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Brought to Light: Recent Acquisitions to the PFA Collection

Saturday, May 29, 2010
8:50 p.m. The Valiant Ones
King Hu (Hong Kong, 1975)

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(Zhong lie tu). A righteous husband-and-wife swordfighting duo are called to protect China from the machinations of Japanese pirates and corrupt officials in King Hu’s masterly work, noted for its forest fight scene set to the moves of a Go match. “A muscleman is not enough; we need a schemer,” one character muses, illuminating the film’s intricate web of betrayals and plots. The only nobility to be had is in the swords of the valiant ones, those doomed to protect the shores of an empire rotting from the inside. Pai Ying and Hsu Feng are elegance incarnate as the married couple, a suave, sword-wielding Bogart/Bacall act catching arrows out of midair, foiling assassins, or coolly demonstrating their fighting techniques on an assortment of Ming dynasty stooges. Hong Kong action mainstays of the eighties and nineties Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung appear in minor roles, Biao as a young student and Hung (even then) throwing his considerable weight around as the main Japanese pirate.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Hu. Photographed by Chun Tsing-chan. With Pai Ying, Hsu Feng, Ch’iao Hung, Liu Chiang. (92 mins, In Mandarin with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission King Hu Foundation)