A Chinese Ghost Story | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Film » Movie Critic's Choice

A Chinese Ghost Story

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This 1987 fantasy from Hong Kong spawned two sequels, an animated remake, and the Swordsman films, and though aficionados debate their relative merits, the original is hard to top for stylistic boldness, vivid pictorialism, and dramatic power. Adapted from a venerable Chinese ghost tale, it follows a naive tax collector (Leslie Cheung) as he seeks shelter from a storm in an abandoned temple and finds himself befriended by a wisecracking Taoist monk (Wu Ma), seduced by a beautiful ghost (Joey Wong), and stalked by a long-tongued tree demon. Director Ching Siu-tung (The Heroic Trio, another superior cult item) paces the action at a breathtaking clip, influenced no doubt by producer Tsui Hark, who's renowned for his sharp, kinetic editing. But the film is equally enlivened by Ching's attention to special effects, the nuanced performances of the three leads, and the grand production design, which yields scenes as bright and splendid as medieval scrolls. The 35-millimeter print being screened is reportedly somewhat worn, but this influential genre piece is still worth seeing. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, May 27, 8:00, and Sunday, May 28, 6:00, 312-443-3737.

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