A Touch of Zen

1969

A Touch of Zen (1969)

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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

According to this drama, set in 14th-century China, a state-run secret police organization made life a living hell for anyone with the temerity to cross it. In the story, a noblewoman is in hiding. When a police spy tries to take her to his masters, she beats him in single combat.

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Critic Reviews for A Touch of Zen

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (3)

The visual style will set your eyes on fire.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
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.

May 9, 2005 | Full Review…

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…

Hu directs a film that stands apart from the plethora of wuxia titles for many reasons, but particularly because the script does not exist to provide a background for the action, but it is elaborately written filled with social and philosophical comments

Nov 3, 2018 | Full Review…

With the first shots of Zen we are plunged into a nature marked by eerie majesty.

Apr 10, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Epic in scope, meditative in tone and exhilarating in execution, A Touch of Zen is a seminal moment in film history.

Jan 17, 2017 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A Touch of Zen

½

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
Lesley N

Super Reviewer

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
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 : )
Lanning : )

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.

MJS MJS
MJS MJS

Super Reviewer

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