1993, NR, 98 min. Directed by Tsui Hark. Starring Maggie Cheung, Joey Wang, Zhao Wen Zhou, Wu Kuo Chiu.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 9, 1994
Tsui Hark returns to form with this romantic fantasy set during the Southern Sung Dynasty (amazingly, Wong Fei-Hong is nowhere in sight). Wang and Cheung are a pair of snakes who have achieved human form after thousands of years of diligent study. While hanging out in a bamboo forest one day, they cross paths with a tyrannical monk, Fa-Hai (Zhao), who promptly makes it his mission in life to give them no end of grief. Evading this Falwellian goof proves to be a full-time job for the two snakes (Cheung, the green snake, hasn't even mastered the art of keeping her tail hidden yet), but during their down-time, they manage to attract the attentions of Hsui-Xien, a young scholar who eventually falls in love with Wang's Sou-Ching. Wang, eager to fulfill her human destiny by falling in love herself, reciprocates the affections of this “honest man.” On the verge of attaining a normal human husband and all the matrimonial trappings, Wang (with a sometimes scaly Cheung by her side) must suddenly face off against the powerful and supremely officious monk, who tries his best to send them to “a hell where reincarnation is impossible.” Like most plot synopses of Hark's films, the preceding description may have left you a bit bewildered, but Cheung, Wang (Wang Cheung!?), and company are in top form: Cheung, all impish, innocent glee, and Wang, serious, wise, and reptilian. Hark has put away his chopsocky set pieces in favor of a return to his more fantastic Chinese Ghost Story roots, filling frame after frame with a riot of brilliant colors and witty dialogue (Hark's Film Workshop company apparently has someone new doing the subtitles here -- for once, they make almost perfect sense). More of an epic love story than anything else, Green Snake beats the skin off Hark's half-dozen previous outings with a timeless and visually arresting story of love, loss, and airborne bald guys.