A Touch of Zen (1969)

A Touch of Zen




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

An influential martial arts film and an acknowledged influence on Ang Lee's amazing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, King Hu's A Touch of Zen opens with young scholar Ku Shen-chai working at his portraiture stand in a small frontier town. He lives with his nagging mother in a supposedly haunted, rundown house at the edge of the abandoned Ching Liu estate. One day, a stranger named Ou-Yang Yin asks for his picture to be painted, and then suddenly leaves. Soon, another stranger -- this time a … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Art House & International
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 10, 2002

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Critic Reviews for A Touch of Zen

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (3)

The visual style will set your eyes on fire.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

[King Hu] has not ignored traditional mayhem here, but he has demonstrated that pictorial artistry, Zen mysticism and the stylized martial arts, can make a fascinating mix.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

A widely acclaimed martial arts film (1971) by Hong Kong's King Hu, one of the handful of directors to have worked in the genre with artistic ambitions.

Full Review… | May 24, 2003
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A Touch of Zen is at the same time a study of rural life, a ghost story, a discussion of philosophical ideas and a thrilling fight film, with each element being handled with rare skill by Hu.

Full Review… | August 12, 2014
Radio Times

Looking as fresh as if it was made yesterday, rather than three decades ago, A Touch Of Zen is Eastern cinema at its most dynamic and grown-up.

Full Review… | August 12, 2014
Total Film

All the lunacy and high-flown imagination you could hope for.

Full Review… | August 12, 2014
Empire Magazine

Audience Reviews for A Touch of Zen

it's not a typical wuxia film. it's a philosophical epic from the most artistic of the original martial arts directors, king hu, that takes a full hour to build to the first fight scene. so be warned. the second hour is well worth the wait, the action is beautifully staged and cut, a huge influence on the modern wuxia, crouching tiger, house of flying daggers, etc. one might want to start with king hu's first film for the shaw brothers, come drink with me, as this takes some getting through. it's an art film lol. also it could use restoration; some scenes are pretty murky. now i need to find dragon inn...

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

The length of this movie does not bother me. I'll sit through any engaging film, no matter how long it is. What bothers me is the engagement angle. If a film is tightly wrought, then five or six hours or even more is no problem. This one, however, goes through periods where the editorial staff seems to have been asleep at the board. It's definitely a movie with a split personality. At times it's stunning both in terms of narrative and visuals. At times it is so dark that it's impossible to see what's going on for very long stretches. There is character meandering that goes on way too long -- we could use a "touch" less from time to time. Overall, I think a restoration is in order -- the quality of the DVD is not even. There is a truly strong woman principal here -- my favorite character -- along the lines of a Ziyi Zhang from Crouching Tiger, but this woman is even stronger in that her sexuality is all but absent. She's a kind of asexual butt-kicker, who almost never depends on her femininity to carry a scene -- the musical seduction is the only scene I can recall where she plays it purely as a woman. The part could almost be played by a male -- but thankfully it isn't. She's wonderful. I'm not keen on the story -- it's basically political intrigue minus the intrigue. Still, if you are looking for a non-Hollywoodian movie from China, this one is a must-see.

Lanning : )

Super Reviewer


Early 70's wuxia film about Ku, living with his mum in an abandoned fort, Yang mysterious and attractive and baddy Eunuch Wei who's trying to kill her. Long, dated and slow.

Lesley N

Super Reviewer

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