Somewhere deep in the mythical mists of old China, a feudal underworld governed by cold steel and flexible muscle reigns: Jiang-Hu, the Community of the Sword. The main “players” are Zi-yang, leader of the legendary Wu Dang mountain clan, and Ji Wushuang, a Siamese twin monster who holds sway over the rival Mo clan. Zi-yang has the apple of his eye, Yi-hang, a poor orphan who was raised by him to be a brilliant martial artist. Despite his talent, the boy is a full-blooded pacifist, and when Master Zi-yang goes to war with a coalition against the Mo’s, Yi-hang refuses to accompany him. And that seems to be a wise decision, as in the middle of the battle a mysterious long-haired beauty suddenly appears and single-handedly gives the Wu Dang the beating of their lives. Yi-hang, unaware of the defeat of his own, runs into her a little later. The sparks fly and they fall in love. When it comes time to fight again, Lian, for that is her name, refuses to kill Yi-hang. Together they decide to flee the Community of Swords. However, the Siamese monster twins are not so keen and send all their powers to the lovers.

Jiang-Hu is not only one of the best sword films of recent years, but also a representative of a new genre: costumed kung-fu tragedy. In a single sentence, based on mythical and historical legends, it features broad-scale, razor-sharp choreographed battles in exotic landscapes in opulent costumes. The fact that the endless geographical possibility of “communist” China has been exploited in recent years is no surprise. Director Ronny Yu constantly finds a balance between action and romance in this epic battle opera, juggling Ken Russellian images and Shakespearean themes. The hyperkinetic, omnipresent camera produces unreal and fairy-tale images. The eye-catching costumes were designed by Oscar winner Emi Wada and the lead feature two of Hong Kong’s finest contemporary actors, Leslie Cheung (Yi-Hang) and Lin Ching-hsia (Lian).

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