Criterion Prediction #265: The Bride with White Hair, by Alexander Miller
Title: The Bride With White Hair
Director: Ronny Yu
Cast: Brigitte Lin, Leslie Cheung, Yammie Lam, Francis Ng, Elaine Lui Siu-Ling
Synopsis: The immensely talented but rebellious swordsman and successor to the prestigious Wudang sect Zhao Yihang (Cheung) drifts from the ranks as he falls deeply in love with the leader of the clan’s rival, a bewitching and equally lethal rogue bandit Lian (Lin). However, their forbidden union is at the ire of the institutions they also lead, as tensions escalate between the Wudang sect and the witchy evil cult Liang is affiliated with.
Critique: This is one of those rare films that hits many different notes and manages to pull off a delicately bold hymn of cinematic beauty. Ronny Yu emulsifies tragic romanticism, gaudy mysticism with a swirl of intoxicating and vivid wuxia choreography that’s both traditional and stylized in its revisionist vision. The Bride with White Hair is a sumptuous feast that indulges the senses of every variety and Yu’s direction evokes the mythic traditions of epic storytelling. The film has a teeming atmosphere that lingers in the consciousness of its audience. Reeling with the dense, hazy imagination of a casually relentless artistic mind, Yu’s aesthetic turpitude feels like Milton by way of Van Gogh. Epic storytelling with painterly stylism and unafraid to let the romance of the story guide the film into various frenzies of action and flurries of bloodletting–The Bride with White Hair is elevated genre filmmaking and a one-of-a-kind viewing experience.
Leading the cast is Cheung at his sad-boy best (makes one wonder if this inspired Fred Kitt?) and alongside is the inimitable Lin. Hong Kong’s answer to Greta Garbo (or Marlene Dietrich) Linn exudes the statuesque otherness that can’t be taught or decoded; you believe the regal dignity and stoic beauty, you can interact with Linn’s performance, and yet you can’t access it.
Why It Belong in the Collection: There are common patterns in distribution if you look at different labels and boutique Blu-ray/DVD companies. And more often than not, the UK’s Masters of Cinema label often foreshadows a handful of Criterion releases. Same case with A Touch of Zen, Police Story 1 & 2, and Dragon Inn. With a newly restored version of The Bride with White Hair getting a Masters of Cinema release, it stands to reason that a Criterion release is not far off.