Painted Skin (2008)

Posted in Reviews by - October 06, 2014
Painted Skin (2008)

A mad supernatural romance with just the right level of pie-eyed craziness to keep things interesting and avoid falling completely into mawkishness, despite the sentimental score. Based on a story by Ching dynasty fantasy writer Pu Song-ling – who also inspired the A Chinese Ghost Story films – this sees Gordon Chan adding his blockbuster shine to a story first told on screen by King Hu in 1993. The film starts ambitiously as a Hero-esque wuxia swashbuckler set in the Qin dynasty, where a baby-faced General (Chen Kun) rescues a creepy but sensual orphan girl (Zhou Xun) from the clutches of a marauding troop of desert bandits. She’s popular among the townsfolk, but little do they know she’s actually a snake-like demon with mystical hypnotic powers who is disguised in painted human skin and whose best friend is an invisible lizard man who collects human hearts for her to feast on. That’s one part of the film, but the story also hinges on a series of love triangles; one involving the general, his wife and a former army friend, played by Donnie Yen, who returns to town as a sozzled bumbling nomad in rags after a two year absence, and is summarily called upon to investigate the motives of the new girl. Zhou Xun is brilliant as the manipulative she-beast, managing to be both docile and threatening, and the horror aspect is a refreshing turn in what appears to be a typical post-Crouching Tiger martial arthouse movie, but is actually a heck of a lot more.

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