Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sons of the Good Earth

This film is a fantastic introduction to King Hu. Not only is it the first film I have seen of his, this is also considered to be the first full on directorial debut of King Hu. Unfortunately, he did not get to edit the feature, but his mark on the film does show.

Most interestingly, The absence of the majestic form of martial arts Hu became known for is surprising, yet understandable. This being his first film, it's good to know that he at least was experimenting with idea. Instead, this is a much more grounded film in sense of style and tone.

"Sons of the Good Earth" is about a Chinese painter that weds a prostitute amongst the tumultuous invasion of the Japanese during World War II. Even though this may make the movie seem like it will be very serious and dark, and at times it is, there are some very light hearted moments in the film. I recalled the film "Life Is Beautiful" with its handling of dark material. And in a weird way, they both end starkly dark as well.

The three main characters, Yu Rui, He Hua, and Chang Bao Lu all play off each other perfectly. Yu Rui the reluctant hero, He Hua that kind hearted misplaced heroine, and Chang the ever present best friend. Together, their scenes are funny, charismatic and memorable. It's a perfect way to make the audience really feel for these characters and care about what will happen to them in the future.

The villains are especially good as well. The despicable criminal brothel owners always spell trouble for the heroes as they spend most of their time trying to screw with their lives, since they felt betrayed on some level. Even more terrifying are the Japanese invaders, that seem to have a more cavalier approach to their tyranny. They do not know any of these characters, so there is a sense that anything can happen to them at a moment's notice, without them feeling a single ounce of guilt.

The film is exciting and shot well. Even for a movie from the fifties the assault sequences are all high octane and relentless. The explosions and gunfire are all in high supply as the heroes try to thwart their imperialistic rulers. You can get a good sense of how King Hu really liked to choreograph and stage his fight sequences because everything on screen has purpose. Every person, location, and prop seem to have been meticulously placed on screen for some purpose.

This is a must see for anyone interested in King Hu's career. His influence on future films is definitely present in this film and it's remarkable that films with this style and action are still popular today.

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