Thursday, May 28, 2015

Return of the Sentimental Swordsman (1981)

This movie is the sequel to the Sentimental Swordsman and the events take place three years later.

I wrote that A Fei in earlier movie was not as stupid as in the book, that he soon realized that Lim Sian-ji was not a good woman. In this sequel, the plot returned to the book so he was a fool again. A Fei had been mesmerized by Lim Sian-ji's beauty and purity and had been living with her since. She drugged him every night (so she could slip out and met other men) and forbade him to return to the martial arts world. He spent his days counting plum blossoms.

A Fei: Total 2092 today
Li : You count the blooms everyday?
Lim Si-im was still alive after the death of her husband Liong Siau-hun, and lived alone in Hin-hun-ceng. Li Sun-hoan secretly stayed in a little inn located across the manor, perhaps to guard her. Here he heard that Siangkoan Kim-hong from Kim-ci-pang wanted to rule the world. If Siangkoan Kim-hong teamed up with his number one henchman, Hing Bu-bing, it would be very difficult for Li Sun-hoan to defeat them. So Li Sun-hoan went looking for A Fei. He found A Fei and Lim Sian-ji, but she forbade him to go with Li Sun-hoan and took him instead to Kim-ci-pang, where A Fei was humiliated and realized what kind of woman Lim Sian-ji really was. He went to help Li Sun-hoan in the final duel.

Lim Sian-ji's fate in the movie was better than in the book. She was killed by Hing Bu-bing.

The plot was not as tight as in the previous movie, so they had more room for more fights, including the disputes if their weapons had been ranked right in the Book of Weapons.

They had cast a perfect actress to play Lim Sian-ji. Perhaps not what I had in mind when I read the book, for it was not easy to imagine a face so beautiful, let alone found the right actress to represent her. But when this actress smiled, it was believable how the great swordsmen could fall for her and did everything she had told them to do.

Fu Sheng played the cold blooded Hing Bu-bing. For me he was more a comedian, so it was odd watching him in a serious role, a character so reserved. His costume was even weirder. It looked like a tank-top to me. He also wore a big-chain-necklace and a big earing. His hair style was also funny. Was his character a foreigner? He looked a bit over-weight, but he fought vivaciously.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Sentimental Swordsman (1977)

Wikipedia mentions that this is one of Shaw Brothers' highest grossing films in the studio's history. I did enjoy watching this. It's one of good movies concerning long lost love, friendship and clearing good name.

I really hoped I had watched the 1978 TV series - with Chu Kong as Li Sun-hoan, but that time we didn't have any Beta video player [TVB series were only available at rental video store.], so only in long school holidays when I could stay at my aunt's family's house - they had a player - I could watched whatever they were renting. When my father could afford a player years later, Little Li's Flying Dagger series was nowhere to find. I knew this series had a beautiful theme song because I had a cassette with it, sung by Robin.

Compared to the book, the story for its movie version had been simplified. I think the result was very good, considering that the movie's running time was only appr. 97 minutes. I feel the movie was fast paced - when I read the book the story was not as fast paced, because I often turned back to read whatever I needed to make sure, I took as long time as I needed.

The movie had a lot of snow, like the book. Li Sun-hoan was one of the most interesting heroes existed. He was  not as strong as a horse like a hero should be: he coughed a lot - only later near the end when his spirit was stronger, he rarely coughed anymore. He coughed because he was depressed and broken hearted. He was called Little Li because his father had three sons and he was the youngest. His father and two older brothers had been dead, so all hope concerning the family lied on Little Li's shoulder.

The movie began with Li Sun-hoan and his friend Thi Toan-kah met A Fei, a lonely young man - on their way to Hin-hun-ceng, Li Sun-hoan's old house. [Bwe-hoa-cat (the Plum Blossom Bandit) had emerged and Li Sun-hoan was afraid the bandit might go to his old house and hurt the woman he loved.] Li Sun-hoan made A Fei promise to buy him wine when he had the money, and at this point they became good friends and would protect each other. When trying to obtain a gold vest - an armour which could protect against Bwe-hoa-cat - Li Sun-hoan got poisoned. He met a physician who could heal him. At the physician's, several swordsmen came to ask the physician to come to Hin-hun-ceng to heal a wounded swordsman. Li Sun-hoan went along with them.

Ti Lung did it again! He carries a fan to hide his little daggers.
In the book, Li Sun-hoan does not carry a fan.
Li Sun-hoan once owned the place and the beautiful woman who lived there. Ten years ago, he almost died in a fight and Liong Siau-hun saved him. He took his saviour home and when his saviour saw his fiancee, his savious fell in love with her. Li Sun-hoan did everything he could to make her give him up (incl. frequenting brothels) and finally he went away after giving Hin-hun-ceng to them as a wedding present.

First time A Fei (Erl Tung-sen) treats Li Sun-hoan with wine.
He always thought about her. Whenever he could, he tried to carve her image on a wood with his dagger, but never finished any.

Returned to Hin-hun-ceng, Li Sun-hoan found that his sworn brother, Liong Siau-hun had invited the most beautiful woman in the martial arts world, Lim Sian-ji, to stay. Many swordsmen wanted her. Lim Sian-ji had promised that she would marry whoever could catch the Bwe-hoa-cat. Only Li Sun-hoan knew that the woman was not as pure as she looked.

I think casting Yueh Hua as Liong Siau-hun means
they have given away the plot.
Everytime I see him he's always playing the bad guy.
In a short time, Li Sun-hoan was accused as the Bwe-hoa-cat and he was taken to the Shaolin Temple for questioning. On the way, his escorts were poisoned, so in the last kms of the way, it was him instead who delivered the last person alive but gravely wounded : a Shaolin priest. He had promised the dying priest to find the thief who had stolen Shaolin books.

The accusations against Li Sun-hoan were not as bad as in the book. He could clear his good name in appr. an hour and the swordsmen believe him. The identity of the real Bwe-hoa-cat was also different. In the movie, when Li Sun-hoan found out the real identity of Bwe-hoa-cat, I thought that he had been really a fool, an idiot and that he had wasted the last 10 years of his life. I like the book much better.

But in the movie, A Fei was not as stupid as in the book. Quickly he realized that Lim Sian-ji was an evil woman. Lim Sian-ji in the movie was also not as dirty as in the book. Khu Lung (the writer of the book) always made women as the source of men's sufferings, that it was stupid to try to debate women, that it was wise to shut up when women were angry etc etc (not that I don't enjoy reading them). In his books, men would die for each other in the name of friendship, but to love a woman was not so important.

In the movie, Liong Siau-hun was the Bwe-hoa-cat. Ten years ago, Li Sun-hoan tried to capture him, but instead he ended up giving his fiancee and his house to the bandit. Wasn't he the most idiot man? There was a scene where he had a discussion with  A Fei that the bandit could be a woman. In the book, the bandit was Lim Sian-ji.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Sentimental Swordsman and the Ruthless Sword - Gu Long

Also known as Little Li's Flying Dagger, this book (first published in 1970) was very much different than The Remarkable Twins. The dialogues in this book were not many, which was actually understandable, because the lead characters (Li Sun-hoan and A Fei) didn't talk as much as the lead character in The Remarkable Twins, Siau-hi-ji.

The story was serene and sad - with snow as background; those who have read it must know why it's
called The Sentimental Swordsman. Li Sun-hoan was very sentimental indeed.

One drop of indigo stains the whole cauldron of milk. One ill behaviour may cause others to forget the kindness we've done. However, in this story it was the opposite: Li Sun-hoan never forgot that his sworn brother, Liong Siau-hun, had saved his life once, although after that Liong Siau-hun wanted to harm him many times. Liong Siau-hun went as far as conspired with kim-ci-pang to eliminate him.

Li Sun-hoan had once been a very happy guy: educated, rich, famous, respected, and had a beautiful fiancĂ©e, Lim Si-im, who had loved him very much. Then Liong Siau-hun saw her and fell in love with her. Li Sun-hoan left Lim Si-im, gave her  his house and fortune; and disappeared. Ten years later, Li Sun-hoan injured her only son without knowing his identity; so he visited his old house and triggered a tragedy to happen.

Li Sun-hoan was very famous then. Everybody knew that if he moved his hand, his dagger never missed its target. It was ranked no.3 in the Book of Weapons. Another important character in this book was his friend, who was only known by the name of A Fei, a young lonely man, who fell in love with the wrong woman - who tortured his soul for two years. A Fei had an ordinary steel sword, which looked like a toy; but in his hand it became a deadly weapon.

Like in The Remarkable Twins, the bad guys were the respected swordsmen, those who hid behind their good names. For the best evil men were those who could do bad things but none realized about them. Li Sun-hoan was accused to be an evil robber and rapist - whose real face was unknown - by the respected swordsmen. How could he prove that he was innocent?

Between this book and The Remarkable Twins, the latter is my personal favourite. When I read The Remarkable Twins, I almost couldn't put it down. If The Remarkable Twins makes you laugh and cry, Little Li's Flying Dagger makes you reflect on your life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Remarkable Twins - Gu Long

Published in 1967, The Remarkable Twins is one of Khu Lung's best works.

As the story began, two characters were introduced: Kang Hong, the most handsome man in the world; and his sworn brother Yam Lan-thian, the number one swordsman. Kang Hong had been wounded dan the two beautiful mistresses from Ih-hoa-kiong saved him. They fell in love with him but he ran away with their maid. Knowing the mistresses from Ih-hoa-kiong would never let him live in peace, Kang Hong planned to go somewhere far away with his new wife. His servant, Kang Khim, betrayed him by telling a group of robbers about his flight. Thus on the way, Kang Hong and his wife were robbed and gravely wounded. The two mistresses from Ih-hoa-kiong arrived, killed the robbers, and with hatred watched Kang Hong and his wife died. They wanted to kill the new-born twins as well, but came with a perfect scheme of revenge: to make the twins kill each other. They took one of the babies and raised the boy in discipline and cold heart. They named him Hoa Bu-koat.

Yam Lan-thian arrived too late. He took the other baby, who had got a sword scar on his cheek. He heard a rumor that Kang Khim, the traitor, had hidden in Ok-jin-kok, a secluded village where the most dangerous criminals gathered. At Ok-jin-kok, Yam Lan-thiam was trapped and became paralyzed, he was neither dead nor living after they had tortured him. They sent him to their physician, to be his guinea pig. The baby boy was raised by the criminals. They named him Kang Hi. Hi means 'fish', so he was nicknamed Siau-hi-ji (little fish).

Siau-hi-ji was very smart, but very naughty. He practised practical jokes to everyone that when he was old enough, they sent him away from the village to the outside world, so he could leave them alone and annoy other people instead.

When Toh Sat (the most feared man in Ok-jin-kok) taught Siau-hi-ji to kill a puppy for the first time, I was afraid that the boy would grow up to be a serial killer. However, the boy basically had a kind heart and he survived although he grew up among the worst of criminals. One of them was a cannibal who killed his own wife and ate her. After puppies, Toh Sat taught the boy to kill dogs and tigers.

Hoa Bu-koat was also sent out. His teachers told him if he met a young man named Siau-hi-ji, he must kill him with his own hand. His martial art was far above Siau-hi-ji. Twice Siau-hi-ji escaped him, but finally Siau-hi-ji made a pact with Hoa Bu-koat. They agreed to fight until one of them was dead three months later, but in time between they could became friends.

Thus in three months they became the best of friends. They saved each other and helped each other. Basically Hoa Bu-koat didn't know why he must kill Siau-hi-ji and as time passed, he didn't want to kill him.

Only the two mistresses from Ih-hoa-kiong knew the secret, but they only would uncover the truth after one of the twins had been dead. And if one of them was dead, the other one surely couldn't live any longer.

One of my favourite parts was when Siau-hi-ji tried to evade Hoa Bu-koat (before they became friends) and had to live first as an acrobat, then as a cook and as a pharmacist. He was successful in each job.

The ending of this story was a happy one and very moving. Reading this book was like sitting on a chair, listening to other people try to outsmart each other. There were parts which seemed longer i.e. parts where Siau-hi-ji was not involved. He had many enemies, but in the final duel, everybody wanted him to live. It seemed that no one wanted poor Hoa Bu-koat to win the duel, not even his girlfriend. In the end, not only the characters inside the book love Siau-hi-ji, the readers also love this little devil... or little fish.

There are several movie adaptations based on this book and I unluckily have never seen even one, but I'm sure none of them would surpass the book.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Tale of Refining the Sword Like Cleansing The Flower - Gu Long

Published in 1964, the Indonesian version of this book has a simpler title: Mystery of the Ship with five-colour-sail. This book is one of the recommended titles among Khu Lung's works, but personally I still prefer The Legend of Chu Liu Siang.

This book has too many characters and I had difficulty to remember which is which. [It would be easier for me if the nicknames were in bahasa Indonesia - but they were not, they were in Hokkien]. It seems that all important people in the martial world are thrown inside. Some do not have names, and out of my head I remember that two of the lead characters are only called: The Man in White and Little Mistress.

The story begins with the arrival of The Man in White, a swordsman from eastern ocean, who challenges all swordsmen in China. One by one, master swordsmen dies in his hand; until he meets the master of the ship with five-coloured-sail: The Master in Purple Robe. The Man in White is defeated, but The Master in Purple Robe dies due to his wounds. However, The Man in White swears that he will come back in 7 years for a re-match. Who can fight him then?

The hero in this story is Pui Po-giok, who when the story begins is 11 years-old. He is very smart, but doesn't have any interest to learn kung-fu. His grandfather is one of the master swordsmen defeated by the Man in White, and the only one who is alive. The grandfather commands one of his students to look for The Master in Purple Robe, and he takes Pui Po-giok along.

The ending can be easily predicted, that Pui Po-giok will be the greatest swordsman in China and that he will defeat the Man in White. However between those times, there are many things happened and the twists are very good. There are many problems, tears and shames; that the journey of Pui Po-giok- who shall be the only one who will be able to defend China's good name and save uncountable lives of swordsmen - is not smooth; that many want to ruin him and kill him instead. In this case, the English title is more proper.