DVD+Digital: True love, bat demons and The Sorcerer and the White Snake | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Friday, April 12, 2013

DVD+Digital: True love, bat demons and The Sorcerer and the White Snake

Posted by on Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 9:20 AM

And now for something completely different.

A loopy Buddhist fable in the shape of a blockbuster action pic, The Sorcerer and the White Snake features several big-name Hong Kong stars battling snakes, demons and one another in ancient China. The movie was a big hit overseas in 2011 and has finally rolled around to home video release in the U.S.

Based on a famous Chinese folk tale, the story concerns Abbot Fahai (Jet Li) — a battle-tested monk who leads his disciples in a perpetual war against the demons of the land. Fahai doesn't kill the demons he defeats. Instead, he traps them in the mystical Lei Feng Pagoda, to reflect upon their sins. The demons are an interesting lot — bat creatures, ice harpies, white foxes and the occasional door mouse.

Meanwhile, a curious snake demon named Susu (the celestially beautiful Eva Huang) assumes human form and rescues a young man from drowning in a mountain lake. The two fall in love and the stage is set for a showdown between the good-hearted demon and the literal-minded demon hunter. Fahai, it seems, does not approve of human/demon mixed marriage.

Sorcerer has some of the most gonzo visual effects you'll see all year, big screen or small. Between the martial arts action and the film's wild assortment of otherworldy beings, you get a real eyeful.

Gonzo does not necessary mean good, however, as evidenced by the second half of Hunter Thompson's career. The film's over-the-top fighting scenes feature the usual impossible swordplay, but also 400-foot snake demons and flying bat warriors that look like cutscenes out of a 2003 PlayStation 2 game.

The cheeseball effects are actually pretty easy to forgive, though, because they're delivered with such glee and grandeur. Director Ching Siu-Tung never met a special effect he didn't like. The most effective visuals in Sorcerer come in the quieter moments — carefully composed shots of underwater choreography, or hundreds of monks meditating under a statue of the Buddha.

Sorcerer is being sold in the West as an action-packed visual spectacular, but I found it was the story elements that made me want to stick around. This is a chance to dig into some of the interesting differences in Eastern mythology and fable. For instance, in one critical scene, Fahai and his monk-warriors face down an army of demons not with sword or staff, but with their honed meditation skills. As the demons attack with illusory feints and seductions, the monks simply turn inward and withdraw their senses. You won't see Aragorn trying this strategy against the Orcs.

The fable's final moments play out in unexpected ways, too. Foes are vanquished, but not in any permanent sense, and there's a feeling that this will all play out again in future incarnations.

The Sorcerer and the White Snake is the kind of film you have to switch gears for. Take the movie's folk tale charm on its own terms and you'll find an exotic adventure with a strange and gentle sense of humor. Then the fox demons attack.

Also New This Week:

The feature documentary Into The Cold details a harrowing two-man expedition to the North Pole to mark the centennial of Robert E. Peary’s 1909 expedition. Explorer, photographer and environmental activist Sebastian Copeland delivers some never-before-seen footage in startling HD, with some on-the-ground observations on global warming. Dispute this, climate change deniers. Interesting stat: About 3,000 people have summited Mt. Everest in the last 100 years. Around 150 have made it to the North Pole on foot.

Bill Murray stars as Franklin D. Roosevelt in the underwhelming Hyde Park on Hudson.

Those pop culture archivists at Shout! Factory have assembled yet another nostalgia pack with Howdy Kids!! A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup.

Plus: Still more documentary releases with Planet Ocean, Love Free or Die and Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War.

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Instead of luxury apartments(AHEM Carborro) and new restaurants, build more parking?!(Just one parking garage would help a lot, cover it …

by ammi on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

The last thing Chapel Hill needs is another damn restaurant.

by Chrysser on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

Wow. I guess you can't recognize brilliant satire when you see it. This was an amazing performance that if you …

by Sam Bayer on ADF Review: Hillel Kogan's We Love Arabs Lags Behind a Cultural Conversation Already Well Underway in Our Region's Performing Arts Scene (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation