It is ironic that the first martial arts film to have been specially shorn (down to 60 minutes) for children's consumption should show every sign, even in its drastically curtailed state, of having been among the best Chinese films released here. Shooting on location in Korea, the director (a stalwart of the sword film in the '60s) balances off the weighty proportions of Korean architecture with its snow-covered courtyards and poses his figures in space to quietly dramatic effect. His use of colour and the wide screen is brilliantly controlled, and for once it looks as if the dialogue on restraint and oppression, tradition and revolt, imperialism and national identity, had found a worthy environment in a film full of incidental thematic riches. The relationship of the two children and the character played by Ingrid Wu (superb) is profoundly enigmatic and seemingly totally original; it would be interesting to see how this related to the coarser, more conventional elements.
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