The Magic Blade (1976) Review: Life Is A Game of Chess

I have always admired those who play chess and are good at it because I don’t know how to play or even know the rules. It seems to require a lot of strategy. I would love to learn how to play one day. It sounds like a difficult game and a game which involves having a sharp mind. Magic Blade, directed by Chu Yuan, is a film revolving around this concept. It’s an action adventure martial arts film with plenty of cool quotes. One of them is “I don’t kill unarmed woman.” The phrase was used towards a flamboyant opponent who had no sword but his hands as a weapon. And the phrase is said again later in this film when his opponent is female, but this time he said, “but you have a weapon.” The protagonist is like a Chinese Clint Eastwood, played by the actor Lung Ti. He just has an air of coolness to him. He doesn’t follow anyone rules and yet he has a sense of deep integrity as a swordsman, which is quite admirable. Plus the choreography in this film is quite entertaining because the protagonist looked so cool beating up the underworld martial artists. It left me feeling good as if I was him beating up the bad people. However, it’s not all just cool in that sense. The film has a deeper meaning beyond the fighting and being the best.

To be on top, means to have no friends and thus you’d find yourself in a lonely place. That same statement can be said just about anything. The wealthier and more famous you become, the less friends you have. I often wonder is that why so many famous people are so depressed and alone? What’s the point of playing chess in real life if your hair will grow grey and you become old and weary from losing your throne? To be king of the martial arts world means death because you are always watching your back–afraid that you’d get attack.

Overall, it’s a great film. I watched it three times. It’s so romantically philosophical and poetic. It’s a reminder not to lose sight of our humanity in the pursuit of our ambition. We want to be the best, but if not careful, we’d end up in a very lonely place.

I watched this on on Amazon Prime Video. It’s free for streaming if you are a prime member, and no I am not advertising Amazon Prime Video. It’s just in case you want to watch the film.

The Sword of Swords (1968) Review: The Awakening of A Reluctant Hero

The world of martials arts is nothing more than a world of politics. The one who has the most power has the most control over his fortune and the most freedom to live as he pleases (i.e. a king’s lifestyle). Doesn’t it sound enticing? But with great power comes with great responsibility. Those who seek power for personal gain is not fit to rule. In this tale, a meek hero is hesitant to get involved in the world of martial arts until his family and his country is on the line.

To give you folks a backstory of this legendary sword, I quote the introduction from the film for you to better understand the story:

During the Sung Dynasty, about 1000 B.C., a famed sword smith Meng Yao Chi took ten years to forge a sword from the best metal available. When China was invaded by neighboring Liao state, Meng presented his sword to General Meng Liang. With it, the General won battle after battle and the sword became a legend. After General Meng’s Death, the sword was lost until rediscovered in the Ming Dynasty. The prince of a nearby barbarian tribe coveted the sword and dispatched a trusted warrior to acquire it. This is the story of this mission.

Based on the quote, the sword sounds pretty epic, doesn’t it? I don’t think I would want the sword even if I was fit to rule the martial arts world. It’s too much stress and responsibility. So I can sympathize with the hero in this film who learned martial arts to hunt and nothing more. However, our destiny is not always decided by us. The hero, not only has the mental capability but also the physical strength to be the keeper of the legendary sword. After all, those who yield the sword has the power to control the land for good or evil. It sounds kind of like Lord of the Rings, Chinese version the more I think about it, but not as dark.

What surprised me about this story is how passive and meek the main character is. I have never seen a highly skilled martial artist who is unreasonably meek. His saint-like personality is his downfall. It is because of his reluctance to kill the main villain when he had the chance caused him a spiral of tragic events. As the audience, I can’t helped but be a little annoyed by his passiveness, but then again, there wouldn’t be a story if he weren’t a reluctant hero. He eventually learned from his mistake and become emotionally stronger towards the end, but at the expense of losing his parents, sister and his two eyes! It made me wonder whether the film was trying to tell ordinary men to step up and be more assertive. I think there are a lot of men out there like him–fully capable and strong to make a difference but choose not to meddle with politics until he is backed into a corner. On a positive note, what I like about this film is that the hero’s weakness becomes his strength. The hero always find a way to win in the end magically, which makes me feel happy. After all, I am always rooting for the good guy to win.

For my final thoughts, this film is decent but not great. I like The One-Armed Swordsman (1967) more which was played by the same main actor, Jimmy Wang Yu. One plus thing about this film is the cinematography and swords fight. It’s beautifully well done. So if you are a fan of martial arts films, it’s still worth watching.

Ran Review (1985): Pray that You Do Not Become an Old Fool One Day

The gods are cruel. They watch us for sport. Laugh at our misfortunes. If they are kind, they reward us with great wealth only to be snatched away! Life is filled with uncertainties and free from security. That’s the world we live in–a constant turmoil on the mind!

With current events, we need good leaders. Unfortunately in America, it’s kind of shaky. In Japan, the Prime Minster Shinzō Abe resigned for health reasons. It seems like being a politician is not so glamourous despite the authority that comes with it. Just look at the picture of the main character in this film. The stress in decision making is real, especially if you made the wrong one!

This film is inspired by Shakespeare’s play called King Lear, which is also my favorite tragedy from him. I don’t know if anyone know by now that I really love poetry…oh wait I hope the title of this blog gives it away! Anyway, all things come to an end, and sometimes it ends tragically.

For 50 years, Hidetora  brutally cut down families and conquered lands. By the time he reaches 70 years old, his hunting days became a distant glory. He begins to show affection towards his three sons after having a terrible nightmare about being alone in a foreign land. Hidetora, in his old age, wishes to step down and give his dominion over to his eldest son while his other two sons would act as the eldest son’s support. But we all know: this is a recipe for disaster. What sort of world do we live in? We live in “a world barren of feelings and loyalty, ” as the youngest son pointed out. Even family members back stab one another to obtain power. That’s the reality. It’s a tragic story, but a story we can all pray and hope we do not become old fools.

Watch this film and learn that Karma is a [insert bad word]. You reap what you sow. There are consequences to every action you make in life.  Tragedy makes one wiser. Ran is a timeless film worth watching. I watched it four times before I can summarized this review.