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Review Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain a.k.a. Shu Shan - Xin Shu shan jian ke (1983): One of those films you can watch a million times and still won't make much sense yet is hauntingly beautiful and mesmerizing!

genre: fantasy, action, martial arts






The first time I saw this I didn't really know what was going on but was completely immersed with the sheer insanity and creativity I was bombarded with. There is very little point in describing what that insanity looks like other than it is incredibly beautiful and mesmerizing even today.

Director Tsui Hark is one of a kind. He has brought a level of imagination, creativity and magic to film making that has made a significant mark on world cinema. I would say that he is brilliant. Flawed for sure but brilliant nonetheless. Why do I think this? Well, take Zu Warrior from the Magic Mountain for example. Even if you get the gist of the story a lot of events displayed on the screen won't make much sense. Where other directors would take time to build up relationships or important background information he briefly tells you to take note and then asks of you to go along with it as if you are understanding everything. Crazy thing is that if you do exactly as asked you will enjoy the film a whole lot more. But even if you are stubborn or angry Tsui Hark will manage to get to you. There are not that many directors that can pull you into such insanity and make you enjoy it. 

It does help to have actors like Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung and Brigitte Lin be part of the craziness since they add a layer of credibility to events. Brigitte Lin is one of those unique actresses who can do a lot with just a look. She is very charismatic and beautiful. But more important she actually can act. She does a lot with very little and that is a quality that is very unappreciated these days.  

So what is Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain about? A foot soldier gets involuntary mixed up in an epic battle between good and evil and then realizes that it's the solution to end all wars that are destroying the world. Now I think about it Tsui Hark also could be making a political statement on how most wars are pointless and ridiculous. He demonstrates this by having the different armies being represented by certain colours like red, blue, green and yellow. Just wearing that colour makes you the enemy despite the person you are. He also briefly shows that armies suffer from weak leadership where you have two generals fighting over strategy and the foot soldier loyal to both is put in an impossible situation as he is forced to choose between the orders given. But if he would to follow the order by one general he would get killed for it by defying the other. If he would abstain from both orders he would be considered a traitor. While the foot soldier is struggling both generals grow impatient and brand him a traitor anyway. Think about this for a minute. He gets marked a traitor for being loyal and willing to please both generals. And all of this takes place within a minute. So while it might seem like just a random joke a lot is packed in if you are allowing yourself to think about it. 

Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain is a classic for sure and if you are fan of good cinema you owe it to yourself to have watched it at least once.    




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