Thursday, March 28, 2013

Seen It: Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012)

With nicer weather around the corner, my days of watching movies on weekends may soon be drawing to a close. Hoping to go out with something a little adventurous, I came across the oddly titled Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012) on Netflix this morning and completely on a lark made the decision to check it out, based upon to the aesthetic similarities to the previously reviewed Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Secret Flame (2010).

Chinese poster (2012).
Prior to viewing, I must confess to having no idea what the title is meant to imply. Reportedly a sequel of sorts to 2008's Painted Skin, I suspect the title may have something to do with Chinese folklore (on which some of the characters and story are based), but to my Western mind it made little sense. I would also suspect that the seemingly unrelated title might limit the likelihood of Netflix trollers who happen to give the film a chance, which is unfortunate given its fairly strong entertainment value. Especially those who are leary of subtitles and Chinese cinema. The  meaning of the movie's title is clearer  at the conlcusion though the us of the descripteor word "Painted" seems unnecessarily off-putting.

Directed by Chinese director Wuershan, Painted Skin: The Resurrection is an action-adventure-romance starring a number of prominent Chinese actors, none of who have achieved as much name recognition in the U.S. Each is suitably physically beautiful or made up to be equally grotesque depending on the positive (or negative) nature of the character they play. The acting is superb and the the Fuedal Chinese world in whcih the action is set is very well realized. On the big screen this movie must have been beautiful.

The Princess (Wei Zhou) and the Warrior (Kun Chen) pass through one of the many beautiful vistas.
Given the significant roles played by spirits in the film, I was often reminded of Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke (1999) and Spirited Away (2001), two Japanese animated films that dealt with (although in an even more fantastic way) the connection between both the physical human world and a spirit realm. The influence of Miyazaki seems evident in some character designs--though I am not nearly fluent enough to assure anyone of that--these may just be common Eastern motifs of which I am unschooled. Personally, the most obvious practical similarity the design of Princess Mononoke and that of the primary antagonist's daughter, herself also part of a wolf clan.

Actress Xun Zhou as malevolent fox spirit Xiaowei.
Reminiscent as costume fantasies such the far more familiar Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Painted Skin: The Resurrection embraces the fantasy elements thought he occasional use of CGI, that rarely distracts from the story or performances. Some of the story beats are similar (and the true villain seems to come from just shy of left field), but there is enough here to keep any passing genre fan satisfied. There is also a fair degree of sensuality on display as both female leads, one a demon and the other a warrior princess, vie for the heart (literally--you'll see) of the same man.

Princess and Xiaowei.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012) is streamed on Netflix, presented with subtitles. The original Painted Skin (2008) is available for free on Youtube for viewing, and listening to as well, if you happen to know Mandarin Chinese.

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