A scene from King Hu’s A Touch of Zen
  • A scene from King Hu’s A Touch of Zen
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The first-annual Taiwan Cinema Spotlight takes center stage this Thursday at the Museum of Photographic Arts. The three-day/three-film event, a joint effort by the Taiwan Academy, Pacific Arts Movement, and MoPA, showcases the work of martial-arts auteur, King Hu.

I spoke with the Pacific Arts Movement’s artistic director, Brian Hu (no relation), about the importance of Taiwanese cinema and reviving King Hu’s films. “Taiwanese cinema is best known in the West as a type of austere art cinema,” said Brian, “composed of a lot of long takes and lacking in traditional narrative. What most people don’t know is there is a long legacy of genre films coming out of Taiwan that date back to the early ’60s.”

Brian continues, “With the exception of A Touch of Zen, none of King Hu’s films have been commercially released in the United States. He is arguably the most influential martial arts director of all time, advancing the genre from filmed opera to an art form that takes advantage of the kinetics of cinema.”

Subtitles for dummies or an eye chart?

For years, the only way fans were able to see his work was on muddy VHS and badly subtitled DVD copies. The two screeners provided were impossible to get through, what with the remedial subtitles and all-around low-def presentation. Brian adds, “In recent years there has been a revival of interest in King Hu’s films. The Taipei Film Archives has been committed to restoring his films to their original glory. The prints we’ll screen do justice to Hu’s innovations in composition and staging.“

A newly remastered 35mm print of Dragon Inn (1967) screens Thursday at 7 pm. A restored digital copy of what’s purported to be Hu’s magnum opus, the three-hour epic A Touch of Zen (1971), hits the screen Friday at 7 pm. As a bonus, The Valiant Ones (1975) plays Saturday at 7 pm.

General admission is $10; $8 for MoPA members. For more information visit mopa.org.

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