Bak Fat Moh Lui Zyun, The Bride with White Hair (1993)
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: David Wu, Kee-To Lam, Ronny Yu, Yusheng Liang
Starring: Brigitte Lin, Elaine Lui, Fong Pau, Francis Ng, Kit Ying Lam, Leslie Cheung
THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR (1993)
Directed by Ronny Yu
Cantonese language with English subtitles
Available on Eureka Entertainment Blu-Ray
A young commander-in-training and a female assassin attempt to fight their fate as they fall in love but can their feelings survive the wrath of their masters?
THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR is a colourful, fantasy remake, or rather an interpretation, of Yusheng Liang’s novel previously adapted into 1982 film, Wolf Devil Woman. Reimagined by Ronny Yu with a desire to reach wider audiences, this wuxia classic combines the martial arts and tradition of Hong Kong period cinema and blends it with Western storytelling for a flick that invites the viewer into its doomed tale of two lovers.
Leslie Cheung stars as Cho Yi-Hang, the prodigy destined for greatness. When we first meet Cho, he’s a young boy learning martial arts and swordplay from his master as he’s groomed to be the next chieftain of the Wu-Tang clan. However, even as a young boy, his interests are elsewhere; his heart too pure for the violence he is forced to commit to protect the Wudang Sect. A chance meeting with Lien Ni-Chang, a girl who saves him from a pack of wolves, sticks with him into his adult years until he comes face-to-face with her once more. She too has been groomed into being something she is not – an assassin for her adoptive family; a pair of demonic conjoined twins who wish to seek vengeance against the Wu-Tang clan. Lien and Cho’s desire for a life of their own, with a destiny of their own making, draws the pair together as Cho swears his unwavering allegiance to Lien, promising to always trust and never doubt her. As they face their clans, their relationship is tested, and, unlike most Hollywood movies, this particular love story doesn’t have a happily ever after…
As this is a Wuxia film, expect the low gravity martial arts and acrobatics you’d expect from Hong Kong cinema of this style. However, The Bride With White Hair is so much more. A vivid, fantasy action-romance, like something taken out of the mind of Shakespeare, pits these two lost individuals against each other and into one another’s arms before they’re cruelly snatched apart again. The costumes are bold and eye-catching. In fact, everything about this film screams “look at me” as the cinematography pulls you into the excitement and passion of the on-screen flourishes.
Making her mark as soon as she appears on camera is Brigette Lin as the formerly unnamed wolf girl, Lien Ni-Chang. Her balletic movement and striking white costume sets her apart from the rest of the characters. Accused of being a witch by the opposition, her deadly skills and ethereal appearance make her something of an enigma to everyone around her, in particularly Cho who wishes to find out more about the mysterious woman. Her allegiance to demonic brother (Francis Ng) and sister (Elaine Lui) twins Ji Wushuang firmly puts her in the Wu-Tang clan’s bad books.
Little is initially known about Ji Wushuang but they quickly make an impression on the viewer with their elaborate outfits. Though their screen-time is quite minimal, the twins make fantastic villains with the sister being the real brains behind the duo, whispering into her brother’s ear; a man who’s clearly led by his emotions and his lust for Lien, who he believes is his after ‘rescuing’ her all those years ago. His own personal demon sitting on his shoulder, or rather attached to his back, his sister is determined to manipulate him into executing a harsher plan than he’d ever imagine on his own and together they make for a slippery duo to deal with, complete with serpentine attributes.
Whilst in many ways it sounds like a fantasy film that kids would enjoy, I’m not sure they’d be prepared for the carnage that Wolf Girl Lien leaves in her wake. Every crack of the whip she carries dismembers bodies and beheads and obliterates enemies in what is probably the deadliest movie weapon I’ve ever laid eyes on. Later in the movie, her hair even becomes a threat in its own right, wrapping around limbs and strangling individuals. Even the best swordsmen have a hard time against the skills of Lien. It seems that only one person can soften her heart… and harden it.
I’m probably not the first to draw parallels between this and Romeo and Juliet; two ill-fated lovers destined for each other from warring, enemy clans. Whilst it may be a familiar type of tale, the way in which it has been executed has a true artistic feel to it at times, with some shots looking like they’ve been lifted from a graphic novel, in particular the opening scenes with Cho upon the mountain top guarding a rare blossom. It may still be a product of its time but it effortlessly whisks you into its tale of forbidden and doomed romance, fuelled by graceful yet deadly action sequences. And now, with Eureka Entertainment’s 4k restoration and director-approved colour grade, the film truly pops on screen, allowing the full colours of the costumes and set design to be observed in all their glory.
For newcomers to The Bride With White Hair, like myself, I think you’ll be thrilled by the combination of mesmerising visuals and classic storytelling on display whilst the UK Blu-ray release will be a godsend for any longstanding fan looking to add this Wuxia gem to their collection.
Eureka’s Blu-Ray of The Bride With White Hair comes packed with a series of interviews, including the director Ronny Yu, actor Joe Tay, screenwriter Jason Lam Kee To, composer Richard Yuen and editor David Wu, not to mention two audio commentaries with the directory and Asian film expert, Frank Djeng. An archival making of featurette completes the special features on the disc, whilst a limited edition collector’s booklet and O-slipcard case comes with the 2000 copies of the limited edition first run.