Butterfly & Sword
something about the Chinese martial arts epic that sets it apart from
(and in some ways above) other forms of cinema. Maybe itís the colourful
characters, the mystique of the period settings, or the near-magical
abilities of the heroes and villains.
through the history of this genre, from the B-grade íChop-Sockyí movies
of the 70ís to super silky productions like Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon, one element has continued to set the bar: the fight scenes.
Butterfly and Sword, directed by Michael Mak in 1993, is an example of
the fast-paced, flowing action scenes that have continued to inspire
Hollywood to this day. Itís a sad indictment then, that the fight
choreography is the only positive thing this fan of the genre took away
from the experience.
the Ming dynasty period, Butterfly and Sword tells the story of a young
man named Sing (Tony Leung, Red Cliff, Hero) and his sister Ko
(Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sunshine).
Through a series of intrigues, Ko plans to steal a scroll from warlord
Suen Yuk Pa (Elvis Tsui), and by doing so elevate herself to the status
of Ďmaster of the world of martial arts.í Sing reluctantly leaves his
young wife Butterfly (Joey Wang) and sets out to gain Suenís trust. Back
on the home front, Ko and Butterfly, with the help of their friend Yip
(Donnie Yen) do their best to fend off attacks from enemy agents.
problems start shortly after the opening credits. The first half hour is
composed of a string of barely connected scenes, with characters coming,
going and dying without telling us anything important. And things donít
get much better from there. By the time I worked out who all the players
were and how they were connected to one another, it was deep into the
filmís running time and the moment had well and truly passed. The
situation isnít helped by plot strands that are taken up and then
quickly abandoned. Just as you find yourself warming to the gang of
street urchins whoíve accepted some strays into their ranks and formed
an unlikely bond, they disappear and play no further part in the story.
break out spontaneously, with little or no context. These scenes are
excellently choreographed, but in no way do they make up for the lack of
substance in this film. It looks as if Michael Mak and his film crew
have tried to grab as much action footage as possible and then mashed it
all together, in the hope of building some semblance of a plot around
it. The more peaceful moments feel very much like an afterthought, and
the whole thing is devoid of any direction or purpose.
picture quality on this DVD is just about on par with an old VHS tape.
Flickering, artefacts and an overall fuzziness are present throughout
the feature. The audio quality is just as bad, with muffled voices and a
musical score that sounds as if itís being played from the bottom of the
South China Sea.
note needs to be made of the English translation, which is quite
possibly one of the worst examples Iíve come across in a foreign film.
The spelling in the subtitles is woeful, and some sequences of dialogue
are utterly incomprehensible owing to the poor translation. Hereís an
play well in such game- How can in charge in important matter?Ē
youíre a die-hard fan of Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung, or you have a
collection of B-grade martial arts flicks going that wouldnít be
complete without it, Butterfly and Sword is better left in the vault.
Chinese cinema has a lot to offer the world, but this isnít its finest