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Review A Chinese Ghost Story a.k.a. Sien nui yau wan (1987): Hong Kong cinema at it's best!

genre: action, comedy, fantasy, horror, romance







Easily one of my most favourite Hong Kong films mainly because of it's refusal to be tied to a specific genre and it's kinetic energy. Even today the film is quite insane and without a doubt a true classic.

For a long time I was under the impression that producer Tsui Hark also had directed the film. Tony Ching a.k.a. Ching Siu-tung is officially credited as the director. But it is firmly believed that Tsui Hark has undoubtedly hijacked the direction since he usually is the creative force behind the films he produces. And that is one of the reasons why he and John Woo clashed concerning the A Better Tomorrow films. But who is responsible for what exactly? All I can say that it is pretty obvious that Tsui Hark has put his own unique style and mark on this production and that you can be certain that Tony Ching made the action scenes pop on the screen. Maybe he did far more. As far as I am concerned they are a match made in heaven.

Another pair that explode on the screen are Joey Wong and Leslie Cheung. I don't think the film would have been quite as magical if they weren't in it. You buy their romance as they have amazing chemistry plus Leslie is oozing charisma. His character is far from the heroic type and yet you root for him all the way because of his innocence and nobility. At the time Joey Wong was a revelation as she is beautiful and graceful. Most of her acting is done without dialogue. Even with all the craziness and sometimes cheesiness going on you take her character seriously.

A Chinese Ghost Story blends multiple genres what seems like so effortlessly that it is actually quite hard to describe what genre is most prominent. It basically has it all. Comedy, action, horror, drama, romance and an excellent soundtrack. To be honest as an action film aficionado I mostly checked out Hong Kong films for it's action. Initially it was the main reason that had drawn me to this film when I saw it on television. But soon after I was amazed by everything else this film had to offer. So how is the action? Even by today's standards it's insane. Super fast, well choreographed and lots of visual trickery. In short: Spectacular! But believe it or not, now I am more impressed by the romance elements of this story. It's very beautiful and endearing.  The comedy elements are also top notch. The running gag of bounty hunters apprehending random people with only a slight resemblance to the faces on the wanted posters cracks me up every time. Other jokes apply to main character Ling Choi San (Leslie Cheung) who is so poor that he carries around a bamboo umbrella with holes in it. Then there are the jokes where Ling Choi San is blissfully unaware of the dangers he is in.

A Chinese Ghost Story holds up quite well. You can sense the heart and creativity put in this work. A must own for sure.




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