The first I’ve seen by the legendary King Hu – his followup to Dragon Inn. I kinda love him, great compositions and movement, and killer distortion when he pans with the super-wide lens, which I know is a defect but in the fisheye 2019 post-Favourite world it comes across as a feature. Apparently the first Chinese film to be awarded at Cannes (in main competition with Pastoral, Kasper Hauser and Chronicle of the Years of Fire).
We follow Gu (Chun Shih of Dragon Inn), who is a well-meaning but unambitious scholar and painter, with a tendency towards being clumsy and ineffectual. He’s the patsy witness to all the nearby political intrigue, falling for the hot girl next door, Yang (Feng Hsu of Legend of the Mountain, later a producer on Chen Kaige films), who is in hiding after her dad was tortured to death, then in the second half he inexplicably becomes a master of strategy and helps Yang and her loyal generals ward off the corrupt government attackers. Some invincible monks get involved, there are a bunch of good faceoffs, Gu wears too much makeup.