A Touch of Zen
Hsu Feng, Pai Ying, Chiao Hung, Shih Chun,
After the popular success of Bruce Lee's “chop–socky” kung–fu films, as Variety called them, A Touch of Zen was acclaimed by critics as “martial arts ballet.” Its exhilarating action choreography, stylish camerawork, and metaphysical resonance opened Western eyes to the possibilities of the swordplay genre. The Chinese title of this epic means “Swordswoman,” and the woman warrior is one of Hu’s hallmarks. In the title role, Hsu Feng (who went on to become one of Hong Kong cinema’s most important producers) assists a weak–willed youth faced with a band of Ming Dynasty thugs. The English title picks up another important aspect of Hu’s ethics and aesthetics—Buddhism, which licenses the plot's supernatural elements and is emphasized more in this film than in any other of Hu’s works.