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A Touch of Zen

A Touch of Zen (1969)

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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 3
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 0

audience

81

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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 1,226

My Rating

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

Dec 10, 2002

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All Critics (12) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (11) | Rotten (1) | DVD (3)

The visual style will set your eyes on fire.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop 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.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop 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.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop 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.

August 12, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
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.

August 12, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

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

August 12, 2014 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

It's like Mizoguchi is alive and well and shooting kung-fu epics

November 4, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion
CinePassion

Hu fills his dazzling Cinemascope frame with waving foxtails, swirling fog, and stunning architecture. Each shot is like a photograph of China as we might imagine it in a dream.

April 28, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Unique and visually stunning martial arts epic is set in the 14th-century Ming dynasty.

November 8, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

An awesome kung-fu flick with jaw-dropping fights and beautiful scenery.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

A real masterpiece that deserves its place in film history.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

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...
August 8, 2009
rubystevens
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.
July 28, 2008
binky013

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.
October 25, 2010
lesleyanorton
Lesley N

Super Reviewer

A few months back someone recommended this to me as a predecessor to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The movie did exactly what it was recommended to do for me, it gave me a perspective of the genre I've only known about in its recent form. I feel like someone who has just watched The Maltese Falcon after years of watching Chinatown. The movie had a really epic scope, which in many ways made it stand apart from similar films The technical aspects of the genre still don't seem to have been mastered at this point, a lot of the wire acrobatics seem only to have been accomplished by using funky editing. Also years of crappy preservation have lead the film's famous cinematography to be really washed out. The story felt a little loopy, but there seems to have been a serious attempt to include some real symbolic depth here, mainly in the form of Buddhist messages that I don't really understand. Whatever flaws it has, it still seems invaluable as the DNA of movies like Crouching Tiger and Hero.
June 24, 2008
Dracula787
MJS MJS

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • A Touch of Zen (Xia nu) (DE)
  • A Touch of Zen (UK)
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