, 2008

Painted Skin: the good, the bad and the ugly

From the ancient Chinese Classic Ghost Stories (or Liao Zhai) comes the new Asian film, Painted Skin.

Painted Skin stars Chen Kun as General Wang Sheng. While leading his soldiers in a bandit raid, he rescues a beautiful woman from the bandit’s lair. Little does he know that that woman, Xiao Wei, played by Zhou Xun, is actually a fox spirit that has taken on the form of a human

The fox demon needs to consume human hearts to maintain this shapeshift and the job of finding her the supply lies with Xiao Yi, a chameleon spirit played by Qi Yu Wu.

Inevitably, Xiao Yi also falls for the beautiful Xiao Wei and carries out a series of murders to provide her with fresh human hearts in his futile attempts to prove his love for her. There's one slight problem: Xiao Wei has already fallen for the brave general and attempts to steal him from the general’s wife, Pei Rong (Vicki Zhao)

Meanwhile, Pei Rong suspects that Xiao Wei is not human and that she is in love with General Wang Sheng. She then approaches martial art exponent Pang Yong (Donnie Yen) and demon slayer Xia Bing (Sun Li) to help her find out the truth.

The Good…
The movie offers an exciting array of fighting scenes for the action packed lovers. Together with the brilliant plot that is propelled mostly by Pei Rong’s sacrificial love, these two elements created an exciting yet extremely touching film.

The film provides an intricate mix of lust and love in the relationships in the movie. It leaves you to wonder whether each relationship in the movie is one based on lust or love and often forces you to rethink as the story progresses.

A little bit of magic, demons in love with humans, humans in love with other humans, good fighting scenes, a tear jerking storyline… these make up a perfect solution for a nice Liao Zhai adaptation.

I also loved how the movie did not use too many scenes with demons practising magic. This revolutionary style of execution is definitely a more modern and realistic story compared to other adaptations

The story also had a good twist at the end.

The Bad…
Towards the end of the movie with the heartwrenching unveiling of the truth, the unfortunate timing of a few sadistically funny scenes prior to that killed the perfect moment. It was a real turnoff.

If not for the speed at which the seriousness was brought back, it would have spoilt the movie at the best parts.

Till the end of the story I still could not figure out why the English title is Painted Skin. Does it refer to the fa├žades that the demons put on, or does its true meaning allude to the superficiality of the various characters’ love for one another?

I rest that case and leave you to decide for yourself.

The Ugly…
The scaly skin makeup on Qi Yu Wu’s forehead — self-explanatory.


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